North American Bird Project

Lesson Plans

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Jim Rosso

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One goal of the North American Bird Project is to develop lesson plans that will foster science education in the classroom utilizing the text and images from birdcentral.net.

About the Lesson Plans

The lesson plans are designed to assist the student in exploring the content of birdcentral.net by utilizing mathematics, zoology, and language arts.

Most of the lesson plans are based on the Natural History Notes for each species in birdcentral.net. Within the Natural History Notes there is the section "Notes from A.C. Bent." These notes are excerpts from The Life Histories of North American Birds., a government project that was 40 years to finish. For example, this is the entry from the Behavior section for the Savannah Sparrow:

Behavior: The most frequently occurring description of Savannah sparrow behavior is that "it runs like a mouse through the grass." This is certainly an apt phrase since it has connotations of color, behavior, and habitat and, in addition, neatly summarizes the Savannah's mien.

Quay (1957), in his paper on wintering Savannaha, summarizes his observations as follows:

The Savannah sparrow was not an easy bird to watch. When disturbed, it ran on the ground more often than it flushed. Crouched low to the ground, head down and stretched forward, it ran quickly and quietly, taking advantage of all cover and resembling a mouse more than a bird.

When disturbed by a man walking, Savannahs either moved onward on the ground or took flight. Flights were usually short, 20 -70 feet, and practically never carried the bird out of the plot. Flight was quick, erratic and only a few inches above the vegetation.

Athough the Savannah sparrow runs when disturbed, it hops when it feeds, and sometimes scratches like a towhee. Quay (1958) reports that the Savannahs "typically fed on the ground, picking up seeds from the ground like a chicken. The only times they were seen to take seeds directly from plants were when snow and sleet covered the bare ground." However, as the seeds continue to scatter from the plants, the Savannahs soon resume feeding on the surface of the snow.

The Life Histories of North American Birds was a government sponsored project that was begun in 1919 and finished sometime in the 1960's with 26 volumes of material covering over 600 species of birds. A. C. Bent was the first editor of this large project. To acquire the material that he needed he communicated with living ornithologists and utilized the journals and letters of historical naturalists and ornithologists. His list of references includes John James Audubon, Alexander Wilson, Thomas Nuttall, Major Charles E. Bendire, John Muir, Florence Bailey, Margaret Nice, Leon Dawson, John Burroughs, Theodore Roosevelt, and many others. Each species account was many pages long and broken up into several sections including Habitat Description, Spring Activities, Winter Activities, Courtship, Nesting, Eggs, Plumage, Behavior, and Conservation.

Selections from this monumental work were chosen for birdcentral.net to provide a broad picture of the activities that constitute the study of ornithology.

Lesson Plans are divided into Science, English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Technology.
Science
Birdwatching

Natural History
Life Science
  1. What Can You Find?
  2. Color of the Marbled Godwit
  3. Scavenger Hunt
  4. The Feeding Pacific Loon
  1. Hairy Woodpecker
  2. Red-breasted Sapsucker
  3. Different Beaks
  4. Mallard
  5. The Squid and the Albatross
  1. Belted Kingfisher and Anthropomorphism
  2. Green Kingfisher
  3. Williamson's Sapsucker
  4. Looks Like a Duck
  5. Renaming
  6. Themes of Ornithology
  7. Double or Nothing
  8. Cost of migration
  9. Food percentages
  10. Population Dynamics
Behavior
Habitat
Conservation/Ecology

What behavior can you find?

The Ani's Habitat

  1. Lewis Woodpecker
  2. Nuttall's Woodpecker
  3. The Loon and the Fish
  4. The Ornithologist and the Loon
  5. Red-headed Woodpecker
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Lesson Plan Name

Themes of Ornithology

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Life science

Grade Level

Grades 6 -12

Objectives

Standards

Materials

None required

Instructional Procedure

Students identify a theme and choose a particular subject within that theme. They utilize different accounts to adequately discuss their subject.

