Level 1: Birds Unit

This week’s unit is for the birds—in the best way! 🐦🦜🐤 We are going to learn about our winged friends this week, including their habitats and what makes them each unique. This unit is filled with STEM activities, crafts, and art that will delight your little one and keep everyone engaged. Want to keep track of what you learn as we travel all over the world learning about birds? Click here for our downloadable skills tracking worksheet.

Note: Occasionally we include project upgrades (for kids ready for more) and modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings). We’ll mark those with the plus (+) or minus (-) symbols.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Optional chapter book:

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

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!

Letter of the week: V

New to the letter of the week? Start here! Next, print your letter V coloring sheet and Letter Guide. This week’s lessons are all about birds. We will learn about many including the vulture making V a perfect choice of letter of the week! Let your child color the coloring sheet as you work through the next part of the lesson.

The letter V has one single-letter phonogram sound: /v/ as in “vulture”. Reinforce the sounds with our Letter of the Week Song.

Remember, the guide isn’t a worksheet! The first page is for you, the grown-up. Use it to introduce the letter name, the sounds it makes, and to demonstrate how to draw each letter. Display the Letter Guide in your school area along with the completed coloring sheet to reinforce the lesson throughout the week.

Next, use the second sheet to create a page for your child’s phonics book. Review the book a few times each week until your child has mastered these phonics.

Lesson 1:

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:

  • They have feathers and wings.
  • They have beaks with no teeth.
  • They have two legs and most of their leg bones are hollow (it makes them light so they can fly).

There are other features that classify birds as birds, but these are the most age-appropriate ones you can share with preschoolers and kindergarteners. Want more details? Check out this link and this one, too.

Activity 1: Let’s learn more about the life cycle of a bird. Print out this worksheet, cut them out, add color if desired, and recreate the bird’s life cycle by having your child order them correctly. If you purchased the chicken life cycle figurines, bring them out to make this lesson more hands-on. If you decided to purchase the bird puzzle, this would be a good time to bring that out, too. Next, share this adorable, real-life video about the life cycle of a bird narrated by children.

Activity 2: Start by reading Mama Built a Little Nest. Explain to your child that many birds build a nest for their eggs. This book helps us see all the different places and materials different birds use to make nests. This is also a wonderful opportunity to those comparing and contrasting skills! In addition to reading the text, be sure to “read” the illustrations. Next, let’s make our own nest craft. 
(+) Ready for an upgrade? Build your own life-like nest with this STEM project.

Activity 3: The bird’s beak is pretty amazing. For our next activity, print out this download. Cut out the bird photos with the descriptions, and then cut the tool pictures separately. Use the printout as a teaching tool to demonstrate all the ways we as humans try to copy the bird’s amazing beak. Next, try this activity to mimic the different ways different birds use their beaks.

Activity 4: Bird yarn wrap craft.

Lesson 2:

Let’s take a closer look at one of our favorite birds, the penguin! 🐧 Start by pulling out a globe, atlas, or checking this map and pointing out Antarctica. You can also use this time to review globe directions (north, south, east, and west). Antarctica is on the South Pole, and it is home to many penguins. It is special because it is the coldest place on earth! Next read one of the three penguin books we suggested in the outset of the unit to learn more about the penguin and its home. 
(+) Are you ready for a new chapter book? Your child will LOVE Mr. Popper’s Penguins! Start this charming chapter book this week to add to their penguin knowledge and feed their imagination.

Activity 1: Next, watch this video that shows how a penguin walks with an egg on their feet. This penguin family is only practicing with a snowball, not a real baby egg. Encourage your child to pretend to be a penguin carrying a baby by carrying a ball on the top of their feet and try carrying it across the room. It’s harder than it looks! 
(-) Modify the penguin egg walk by using a balloon instead of a ball and have them hold it between their feet.

Want to see a real baby penguin emerge from their shell? Check out this amazing video. Talk about the fact that penguin dads carry their egg around for two months before they hatch. Compare the video we watched yesterday of the robin eggs hatching from a nest to these penguin birds hatching from dad’s feet. Ask your child why they think these penguin birds bring their babies into the world differently than birds who build nests in trees. 

Activity 2: Penguin craft. While you wait for the paint to dry, try the math activity below!

Activity 3: Let’s work on some math skills with this Penguin Roll + Cover Game! Print the boards (and laminate if desired). Give your child a small bowl of goldfish crackers, or some other small manipulative. To work on numbers 1-6, simply roll a die, find the matching numeral on the printable, and “feed” that number penguin by covering them with a goldfish cracker.

If playing with numbers 7-12, grab two dice. Roll the dice, add the numbers together, and cover the matching number with a goldfish.  

You could also play with two learners by having them take turns rolling and covering numbers. Whoever has the most covered at the end wins!
(+) Ready for more? Roll dice to practice subtraction instead of addition.

Lesson 3:

Let’s take a closer look at more birds that live around the world. Start by reviewing the book, The Big Book of Birds. If your child doesn’t have enough interest in the book to read it through, “read” the pictures. Play a game of I Spy as you look for yellow birds, birds with big beaks, birds that stand up taller than others, etc. Read only as much as they enjoy! Let them know that today we will learn about some really special birds.

Activity 1: Let’s take a closer look at the toucan. First pull out that globe, atlas, or world map and identify South America. Point out Brazil and the Amazon Rain Forest. That is the home of the toucan. Share the below facts about the toucan (source) while you try this toucan craft.

