Your little student’s learning will really take flight with this bird-themed unit. We’ll spend the week getting to know a few fascinating fliers (and one notable non-flier!), while also tackling STEM projects, crafts, and gross motor movement activities that will keep your little learner engaged in a fun, play-based way. Ready to learn? Click here to download your weekly tracker!
Note: Occasionally we include project modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings). We’ll mark those with the minus (-) symbol.
What you need:
Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):
- Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward (or watch our read aloud here!)
- Silent Swoop: An Owl, an Egg, and a Warm Shirt Pocket by Michelle Houts (or listen to this read aloud on YouTube)
- Flamingo Sunset by Jonathan London (or read it here on OpenLibrary)
- Crows! Strange and Wonderful by Lawrence Pringle (or read it here on OpenLibrary)
Optional additional reading:
- Superlative Birds by Leslie Bulion – This fascinating book of poetry shares fun facts about a variety of amazing birds. If your child is a bird lover, this would make a great option for Tea + Poetry this week.
Optional chapter books:
Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):
- paper + access to a printer (don’t have one? we like this model)
- owl pellet for dissection
- sticks from outside
- construction paper
- spray bottle
- food coloring (optional)
- laminator + laminator sheets (optional, but recommended for repeating lessons)
- glue stick
- paper plate
- tissue paper (pink)
- googly eyes
- paint brush
- ladle + straining spoon
- small rocks (or other small objects tht will sink)
- toilet paper roll
- pipe cleaners
- paper clip
- jumbo craft sticks (regular size would work fine, too)
- black feathers (you could also make these out of paper)
- plastic tweezers or chopsticks
- bag of dried beans
What to do:
We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!
What makes a bird a bird? There are few things that make them different from all other animals. Here are a few things you can share with your child:
- Birds are vertebrates (meaning they have a spine) with feathers and wings—though not all can fly.
- They have beaks with no teeth.
- Birds are lightweight with hollow bones (and often fewer bones than other animals).
- Birds have a unique respiratory system that includes air sacs to increase breathing efficiency: during inhalation, some of the air enters the lungs and some enters the air sacs. During exhalation, the oxygen-rich air in the air sacs enters the lungs. Thus birds receive oxygen-rich air not only during inhalation, but also during exhalation. This helps fascilitate flight as well!
Want more details? Check out this link.
To start our unit, we’ll begin where all birds begin—the nest! Read Mama Built a Little Nest, discussing the differences between all the birds and their homes.
Activity 1: One of the most intricate nests in our book is made by the weaver bird. Click here for a video depicting how this tenacious builder creates its elaborate home. Next, let’s weave our own nests with this tutorial.
(+) Ready for an upgrade? Try building a nest out of natural materials like this.
Activity 2: A group of birds is typically called a flock, but did you know that different species of birds have different group names? The official term is “collective noun,” and some of them are pretty cool. Let’s learn the collective nouns for a few types of birds with this memory game.
(+) Turn it into a literacy activity by using the names as sight words or having your child write the word when they find a match.
Activity 3: Bird nest craft.
One of our favorite birds from Mama Built a Little Nest? The penguin! In the wild, penguines live almost exclusively in the southern hemisphere. Let’s review what we’ve learned about maps while getting a peek at penguins around the world with this interactive map.
Activity 1: Let’s get to know penguins even more with this brief video. As the video mentions, penguins spend so much time in the water, they are considered aquatic. Let’s explore how they stay dry even in the water with this simple activity.
Activity 2: Penguin subtraction activity.
Activity 3: Penguin Four in a Row sight word game. The game is editable, so write in whatever sight words your child is working on. Use coins or another manipulative to cover the words when your child reads them.
Activity 4: Let’s review shapes with this penguin shape sorting activity.
Activity 2: An interesting thing about flamingos is that they prefer to stand on one foot at a time. They also have an interesting way of eating, placing their bills upside down in the water and sucking in food, and then pumping the water out the sides of their bills to leave just the plants and animals they eat. (source) Let’s see if your child can eat like a flamingo with this gross motor activity. Start by setting up a bowl or sensory bin of water with small stones in it. Give your child a ladle and a straining spoon. Without bending their knees, have them bend over and try to scoop up the stones and strain out the water with their spoons without dropping any stones. For an added challenge, try doing it while standing on one leg!
Activity 3: Another thing you likely notice about flamingos? Their color! Flamingos range in color from pink to red to orange, and the reason is the carotenoids in their diet. If your child was with us for our Leaves Unit, they may remember that carotenoids are a natural pigment that also causes the orange color in fall leaves. In fact, if you ate large quantities of carrots every day, your skin and even your eyes can turn orange, too! This video breaks down more about why flamingos have their signature hue. Next, let’s color our own flamingo with this color-by-number math printable.
Today, we’ll learn more about a bird from yesterday’s book, the owl! Let’s read Silent Swoop for a true story about an owl. You can also listen to this read aloud that starts with an introduction to a real owl in a sanctuary! If you prefer to skip right to the story, it begins around 3:30.
Activity 2: Owl Spin + Add to 50. The download in that post has a variety of math activities, but for now, just print the page with the Spin and Add to 50 activity and work on that with you child. You can use any manipulative.
Activity 3: Have you ever heard of an owl pellet? Because owls swallow most of their prey whole, their digestive system has to find a way to deal with the fur, bones, and feathers. So the owl’s gizzard sorts what it swallow, digesting the soft tissue (or meat) while forming indigestible and potentially harmful bits into an oval. A few hours after eating, it regurgitates this mass—and we call it an owl pellet! (source) The really cool thing about owl pellets is that they can provide a window into the owl’s diet, often containing entire skeletons of prey. For our final activity today, we’ll dissect an owl pellet to see what we can learn about the bird that made it. The owl pellets we recommend come with a few tools and a small guide to help you determine what your own ate. This blog post also has extra tips and some free printables to make the most of your dissection.
The final bird we’ll take a closer look at this week is one you might not think of as amazing—the crow! But we think that if you give this incredible bird a closer look, you’ll agree with us that there is more to the crow than meets the eye.
Activity 1: Crows very family-oriented birds—young crows even help other adult crows within their family to take care of new baby crows after they hatch. Let’s make a family of crows with this craft stick tutorial. Next, read Crows! Strange and Wonderful. As you read, encourage your child to act out the actions of the crows with their crafted crows.
Activity 2: Get some number writing practice with this Counting Crows printable.
Activity 3: Crows are also extremely intelligent—science has found that they can even remember human faces for up to five years and they are one of the few animals that uses tools. This fact may have helped inspire the fable The Crow and the Pitcher by Aesop. Let’s read that here. This story also illustrates an important science principle called water displacement. Let’s bring it to life with a hands-on activity!
Start with a glass cup, preferably a beaker or measuring cup with measurement lines on the side. You will also need a bag of dried beans, and a pair of plastic tweezers if you want to pretend to be a bird.
First, fill the glass half full and have your child note the height of the water. (You may want to add a piece of masking tape to mark the starting height.) Next, have your child start slowly adding beans, a few at a time. After they have added enough to see a difference in the water level, ask them what has changed? The water level appears higher…even though you haven’t added any additional water! They have just discovered water displacement! The beans that are dropped in displace, or move the water, making the level appear higher.
Activity 4: End your week with a final bird memory game!
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