Activities

At the Themes site there are nine themes which represent different aspects of the study of birds (ornithology): Breeding, Food and Feeding, Habitat, Conservation, Speciation, Nesting, Behavior, Mortality and Courtship. Pick one theme and develop a short paper or oral presentation around it. Utilize the different sections within each theme to demonstrate an aspect of that theme. What do different species do differently or similarly? What are examples of how birds feed? How do habitats play a role in how a species survives? How are courtship rituals the same and how are they different?

Evaluation

Resources

Web site and word processor.

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Lesson Plan Name

What Can You Find?

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Birdwatching

Grade Level

Grades K-3

Objectives

To develop student's ability to look carefully and look for details.

Standards

Materials

Web site.

Instructional Procedure

The bird pictures become a great opportunity to develop the student's sense of color.

Activities

Ask the students a number of questions that require them to go through the pictures to find answers.

  1. How many birds can you find that are white?
  2. How many birds have yellow feathers?
  3. How many pictures of flying birds can you find?
  4. How many pictures of birds eating can you find?
  5. How many different nests can you find?

Evaluation

Resources

birdcentral.net

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Lesson Plan Name

The Feeding Pacific Loon

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Birds

Grade Level

Grades 4 - 6

Objectives

To encourage students to read for content and deduce information from the text.

Standards

Materials

None required.

Instructional Procedure

Activities

Answer these questions from the Bent reading:

  1. How does the Pacific Loon first locate its food?
  2. How can we explain why the bird's feathers stay dry even though it is swimming in the water?
  3. If waterbirds did not have waterproof feathers what would happen to them when they went out into the water?

Evaluation

Resources

Pacific Loon Natural History Notes

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Lesson Plan Name

How many squid does an albatross eat?

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Natural History

Grade Level

Grades 4 - 6

Objectives

Deducing information from given facts and figures.

Standards

Materials

A calculator would be helpful.

Instructional Procedure

Students utilize natural history notes to answer questions.

Activities

1. How many squid a day would one albatross eat? How can we answer that question using the information from the natural history section? Figure out how much one squid weighs. There is probably a site on the Internet that has that information or else you could do it the old fashioned way and have somebody go to a store and find out how much a squid weighs. If one million birds are eating 600 tons of squid a day how many individual squid would that be?

3. Find out what the squid eat. How much of that food would 600 tons of squid eat a day?

4. How long does it take for a baby Laysan Albatross to fledge? If the adult Laysan Albatross are eating 600 tons of squid a day in order to feed their young, how many days will they have to do that?

5. What can you figure out about the lifestyle of the squid if the Laysan Albatross are eating them? How do you think the Laysan Albatross are catching these squid?

6. How big does the island have to be to support 1 million birds? Show how you arrived at your answer. How much real-estate would each bird need to have?

7. What are some other questions we might ask about the breeding practices of the Laysan Albatross?

8. Who do you think are their main enemies?

9. Who else feeds on squid? Are the Albatross competing with them for their food?

Evaluation

Resources

Laysan Albatross Natural History Notes
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Lesson Plan Name

The Ani's Habitat

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Habitat

Grade Level

Grades 6 - 8

Objectives

To encourage students to read for content and deduce information from the text.

Standards

Materials

None required

Instructional Procedure

Questions about the text.

Activities

1. In your own words describe the habitat of the Ani.

2. Skutch talks about "second growth" forest. Define second growth and how it relates to the habitat of the Ani.

3. How much rainfall falls in the wettest part of the Ani's habitat?

4. Given the type of habitat that the Ani lives in what parts of the United States could you find this bird?

Evaluation

Resources

Natural history notes for the Groove billed Ani.

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Lesson Plan Name

Belted Kingfisher and Anthropomorphism

Subject Area

Science

Topic Area

Life Science

Grade Level

Grades 6 - 10

Objectives

To encourage students to read for content and deduce information from the text.

Standards

Materials

None required

Instructional Procedure

Students utilize natural history notes to answer questions.