  • Toucans can be found in the tropical forests of South America and can also find homes in tree hollows or abandoned woodpecker holes.
  • Toucans use their beak to peel and eat different kinds of fruit, which happens to be the kind of food they eat most often. (They also eat bugs and other animals, making them omnivores.)
  • Their beaks measure about 8 inches long and make up 1/3 of the bird’s total length. It may look pretty big, but thankfully for the toucan their beaks are not too heavy. It is composed of protein keratin, which makes it much lighter than you would think. (Protein keratin is the same stuff our hair and nails are made of!)
  • Toucans spend a lot of their time in trees because they aren’t the best fliers.

Next, watch this video and listen to the sound they make.

Activity 2: Woodpeckers are fascinating birds! There are more than 180 species of woodpeckers worldwide, and they are adapted to a wide range of habitats, including forests, deserts, jungles, and even urban settings. No woodpeckers, however, are found anywhere in Australia, Madagascar, New Zealand, or Antarctica (source). Check out this video before we talk about some amazing features of this bird. Woodpeckers hit their heads so hard regularly, but they don’t get hurt. Let’s learn why here and then watch this video to learn even more.

Now let’s make our own “pecking” woodpecker with this project.

Activity 3: Next, let’s learn about the vulture. Sometimes these birds get a bad rap in movies, but they are actually a very important bird. They are like the garbage collectors of nature because they eat animals that have died. That’s really important because no one wants to have dead animals everywhere! (If you were with us for our Rivers, Lakes + Ponds Unit, this is a good time to review the food web and the role of decomposers like the vulture!) Let’s learn a bit more about them while you make this craft.

Next, let’s watch a video of a vulture eating and listen to the sounds they make.

Activity 4: V is for vulture. Let’s get some letter and writing practice with this printable. Color the picture and practice identifying the letter V and the sound it makes. Little ones can trace the letters with their fingers. If you have movable letters or rock letters, use those to spell out the word vulture. If your child is ready for copy work, have them trace the words and then copy them.

Lesson 4:

Today, we’re going to learn about a small but mighty bird—the hummingbird! The Americas is the only natural habitat of the hummingbird. They can be found as far south as Chile and as far north as Alaska, but South America is the home of the majority of hummingbirds. Most hummingbirds thrive in forested and wooded areas where there are plenty of flowers, as well as grasslands and meadows. There are several species that live pretty comfortably in other environments, however, such as large cities, warm and cool areas, desert environments, as well as areas that have snowfalls. (Source) Check out this video of hummingbirds to see them fly, feed their young, suck the nectar from flowers, and many of their other natural behaviors. Do you see hummingbirds near your home?

Activity 1: Hummingbird pollination actvity.

Activity 2: Let’s invite hummingbirds to our backyard with a homemade hummingbird feeder. Scroll down in this post until you get to the bird feeder instructions. You can also use her recipe for making homemade syrup for the feeder.

Activity 3: Let’s get some fine motor skills practice with this maze printable. Younger children can use their fingers to get through the maze.

Lesson 5:

Birds are the musicians of the natural world, so let’s learn more for Art + Music Day!

Activity 1: Have you ever heard of reggae music? Let’s listen to a reggae song by Bob Marley called “Three Little Birds.”  Bob Marley was a Jamaican singer and composer. His songs made the reggae style of music popular around the world. They described the struggles and poverty of the people in his home country. (source). According to his friend, Marley was “inspired by a lot of things around him.” Do you think he saw three birds from his window when he decided to write this song? What color do you think they were? His friend thinks it was canaries. (source) Next, read the book inspired by this song, Three Little Birds.

Activity 2: This quick and easy bird nest-inspired dessert is perfect for kids. We love it because of its simple ingredients—and let’s not overlook the great practice kids get with fine motor skills. Feeling adventurous? Have them separate the egg yokes on their own! Prepare these treats early so you can enjoy them this afternoon with your have Tea + Poetry.

Activity 3: Can you imagine a bird with a spoon at the end of his beak? That’s what makes the Roseate Spoonbill bird so special. This bird was the subject of John James Audubon’s painting

Let’s learn a bit more about the artist. John James Audubon was an American ornithologist (a person who studies or is an expert on birds) and painter. He is famous for his bird paintings because of the detailed interpretations of animals within their natural habitats. The Roseate Spoonbill bird resides in South America, the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico (source). They can also be seen in Florida and other parts of the United States. (source)

Ask your child to make observations about the picture. Does the bird look real? What do you think it’s doing? Since the artist was also very familiar with birds since he studied them, how do you think that affected his ability to paint them? If your child is inspired by Audubon, do some nature journaling today using your picture book. Here are some tips on getting started.

Activity 4: Tea + Poetry. We introduced tea and poetry back in the Foundations Unit. Today is a perfect day to make time for this delightful tradition. Our favorite poetry book, Sing a Song of Seasons, has beautiful bird-inspired poetry this week. Our favorites are the “Five Little Owls” on page 99, “The Woodpecker” on page 106, and “Ducks’ Ditty” on page 121. If you don’t have the book, you can find the owl poem here, too. Need a few tips before you start this activity? Click here to learn how to make Tea + Poetry a success.

Optional nature study: Has our unit inspired you and your child to start bird watching? This blog post is a must read to get started.

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.

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