Rascals are for the Birds

Ornithology is such an accessible study for all ages. Birds can be observed anywhere! With the leaves falling off the trees and the beginning of winter, bright red cardinals and cheeky finches are much easier to spot.

Our feature activity on the Big Table upon Rascal arrival today was magnets! I love using scrapbook containers for sensory activities since they come with a built in lid. For Bird unit, I mixed birdseed and discs from our magnet kit (these kits are AMAZING and perfect for preschoolers!) together, then provided a wand to collect the discs. This was a big hit!

We started our day with our usual instrument play and ABCs, then dove right into our book of the week. Feathers for Lunch (by Lois Ehlert) is such a perfect story for preschoolers. The pictures are dynamic and there is so much to talk about on each page. I’d recommend reading it several times, as the story gets a little lost if all the other elements are also discussed. I’d read just the story the first time through to really capture the rhyming and lovely rhythm, then be sure to identify the noises another time, and the birds yet another time. There is really just so much!

Once we finished Feathers for Lunch, I noticed that there were LOTS of wiggles, so we did a movement poem about baby birds in nests that got us moving arms and legs and fingers. I found the poem in one of my favorite preschool resources and I’m glad I planned some movement activities because we sure needed them!

I utilized a few different Montessori printable resources for this lesson, but the favorite was the movement game from Trillium Montessori preschool pack. (found here) Each card in the stack had a direction to follow, such as “find a door and knock on it two times” or “wave hi to a friend.”  Easy to follow but fun and interactive. Once the kids were wiggle’d out a little and ready for a little more focused learning, we sat together in front of the sorting chart and got down to business. We had a lot of fun classifying objects into groups based on their “fly” or “not” ability. Did you know that carrots can fly?! Just kidding! This was a great thought-invoking activity, because some of objects are tricky: a chicken, hot air balloon and frog proved to need further clarification. Frogs can jump really high so it’s like they can fly, and a hot air balloon “floats” (as I was told) and doesn’t really fly.

 

We then moved to the math center and worked on skills including counting to twenty, adding one, and one-to-one correspondence as well as matching sets. I love our math chart as it has so many functions and encourages movement while learning.  We used food cards to count sets and match, but there are other types of objects on the counting cards included with the chart as well. The Rascals really liked putting the number card in the corresponding pocket and helping each other put things in order correctly. It was a joy to watch them work as a team.

Next, I heard some rumbly tummies, so we gathered at the big table for our snack. I really wanted some kind of nest theme, and happened upon waffle cone BOWLS (!!!) which perfectly held our eggs: melon balls and grapes! The kids were so excited to eat their “chew nests.”  While they snacked, I read Nest  by Jorey Hurley and we talked about the changing seasons, growing process of baby birds, and the goings on in each picture. A simple read, it was a great snacktime read-aloud choice.

 

 

Once we cleaned up, I arranged our nest activity: an invitation to create their own bird nest using natural materials including moss, clay and feathers. For my preschoolers I used playdoh because I had enough on hand for everyone, but my Kindergartner used modeling clay when she completed this activity. I found some great wrens and robins for each child to make a home, and they each named their bird.  Bob, Eva and Superhero Powers each had lovely nests as unique as their names. I set out lots of books open to nest pictures (resource list coming) and found an awesome bird call video on YouTube so we could listen while we worked. The Rascals had some great conversations about nests among themselves while I quietly sat by in case they needed anything.

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It was an easy transition to painting with feathers as the feathers that weren’t used in nest-building were re-purposed as paintbrushes. I simply rolled out kraft paper and set out paints in the trays and they got creative. I wrote their name in Sharpie in front of them and gave them the option of tracing it with paint using fingers or feathers, which they all worked hard to do before promptly making handprints and color-mixing puddles. They let me know when they were finished, we washed up and moved the party outside for bird feeder activities.

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Outside, we set a funnel and measuring cup up and took turns pouring birdseed into the new feeder. I’m not sure what kind of seed we used (it looked like a basic mix including sunflower seeds) but we had suet for woodpeckers as well. My favorite rascal comment of the day was referring to suet as “birdie guacamole.” This was a great activity for motor planning, estimation skills, and eye-hand coordination as well as building hand and wrist strength. Then we all worked together to pick a spot to hang the feeders and “plant” the hooks on which they’d hang. We even got to use a hammer to hammer the post into the ground!

 

 

I had other activities planned, which I will list below, however these Rascals were wiggly today so I adjusted our lesson plan to accommodate their needs and we had an awesome time. Milestones were reached for some of the kids and some had easier days than others, but we had a great time! I have expanded lessons for the rest of the week for my Kindy Kid, which I’ll post with a resource list once we’ve completed the mini-unit.

Other activities:

  • Wingspan measurement and wings craft: Using a roll of paper (we like kraft paper as its a little thicker and able to withstand paint), have your kid lay down with arm outstretched and measure their “wingspan.” Compare their wingspan to those of common birds in your region. You could also mark their span, and cut that length, then cutting wing silhouette along the bottom and have the kid decorate their wings. You can punch holes and secure to arms with ribbon. [I plan to complete this activity with my kids this week. Will update!]
  • Track birds at the feeder and use watercolors to illustrate them as they eat.
  • Write a story about the birds at the feeder using either a handmade book or pre-assembled book like these. We love writing our own books, and at this age, the child will dictate as I scribe, then illustrate themselves.
  • Count! Use a tracking chart to count how many birds you see at your feeder. I love this one from Tanglewood Hollow as it is simpler for preschool age with lots of space for recording.
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