As a homeschooling mom, Im always on the lookout for living books that teach subjects in a fun and engaging way. I have found Thorton Burgess’ The Burgess Bird Book to be an excellent resource for teaching my children about the fascinating world of birds.
In this post, I would like to share with you some ideas on how to incorporate this classic book into an easy and memorable unit study.
The book is a fictional story about Peter Rabbit, who meets many different birds and learns about their habits, behaviors, and songs.
Each chapter focuses on a different species from the bobolink and the song sparrow to the blue bird and the great horned owl. Through Peters encounters with the birds, children can learn about different aspects of them, such as their migration patterns, nesting habits no unique features.
One of the unique features of the book is that it presents scientific information in a fun and engaging way. The book was written in 1919, a time when nature education was becoming increasingly important, and it reflects Burgess’s passion for promoting conservation and environmental education.
The books illustrations, by Louis Agassiz Fuentes, also contribute to its charm, depicting the birds in exquisite detail.
Below are the steps I took in creating a unit study based on this wonderful book
1. Read the Book Together
The first step is to red the book together as a family. This will give your children an introduction to the different bird species and their unique characteristics.
I like to take the readings slow and do one chapter a day. That way we can focus on each new bird one or two at a time and not get overwhelmed .
Where to find the book
- Amazon (for cheap reprints)
- eBay (for more expensive, vintage copies)
- Gutenberg.org (FREE digital books)
- Librivox (FREE audiobooks)
2. Create a Bird Journal
After reading a chapter, I have my children notebook one page for each new bird mentioned. I will pull out field guides and play YouTube videos of the birds after reading the chapter and before notebooking. This way, my kids can see the real bird in print and video to get ideas of how to color and draw on their notebooking page.
I also have them write down what was interesting about each bird to them to add to their sketches, colorings and drawings.
Finally, we put all their pages together in a folder with brads or a binder to create a book of birds for each child. The LOVE showing these creation off to friends and family. They are always so proud of their work!
3. Identify your Backyard Birds
My absolute favorite bird resource is The Sibleys Backyard Birds Poster. I have it hanging next to out big living room window, where just outside are 3 different bird feeders with three different types of food.
We have a suet hanger with suet block. A tray bird feeder with sunflower seeds and a vertical feeder with peanuts.
The poster and the feeders together make identifying our backyard birds sooooo easy.
4. Explore Bird Habitats
Take your children on a nature walk to explore different bird habitats, such as forests, fields, mountains and wetlands, depending on where you live.
Have them observe the birds and discuss how they are adapted to survive in each habitat.
Be sure to bring a field guide or two and binoculars.
Also, I find The Cornell Lab Merlin Bird ID app to be super helpful in identifying birds solely on their songs.
5. Science Experiment
I like to incorporate at least one science experiment. You can get lots of ideas on Pinterest. Pick one that is easy and doable. I had my kids collect different materials like yarn and fabric scraps, pine needles, grass and hay. We then stuffed it all in a suet cage and observed which materials were preferred for nest making in the spring.
We also hung three different feeders with three different foods and learned which types of birds were attracted to each feeder. We even had a raccoon attempt to steal the food!
6. Bird-Themed Crafts
Pinterest will be your best friend for inspiration here!
I am not an arts and crafts mama, so this is always hard for me to get done. I will browse Pinterest with my kids and let them pick crafts they want to do with materials we already have. A few ideas are:
- Build a birdhouse out of an old pallets
- Painted bird portraits on canvas, rocks or wood slices
- Make bird nests out of gathered material
- Make a hanging bird mobile
- Create a bird collage using cutouts, feathers or fabric scraps
7. Play Games!
If you haven’t tried gameschooling yet, you are missing out! Games make learning so fun and easy that your kids don’t even realize you are sneaking school in!
- Bird Bingo
- North American Birds Matching Game
- Professor Noggin Birds of North America
- What Bird Am I?
These are the games that we played as a family that feature birds as their theme. There are plenty of options to choose from but bird bingo, with is beautiful watercolor art and the North American Birds Matching Game ultimately became our favorites.
I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the world of birds with my children through the Burgess Bird Book as a guide.
Through reading the book chapter by chapter and creating their own notebook journal, my children have gained a new appreciation for the beauty and complexity of birds and their place in the natural world.
Thornton Burgess book persists for a reason. With over 100 years of delighting children and adults alike, I highly recommend this book as a guide for your next homeschool unit study!