An Introduction for Teachers and Students

Birds in the Classroom
The Bird Groups
Back to Home

Lesson Plans
Themes Index
Back Home
The White-tailed Kite Curriculum

The Context

Originally was established as a gallery of photos of North American birds. Eventually as my own studies in curriculum developed I realized that I wanted to utilize this site as an opportunity to investigate how to teach about birds, natural history, and ecology. With the popularization of birdwatching the study of birds has become more of a leisure sport than an aspect of zoology. Part of my goal is to create a site that approaches the concept of zoology through the study of birds; science through the study of nature.

While there is newer material on the natural history of these species available, the historical aspect of the material found in A. C. Bent's Life Histories of North American Birds provides a special significance in our study of birds as species, as subjects of conservation efforts, as potential allies, and threats. Through careful reading of the passages we see some of the first thoughts on understanding that the habitat is changing and that change has an effect on the populations of different species. For some the changes are beneficial and for others it is detrimental. We get to read accounts of how people originally perceived the status of birds as we read accounts of how many shorebirds can be stuffed into a barrel and sent to market and how much per pound will be paid for the feathers of particular species of birds. Often Bent addresses the question about what these are birds worth in an economic sense, and the answers that he comes up with are interesting.

Beyond Birding

I once had a well meaning colleague tell me that we both shared a similar endeavor: he participated in Fantasy Football and I was a birdwatcher. We had similar hobbies, he said. I was again reminded of the need to better explain the process of field ornithology. While much of birdwatching consists of identifying species in the field there is also the process of understanding what you see. Thomas J. Grubb Jr., of the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organizational Biology at Ohio State University, in his book Beyond Birding offers examples of basic field ornithology that beginning zoologists could undertake. In addition to demonstrating how field ornithology takes place it also introduces the reader to the application of statistical analysis of the data gathered. Portions of his book are included with kind permission of the author.

The Themes Page

The Themes page categorizes the larger themes found in the text. There are certain considerations that run through the examination of each species: how do we recognize it as a species, how are humans impacting it, how is it impacting humans, what are the mechanics of its efforts to survive? I have identified the themes and provided links to the text under the various theme headings of courtship, breeding, nesting, feeding, speciation, conservation/economic importance, habitat, behavior, mortality/parasitism. For example, if a teacher wanted to draw on examples of nesting behavior they can chose from 37 different nesting behavior descriptions.

The Pedagogical Basis of BirdCentral

Constructivism is a pedagogy that recognizes the role of the student in creating knowledge for themselves by their active involvement in the material, and their relationships with fellow students and teachers and other community members.

The Internet environment provides me an opportunity to link references in the text to explanatory sites. When the text talks about parasites of specific birds, the student can link to a page that describes that parasite. When archaic phrases are utilized in some of the older writings, definitions for those words can be included.

There is the additional goal of making this site as self-sufficient as possible; to make it possible for students to work on their own. The continual challenge is to have the site be useful, but at the same time not restrict the creativity of the teacher/student. Hopefully users will communicate with the site provider ( with suggestions on how the site could be better utilized.