Activities

1. Define anthropomorphism and find another example of it in the Bent natural history notes. Describe the example of anthropomorphism in the Belted Kingfisher text. What is a possible problem with the use of anthropomorphism?

Evaluation

Resources

Belted Kingfisher Natural History Notes

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Lesson Plan Name

Green Kingfisher

Subject Area

Science

Topic Area

Life Science

Grade Level

Grades 6 - 10

Objectives

To encourage students to read for content and deduce information from the text.

Standards

Materials

None required

Instructional Procedure

Students utilize natural history notes to answer questions.

Activities

1. Gause's Rule - discusses what happens when two species try to obtain food from the same area over a prolonged period of time. Discuss the example of what happens with the Green Kingfisher. What might differentiate what the Green Kingfisher eats and what the Belted Kingfisher eats?

2. From the Internet, or other sources, put together a short report on the natural history of the Red Ants. Can you figure out what type of Red Ant would be found in Costa Rica where Skutch lives?

3. What is the chief enemy of nesting birds in humid coastal areas according to Skutch?

Evaluation

Resources

Green Kingfisher Natural History Notes

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Lesson Plan Name

Lewis Woodpecker

Subject Area

Science

Topic Area

Conservation

Grade Level

Grades 6 - 10

Objectives

To encourage students to read for content and deduce information from the text.

Standards

Materials

None required

Instructional Procedure

Students utilize natural history notes to answer questions.

Activities

1. Bendire writes that the fruit the Lewis Woodpecker eats is more positive than negative. Explain.

2. Why is the Lewis Woodpecker an excellent flycatcher?

3. What does the Lewis Woodpecker do to make up for the temporary presence of particular insects like Mayflies?

4. On an average, how long does it take a Lewis Woodpecker to store an acorn? How did you figure this out?

5. Summarize the economic impact of the Lewis Woodpecker from the information that Bent provides.

Evaluation

Resources

Natural history notes for Lewis Woodpecker

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Lesson Plan Name

Hairy Woodpecker

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Natural History

Grade Level

Grades 5 - 8

Objectives

Standards

Materials

None required

Instructional Procedure

Students utilize natural history notes to answer questions.

Activities

1. Explain why the Hairy Woodpecker might perfer to pursue insects in the rough-barked trees compared to the smooth-barked trees.

Evaluation

Resources

Hairy Woodpecker Natural History Notes

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Lesson Plan Name

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Natural History

Grade Level

Grades 6 - 10

Objectives

Standards

Materials

None required

Instructional Procedure

Students utilize natural history notes to answer questions.

Activities

1. Do some research on sap. What are its nutritional aspects? Are older trees better than younger trees for producing sap? Is sap a complete meal for the woodpeckers?

2. How does the Red-breasted Sapsucker supplement its sap diet?

3. How does the sapsucker acquire the sap?

Evaluation

Resources

Red-breasted Sapsucker Natural History Notes

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Lesson Plan Name

Williamson Sapsucker

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Life Science

Grade Level

Grades 6 - 10

Objectives

Standards

Materials

None required

Instructional Procedure

Students utilize natural history notes to answer questions.

Activities

Describe the historical account of the "Round-headed Woodpecker.

Evaluation

Resources

Williamson Sapsucker Natural History Notes

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Lesson Plan Name

Nuttall's Woodpecker

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Conservation/Ecology

Grade Level

Grades 6 - 10

Objectives

Standards

Materials

None requried

Instructional Procedure

Students utilize natural history notes to answer questions.

Activities

1. Explain what Prof. Beal means when he says that the Nuttall Woodpecker's food is "beyond criticism."

Evaluation

Resources

Nuttall's Woodpecker Natural History Notes

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Lesson Plan Name

Red-headed Woodpecker

Subject Area

Science

Topic Area

Conservation

Grade Level

Grades 9 -12

Objectives

Standards

Materials

None required

Instructional Procedure

Activities

You have been hired to create a strategy that will allow the Red-headed Woodpecker to exist with the fruit growers and the telephone company. What methods will you use to ensure the woodpecker's future and the economy of Kansas?

