Want to participate in a child-friendly citizen science project that has been ongoing for 25 years? The Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up February 18-21, 2022.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is one of our favorite bird-centered STEM activities. All you and your family members need to do is count the birds you see over 15 minutes (at least once over the four day period) and then report your findings. Although it is called “backyard,” you may count birds anywhere they are found, including parks, preserves, or fields. There is plenty of information and instructions about getting started at the website.
This year there is a free webinar for participants on Feb 16, 2022. Register here.
This is a wonderful project to revisit year after year. Perhaps you can spot new birds and/or population trends in your own community. For example, the other day I spotted a Crissal Thrasher (All About Birds page) perched on top of a saguaro. That C-shaped curved beak was incredible and I wondered how it could eat with it.
What can you find? Time to grab those binoculars and meet your bird neighbors!
Today we are featuring a lovely STEM picture book that has made many of the best of 2020 lists, The Nest That Wren Built by Randi Sonenshine and illustrated by Anne Hunter.
This gently rhyming book about Carolina wrens building a nest follows the style of “The House That Jack Built.”
This is the bark, snippets of twine,
spidery rootlets, and needles of pine
that shape the nest that Wren built.
The text goes into detail about how the wrens gather materials to make the nest. Some of the ingredients are expected, like soft moss for a lining the inside. Others are very surprising, like draping a snakeskin on the outside (to ward off predators). After the nest is built, the story follows the eggs and baby birds through development.
Anne Hunter’s illustrations are a fascinating combination of whimsical and realistic. Young readers will have fun looking for little things hidden in each page.
The back matter includes a glossary and additional interesting facts about wrens.
The Nest That Wren Built will enchant nature lovers, especially budding ornithologists. Surprise yourself with a copy today.
Related STEM activities:
1. Child-sized Bird’s Nest
Let your young makers assemble their own child-sized bird nest. (This is best as an outdoor activity, although some of the materials could be used inside.)
Gather materials to create nests, using items you can recycle or compost. Here are some suggestions:
Hay or straw (pet supply or craft stores)
Grapevines (craft stores)
Show the children some photographs of nests or the real thing if there are some nearby. Always leave the nests where you found them. Even if they are empty, birds can reuse the nesting materials.
This one fell out of a tree after a wind storm:
Talk about some of the reasons birds build nests.
Place to raise young
Shelter from adverse weather
Place to rest
Now have the children build their own human-sized nest. They can work in groups. Young children may need some adult assistance. Be prepared for messy fun.
Note: If you are working with a number of children, they may remove materials from the nests of others. Decide how you want to deal with this in advance. I told them that birds in nature really do take materials from other birds’ nests. Eventually they decided to leave one member of a group in the nest while the others went to gather supplies, just how birds sometimes handle the problem.
Make sure you have your camera ready. You will find there are many creative ways to make nests. Take pictures of your “birds” sitting in their nests.
Disclosure: This book was provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.
What do you notice when you see the owl on the cover of the new nonfiction picture book Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls by Annette Whipple? Maybe the huge eyes? What do you think of? The sound they make? Have you ever seen an owl in real life?
The book starts out with these observations and a stirring question:
“You recognize an owl when you hear or see one, but do you really know these birds?”
From there, each double-page spread features gorgeous color photographs with text in a question and answer format. You will find out what owl’s eat, how they hunt, whether they sleep during the day, where they live, and what’s up with owl pellets. My favorite questions was whether owls can spin their heads around. Do you know the answer?
The formatting is super engaging, with eye-catching design elements and fun dialogue bubbles with cool facts. Great for visual learners.
Here at Growing With Science, we love back matter and the book does not disappoint. There’s a section on how to help owls, explanation of owl anatomy, owl pellet dissection discussion, and a glossary. The hardcover version even includes an Owl Superpowers poster, which you can see at Annette’s website.
Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls is nonfiction at its best. It will obviously appeal to young birdwatchers and nature lovers, but also to anyone interested in the world around them. Reading it will make you wiser <wink>.
Note for sensitive young readers: Owls eat small rodents and the book contains pretty graphic photographs of that natural process. There’s also a close up of an owl pellet.
This book is part of The Truth About series. Annette tells us there’s Woof! The Truth About Dogs and another untitled book about spiders coming next year.
Owl pellet dissection
We previously talked about owl pellets when we reviewed Melissa Stewart’s Bird-acious, a book that comes with an actual owl pellet attached to the cover (see post).
2. Write an Owl Story
Have you ever seen an owl in real life? Write a short story about what you saw and how it made you feel. Do some research and learn more about them to add details to your story. Need help? Check Annette’s website for a lesson about the writing process.
If you post your story online, please leave a link in the comments.
One snowy day while cross-country skiing at a nature preserve in South Dakota, I passed a thicket of pine trees, dark green against the wintry white. A brownish blur passed in front of my face. It was an owl, flying. The stillness of the snow, the peacefulness of the setting, the silence of the owl in flight have all stayed in my mind since that day.
Other owls we have encountered:
We sometimes see small owls called burrowing owls here in Arizona. Because they nest in animal burrows, which have become rare, conservationists have started making artificial tunnels for them to nest in.
What do you think these owls are doing?
What about this great horned owl? I saw it in a cottonwood tree early one morning. We often hear them calling softly to each other just before dawn.
3. Interested in birds in general? Consider joining the Audubon’s 121st Christmas Bird Count which runs from Monday, December 14, 2020 through Tuesday, January 5, 2021. Details at their website.
Disclosure: ARC was provided by the author for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.