A few weeks ago, Erica Bohrer had a neat post on her Critters in the Classroom blog about critters outside the classroom. Like Erica, I think a window bird feeder is a great way for your students to observe, learn, and appreciate animals, especially with many schools outlawing pets because of allergies. Observing a variety of birds at your classroom window builds compassion and also a wealth of background to establish prior knowledge for your other animal studies. Best of all, it's a lot of fun!
The bird feeders attach to the outside of your window with suction cups. They're inexpensive at places like Walmart and HomeDepot, and are also available at lots of places online. Sorry that I don't have a great photo, but you can see our feeder in the background of the flower photo on this post.
You might be thinking that the birds will be a crazy distraction for your students. In my experience, that only lasts a day or two. Here's the positive flipside of the distraction: for a child with behavior issues, a few quiet minutes near the bird feeder has a very calming effect, kind of like watching fish in a tank. Also, it's such a kick when the volume gets going in your room to hear the little guys remind each other, "Shhh! You'll scare the birds!" :)
To encourage the literacy connection, put a box of bird books in a box on the windowsill. I like Kevin Henke's Birds, Nancy Carol Willis' The Robins in Your Backyard, and Cathryn Sills' About Birds. Any of the field guides to birds are also very high-interest in spite of their high reading level. Here's a word chart and diagram to encourage journal entries about the birds.
|Click picture to download.|
It's also fun to make birdfeeders to send home. I used to use cardboard hearts, spread with peanut butter and dipped into birdseeds. Of course, PB has become such an issue now. Here's a link to alphamom for a more complicated but safer alternative.
Update: 2/7/13: Here's a link to Lowes Creative Ideas Magazine variation.
"Valentines for the Birds", by Aileen Fisher, is a perfect match to read and attach to this project.
Have fun with the birds!