Evaluation

Resources

Natural history notes for the Red-headed Woodpecker.

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Lesson Plan Name

The Renaming Activity

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Life Science

Grade Level

Grades K - 3

Objectives

To develop primary understanding of the classification process.

Standards

Materials

None required.

Instructional Procedure

Some of the names of the birds may be too difficult for students to learn. This activity encourages students to think of their own procedure for naming a set of birds.

Activities

Students select a group of birds that have some similarity to each other. They then create a set of common names for each, recording the reasons for each particular name. If the teacher feels that the students are capable than creating a set of binonial scientific names can be undertaken.

Evaluation

Resources

birdcentral.net

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Lesson Plan Name

What behavior can you find?

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Behavior

Grade Level

Grades 5-6

Objectives

To start students thinking about what animal behavior is.

Standards

Materials

None required.

Instructional Procedure

In all of the bird pictures the birds are active in a some type of behavior, including gathering food, courting, sleeping, or breeding.

Activities

Have the students pick out 5 pictures that demonstrate different types of behavior and have them talk about them.

Evaluation

Resources

birdcentral.net web site

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Lesson Plan Name

Different Beaks

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Natural History

Grade Level

Grades 3-5

Objectives

Increase student's ability to differentiate.

Increase observation skills.

Standards

Materials

None required

Instructional Procedure

Activities

Have the students pick out five different birds whose beak is different from the others. Have the students explain what food items they think the bird can capture with this particular beak. Have them explain how the beak is different from the beaks of other birds, or how it allows them to gather food in a particular habitat.

Evaluation

Resources

Some examples of different beaks:

Clark's Grebe
Brown Pelican
Gt. Egret
Mallard
Bald Eagle
Avocet
Long-billed Dowitcher
Red-breasted Sapsucker
White-crowned Sparrow
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Lesson Plan Name

What color is the Marbled Godwit ?

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Birdwatching

Grade Level

Grades 5 - 9

Objectives

Improve observation skills.

Standards

Materials

Color table for higher grades.

Instructional Procedure

Activities

The color that you see is the result of the time of day that the bird is seen and where the bird is in terms of the sun and shade. Find various photos of birds in birdcentral.net that demonstrate variations on the color of the bird.

What happens when a white bird is photographed in the shadows? What happens to the color of a bird when it is photographed in late afternoon or early morning? What happens when the photographer uses a flash or ambient light?

Evaluation

Resources

The Marbled Godwit collage shows a good example of how color can change during the course of a day. The picture in the upper right is closer to the regular color. The pictures in the lower left show the influence of a late afternoon sun.

The Black and White Warbler is an example of how the color white changes depending if it is in the sun or in the shade.

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Lesson Plan Name

Looks like a duck?

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Life Science

Grade Level

Grades 4 - 6

Objectives

Standards

Materials

None required

Instructional Procedure

One of the first rules that a new birdwatcher learns is that just because the bird swims in the water doesn't mean it's a duck. There are many other birds that live on the water other than ducks.

Activities

Students find examples of birds that look like ducks but are not ducks.

Evaluation

Resources

Here are some examples of "non-ducks" Red throated Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Black-footed Albatross, American Coot, Northern Fulmar, and the Red-necked Phalarope.

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Lesson Plan Name

Scavenger Hunt

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Birdwatching

Grade Level

Grades 4 - 6

Objectives

Standards

Materials

None required

Instructional Procedure

Successful zoology is paying attention to details. A Scavenger Hunt emphasizes those details. Set up a scavenger hunt by listing small details that students have to find. Examples could be determining the difference between male and female Acorn Woodpeckers, name a species that has different colored eyes for the male and female, name a species that changes its beak color with the seasons.

Activities

Divide the class into teams. Initially each team creates a scavenger hunt of 10 items using birdcentral pictures as a source of material. It is important that they record the answers to their scavenger hunt. Then the teams exchange the items. The first team to finish with all the scavenger items identified wins.

