Both of my children are, like most children, fascinated by all animals. Knox (3 yrs) has, in recent months taken a particular interest in birds (a surprisingly appropriate transition from dinosaurs to animals, I think!), so we decided that raising chickens would be a great experience for the whole family, especially the children. We brought them home when they were less than a week old and began working on their coop soon after.
The teacher in me decided this was the perfect time to begin a thorough, long-term bird study. In true Montessori philosophy, the best approach is always introducing a real-life, hands-on experience to the children at the beginning of a unit. So, here is how it all began.
Knox helping Daddy build the chicken house.
Lately (1 yr) observing 6 day old chicks.
Lately (1 yr) is just as fascinated with them as Knox is.
The chicks at 6 weeks, happy in their new home.
The coop almost complete (Knox got to choose the color paint and he chose “Heart’s Desire Pink”).
Teaching becomes so effortless when you place the child in an environment like this. They are surrounded by things to learn about and they are so excited to know more about it all. The practical life experiences they are learning from caring for the chickens is irreplaceable.
It was easy to expand the study and include wild birds. Knox quickly made the connection, as he already enjoyed bird-watching. Comparing chickens to the birds we see in our yard was a fun and organic way to introduce different species of birds. His grandparents had also gotten him a birdhouse recently, which he helped put up and was just waiting for a family of birds to move in.
It didn’t take long for this mother Nuthatch to begin building her nest in the house. We were expecting Bluebirds, but she must have spotted it first. Here she is proudly singing about her babies at the top of a long leaf pine.
And here she is on the lookout.
I was so nervous about disturbing the baby birds, so it was hard to get a good picture, but here they are sleeping soundly. They stayed for a little over a week, I think. I tried my best to leave them alone, but I did let the children get a peek or two here and there.
Not long after the birds left (and I gathered the nest for observation), another Mama bird began her nest. This time, it was the Bluebird we were waiting for!
Here is houseguest #2, guarding her nest.
And her beautiful eggs!
I’ve been too chicken (pun intended!) to get a picture of the babies so far, though they are now hatched & I have peeked at them! We have been watching from afar as the mama cares for her babies and learning all we can about these beautiful birds.
We have also been visiting the ducks and geese at a local park and got a chance to observe a family of geese complete with growing goslings!
The children were able to gather useful information by observing all of these different kinds of birds, and I was able to observe them and answer questions, learning myself about what intrigued them about birds and how to supplement these experiences with materials and activities to enhance all of the knowledge they were gaining.
Here are a few of the ideas and questions that arose during our “field study”:
Eggs (hatching, incubation)
Nests (materials, sizes, locations)
Feathers (colors - male/female, purpose, textures)
Bird Anatomy (beak, wings, bones, tails, feet - purposes)
Needs (food types, water, environment, weather, migration, flocks)
So, stay tuned because I am working on a follow-up to this post with all of the ideas I gathered and laid out for them during our bird study!