INSIDE: A relaxed backyard birds homeschool unit study is just the thing to break up your winter – these lesson plans and printables make it easy!
It all started one winter when the boys kept getting distracted by the birds gathering at our suction-cup window feeder. The colorful flutter of feathers on the windowpane, the comical upside-down hopping of the nuthatch, and even the stodgy pigeons all captivated my young boys more than their math and spelling lessons at the table.
It was winter, after all, and the kids were yearning for something, anything to liven up our homeschool life mid-January!
But how could my homeschool plans compete against these delightful birds? I decided if I couldn’t beat ’em, I should join ’em!
So… I took a detour in our lessons and decided to spend time delighting in these backyard birds. After all, we could learn handwriting just as well by tracing the names of birds as we could writing random spelling words, right?
We started researching bird seed, and visited a local wild birds shop to find out how to care for our neighborhood birds. One lesson led to another, and before I knew it, I had created a collection of lessons and activities to help us learn more about our birds. In fact, these lessons grew to become a full 4-week Backyard Birds Homeschool Unit Study that I’ve been able to share with a host of other homeschool families!
Backyard Birds are a delightful diversion!
Winter is a wonderful time to study birds, since we can watch them from our windows even on days we might be stuck indoors. Even on a rainy day, you might spot a brave bird looking for food. (And if you put out the right feeders, you definitely will draw them in!).
Ever since that first distracted January day, we have spent at least 1-4 weeks studying birds each year. Every time, we expand our knowledge and understanding of birds. One year’s bird study unit focused mainly on bird identification and bird watching. Another year, we added bird migration, bird nesting, and identified even more of our backyard birds!
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So, if you want to share the delight of backyard birds in your homeschool, these gentle lesson plans are the perfect way to make the most of outside distractions and enjoy all nature has to offer in winter. I’ve created a 4-week set of lesson plans and printable to guide you through the delight of backyard birds in this homeschool bird study unit!
9 Ways to Delight in Studying Birds in your Homeschool
There are so many ways to learn about birds. I’ve broken down this homeschool unit study’s lesson plans into various categories and activities that we cycle through each week.
1. Bird watching
More than anything else, I want to teach our boys to engage quietly with nature. Bird watching provides just the right amount of visual stimuli and action, while also “rewarding” kids for learning to sit quietly and be patient. My boys quickly learned not to rush screaming to the window every time a bird appeared. Instead, they learned how to slowly and quietly approach the window so they won’t scare the birds away. Bird watching is a valuable skill I hope follows them into spring and summer nature hikes! (yes, I’m still a wimp about winter nature walks – I keep saying, NEXT year! ha!).
Tools for bird watching:
BIRD FEEDERS: We set up bird feeders from Wild Birds Unlimited outside our kitchen window, and some in the front yard just beyond the window. This way we could see the birds while seated, and also while standing at the window. Having multiple feeders also allowed us to offer a variety of foods and nutrients for our bird friends in the winter.
BINOCULARS: We kept a box with our Think Peak binoculars, Tanglewood Hollow bird cards, and a bird ID book handy. Plus our printable bird tracking sheet.
BIRD IDENTIFICATION BOOKS & CARDS: Try to find a book specific to your local area, and you’ll have a lot more success at identifying your backyard birds!
2. Bird Study Read-Aloud Books
I kept our morning basket stocked with a half dozen books per week on various bird themes:
- Bird identification
- Bird migration
- Bird nesting habits
- Bird anatomy
We read a lot of picture books, even as the boys got older, because they are quick and contain a good amount of information that make it easy to tailor your backyard birds unit study. But we also loved longer storybooks like The Burgess Bird Book for Children.
3. Learning about Birds through Bible Memory
We took Matthew 6:26 as our core unit verse and read this in our morning time. We also used this verse for copywork. Focusing on God’s care for birds helps us see His care for us too!
4. Sing with the birds with a Hymn Study
Even though our Hymn of the Month from our Happy Hymnody study and Classical Morning Menu was not about birds, we added and extra hymn during this month, because singing “His Eye is on the Sparrow” during this unit fit just perfectly. Are there any other hymns about birds?!
5. Add Writing and Research to your Backyard Birds Unit Study
For our Language Arts component, the boys completed journaling pages. Some years we have used NotebookingPages.com copywork pages (their illustrations are from Dover coloring books). Other years we used the pages I created as part of my printable Bird Study Packet.
The boys completed a page of their choice weekly. These pages might involve researching a bird of their choice, recording a collection of facts about that bird, and an illustration. When they were younger, I had them do copywork, but now that they are older, simple research using their IEW methods work just fine.
6. Math Activities: Backyard Birds Tracking with Graphs
To include a math component in this unit study, we tracked the different birds we saw by date, type, and (as best we could) quantity.
We used the Tanglewood Hollow North American Bird Identification cards to create graphs comparing various backyard birds (this set now comes only as a digital product you print yourself). In my Bird Study Unit Plan I’ve created a graph worksheet so kids can compare birds. I did a sample first, comparing bird clutch sizes to model the steps of graphing data. Then the boys independently graphed bird wingspans and bird life spans using information from the cards.
(The Lord of the Wings Trump Card game is a great alternative resource for comparing birds, but can be hard to find!)
We also participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count! It’s free and easy to do – you simple record all the birds you see in a 15 minute timeframe each day for 3 days, then upload your data to the website.