Evaluation

Resources

birdcentral.net

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Lesson Plan Name (Bent Lesson)

The Loon and the Fish

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Conservation

Grade Level

Grades 6 - 12

Objectives

Derive science content from essay.

Standards

Materials

None required.

Instructional Procedure

Activities

Read the A. C. Bent section for the Common Loon. Bent discusses one reason why the loon shouldn't be blamed for the scarcity of fish. In addition he mentions at least one other reason why loons deserve to not be shot by sportsmen. What are these reasonsd?

Follow up: What current state or national laws would protect the Common Loon today? Cite your source.

Evaluation

Resources

Common Loon Natural History Notes

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Lesson Plan Name (A Bent Lesson)

The Ornithologist and the Pacific Loon

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Conservation/Ecology

Grade Level

Grades 6 - 10

Objectives

To encourage students to reflect on the responsibility of the scientist.

Standards

Materials

None required.

Instructional Procedure

Questions to help students understand the Bent passage.

Activities

At one point Coues, who is a person who studies birds, mentions how easy it is to shoot the birds.

"They showed no concern at the near approach of a boat, scarcely availed themselves of the powers of diving, in which the whole family excelled, and I had no trouble in shooting as many as I wanted."

  1. Why do you think Coues shot the birds?
  2. How do you feel about this method of bird study?
  3. What information would he be able to get that he couldn't get by just observing the loons?

Evaluation

Resources

Pacific Loon Natural History Notes

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Lesson Plan Name

Mallard

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Natural History

Grade Level

Grades 6 -10

Objectives

Students utilize natural history notes to answer questions.

Standards

Materials

None required

Instructional Procedure

Activities

Opportunistic is a word used to describe a species that can take advantage of different feeding opportunities. Explain how the Mallard is an opportunistic feeder.

Evaluation

Resources

Mallard Natural History Notes

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Lesson Plan Name

Cost of migration

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Life Science

Grade Level

Grades 6-9

Objectives

Standards

Materials

Instructional Procedure

Everybody knows about the wonders of migration. Small birds flying thousands of miles without a map. This exercise has the students calculate how much fat is required for a bird to fly a certain distance. The physiological expense of migrating.

Activities

Students will gather data on calorie expenditure per wing beat and projected distance traveled given no wind resistance. They can decide how to divide up the distance traveled and how to successfully compute the cost.

For older students they can make this exercise more complicated by thinking up variables that birds would have to encounter: wind, obstacles such as tall buildings, bright lights, predators.

 The final task will be for the students to decide how to present their findings to the class.

Evaluation

Resources

Web site and word processor.

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Lesson Plan Name

Population Dynamics

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Life Sciences

Grade Level

Grades 5-7

Objectives

Standards

Materials

Instructional Procedure

The Prey-Predator relationship is sometimes a very difficult concept for someone to understand who has been told to protect animals. But to understand the place of raptors in an environment we need to consider what would happen if the raptors weren't present. By considering the ability of mice to reproduce with a quick turn around very dramatically communicates the necessity of predators.

Activities

Mice have a gestation period of 3 weeks. They have, on the average, 10 babies. Those babies mature in about 5 weeks. That means they are now ready to have their own babies. Anticipate that there will be an equal percent of 50% male babies and 50% female babies. If you start on January 1 with a pair of mice and there are no predators or disease, approximately how many mice will you end up with by June 30; December 31?

Evaluation

Resources

Some birds who are very responsible for killing mice are: White tailed Kite, Barn Owl, Gt. Blue Heron, Common Crow.

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Lesson Plan Name

Food Percentages

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Life Science

Grade Level

Grades 4 - 6

Objectives

Students will utilize their math background to interpret science data.

Standards

Materials

A simple graphing software such as Excel.

Instructional Procedure

Activities

The food for the Horned Grebe is listed by percentages. Answer the following questions from the information provided in the reading.

What is found in 66% of all the Horned Grebes?

The other items found in the stomachs are provided with their percentages. Add those up and report what the total is. How close to 100% did they get? How did the author explain what makes up the missing percent?

Create a graph that shows the food that the Horned Grebe ate. Make sure your x and y axis are labeled. Make sure that you have a title for your graph.

Evaluation

Resources

Horned Grebe Natural History Notes

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Lesson Plan Name

Double or Nothing

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Life Sciences

Grade Level

Grades 3-6

Objectives

To understand the mathematical description of prey-predator relations.

Standards

Materials

scratch paper

Instructional Procedure

Another exercise that expresses how populations can grow when there are no balancing factors around is the exercise that has students deciding between getting $100,000 for a month of work or a penny a day that gets doubled every day for the period of a month.

Activities

1. You are going to work for one month and your employer has given you the choice between getting paid $100,000 for the month or getting one penny a day that gets doubled every day. So on day one you get .01 and on day two you get .02. The amount gets doubled every day for 30 days. It's your choice.

2. What does this have to do with animals in the wild?

Evaluation

Resources

Web site and word processor.

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Lesson Plan Name

Almost Extinct - The White-tailed Kite

Subject Area

Zoology

Topic Area

Life Science

Grade Level

9-12

Objectives

To understand the dynamics of the population of a particular species.

Standards

Materials

Audubon Christmas Bird Count Records

Calculator

Instructional Procedure

Utilize records and develop a report on the present status of the White-tailed Kite and how that compares with 100 years ago. Gather recent material to determine factors that allowed this species to return to good numbers.

Activities

Evaluation

Resources

http://www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/index.html

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English Language Arts

Lesson Plan Name

What were they thinking?

Subject Area

English Language Arts

Topic Area

Creative Writing

Grade Level

Grades 3-9

Objectives

Standards

Materials

Instructional Procedure

The bird pictures, while showing what particular species look like, are also very expressive. There are stories in each of the pictures. This assignment is to write a story about what was happening when this picture was taken. The story could be told from the perspective of one of the birds in the picture. It could have the narration of somebody from outside the picture. The story could be completely fictional, or it could be scientific in nature as it tries to determine what is happening in the picture.

Activities

Evaluation

Resources

Some possible pictures could be the Egrets and Ibis, the Western Gulls, the Sandwich Tern, and the Bald Eagle.

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Lesson Plan Name

Birds as Poems

Subject Area

Topic Area

Grade Level

Grades 4-9

Objectives

Standards

Materials

Instructional Procedure

Activities

Evaluation

Resources

Or it could be a poem. Read Ogden Nash's poem, The Pelican as an example.

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Lesson Plan Name

Wildlife Reporter

Subject Area

English Language Arts

Topic Area

Journalism

Grade Level

Grades 3-6

Objectives

Standards

Materials

Instructional Procedure

Write a newspaper article announcing a milestone in the life of one of the species of birds. It might be a birth announcement that keeps in mind some of the natural history of the particular species. The young of some shorebirds are precocial or the young of most songbirds are altricial, which influences how they are brought up.

Activities

Evaluation

Resources

Web site and word processor.

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Mathematics

Lesson Plan Name

Christmas Count Records

Subject Area

Mathematics

Topic Area

Statistics

Grade Level

Grades 5-7

Objectives

Introduce students to the science of applying mathematics to the study of wildlife.

Standards

Materials

Instructional Procedure

Gather data from a series of Christmas Counts for a particular species from the same count area. Have the students gather the data,

Activities

Students present the data for their particular species. They will make a presentation that talks about the numbers and make inferences on what the numbers might mean and what sort of study should be done in the future.

Evaluation

Resources

Christmas Count records.

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Technology

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Lesson Plan Name

Avian Radar Sites

Subject Area

Topic Area

Grade Level

Objectives

Standards

Materials

Instructional Procedure

Activities

Evaluation

Resources

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Lesson Plan Name

Subject Area

Topic Area

Grade Level

Objectives

Standards

Materials

Instructional Procedure

Activities

Evaluation

Resources

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