Backyard Birds Homeschool Unit Study Fine Arts Activities
7. Poetry Study on Birds
Reading a collection of bird poetry makes a fabulous poetry teatime during this unit. You could even bake some “seed cakes” and have a themed snack! You’ll likely find many bird poems in any child’s book of poetry or an animal poetry book. I’ve included a good sampling of classic bird-themed poems in my printable unit plan to make it easy on you!
8. Art Expression through Chalk Pastel Drawings
Using the Bird chalk pastel lessons from You ARE an Artist, my boys painted several different birds with chalk. We selected birds we commonly see in our yard: robin, cardinal, blue jay, and chickadee. Plus, during the week we studyied nests and habitats, we drew the bird nest lesson. Nana from You ARE an Artist gives step-by-step video instruction, helping kids towards a successful picture!
You ARE an Artist Clubhouse memberships are available in monthly, quarterly, or annual packages, so you can access ALL the great art lessons. Or, purchase just the Bird Chalk Pastel Unit and let Nana teach your kids how to draw/paint eight different birds, plus a nest! My boys loved this part of our bird unit the most, I think (which says a lot because they loved every part of this unit).
On the days we didn’t do a chalk pastel drawing, they colored copies of bird coloring sheets from a Dover Bird Watcher’s coloring book.
9. Backyard Birds Handicrafts
Perhaps the most fun we had with bird study was in our handicraft experiences. Each week, we created a different hands-on craft project. Now, these aren’t truly the Charlotte-Mason style handicrafts of weaving, etc, but I wanted my kids to “create” on a bird theme! We made:
- Paper Roll Bird Feeders – learning about proper care and feeding of wild birds.
- Chalk Pastel Bird Drawing – we drew birds every week, but I couldn’t think of a craft to go along with bird migration (yet). So, we focused on our chalk pastel art during this week.
- “Spare Parts” Bird Nests – using some sticks, twigs, string, yarn, and floral accents, we attempted to make bird nests. This project did not quite go as planned, as the nesting materials did not stay together at all, despite our efforts. I’ll have to rethink this next time we revisit this unit. Still, we had a wonderful discussion about how God gave birds the amazing ability to build intricate nests for their babies’ survival.
- Stained Glass Bird Sun Catchers – a pretty craft that can reinforce bird anatomy details
More Backyard Birds Homeschool Fun
Here’s a great list of bird watching for kids tools, books, and games we used to make our bird study unit fun and exciting!
In previous years, we’ve made a nesting bag for birds, which is an easy project that helps birds get ready for spring!
So you see, not every distraction in homeschooling is a bad thing! I’ve just shown you 9 ways you can take an outside distraction and make it a FUN learning experience! Perhaps you have other distractions besides birds? Make your own unit study out of it using this handy printable guide!
Our Favorite Books for A Bird Study Unit
Besides our growing collection of bird books, I took dozens of books out of the library. Here’s a handful of our favorites (full list in my unit plan):
The Burgess Bird Book for ChildrenThe Moon of the Winter Bird (The Thirteen Moons)Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural WorldThe Robin Makes a Laughing Sound: A Birder’s ObservationsLook Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own BackyardThe Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James AudubonBackyard Birds of WinterFeathers: Not Just for FlyingHave You Heard the Nesting Bird?Mama Built a Little NestWhat Makes a Bird a Bird?Cradles in the Trees: The Story of Bird NestsAn Egg Is Quiet (Nature Books)How Do Birds Find Their Way? (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)On the Wing: American Birds in Migration
Download a One-Week Sample of my Backyard Birds Homeschool Unit Study!
I love going through this simple and easy bird study unit with my boys each year. They are engaged every day for a month, and I learn alongside my children, which I love!
Plus, we still have so much we can learn about birds! I know we’ll enjoy cycling back through this unit each year. As the boys grow, I’ve added to this unit study: language arts, math, mapping, and nature journaling skills.
You can get your “starter pack” FREE in this One-Week downloadable sample of my Backyard Birds Unit Study Guide:
These 10 pages give you a week’s worth of curriculum materials to study birds, which includes a Bird Count Tracker PERFECT for the February Great Backyard Bird Count (but you can count birds any time of year!).
Want MORE Backyard Birds in your Homeschool?
I have the FULL Four Week Backyard Birds Unit Study Guide available! It is FRESHLY redesigned this year (2022) for a more elegant look and clarity of instruction. I’ve added more details to the Morning Time Routines, plus I’ve added several additional printable activity sheets.
The poetry pages now have black and white illustrations perfect for slipping into your Classical Morning Menu. Plus the three pages of bird illustrations can be used for any number of activities from notebooking to creating games, coloring, and more!
This digital unit study plan includes:
- Morning Routine Description
- Book List
- Supply List (plus links to additional resources)
- 4 themed weeks of plans
- 4 activities (one for each theme)
- Bird Count Tracking Printable
- His Eye is on the Sparrow Hymn Printable
- Bible Memory Printable PLUS 4 different Copywork pages
- 6 Bird Poem printables
- Math Graph Comparison Worksheet
- Bird Anatomy Labeling Worksheet
- 2 Blank Notebook Pages (leveled for ages)
- 3 Bird Illustrations Pages
- Bird Scavenger Hunt Game Card
- Collective Noun Birds Poster
Here’s another look at some of the pages inside this guide:
This 40-page resource guide is chock full of ideas for your next backyard bird study. Use it for a month, or use one week a year to extend your birding expertise year after year. Your kids will love revisiting this themed unit study because it’s so accessible, given that birds are everywhere!
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