Birds in my backyard is a ready-to-use cross-curricular teaching resource. It uses the Ministry of Education’s 2013 Connected article The takeaway table by Diana Noonan.
‘The takeaway table’ is a non-fiction article suitable for students working at NZC level 2 and above. The article and accompanying activities support learning in multiple curriculum areas.
- Making and supporting inferences from text.
- Using scientific language.
Science – Living World:
- Living things can be grouped in different ways.
- Birds can be identified by their physical features.
Nature of Science and science capabilities:
- Observation is an important scientific skill.
- Scientists gather and interpret data.
- Scientists design and interpret representations, such as graphs.
Mathematics and statistics:
- Conducting an investigation using the statistical enquiry cycle.
- Creating statements using the features of a simple data display.
Customising the resource
Scan through the Student worksheet: Birds in my backyard – learning activities below. The worksheet is also available in a Word file here and in the link at the bottom of this page.
Feel free to edit the Word document to meet the needs of your programme and your learners.
Student worksheet: Birds in my backyard – learning activities
Read the article ‘The takeaway table’ by Diana Noonan. Use Google slides or this PDF.
Before you read
Look at the photo of the students and birds. Think like a scientist to answer these questions:
- What do you see in the photo? (These are your observations.)
- What do you think is happening in the photo? (These are your inferences – the meanings you make from your observations.)
Now think like a reader to answer this question:
- The title is ‘The takeaway table’ and the photo shows students with lunchboxes. What do you think the story will be about?
While you read
Think about these questions:
- Why would Mr McIntosh, the school caretaker, be able to see bird species the students would not?
- What did the students do to help them gather data they could trust?
- Why did the students wait 5 minutes before they started each observation?
- What are five comments you can make after looking at Room 3’s graph of results?
After you read
- Find a place at your home or in a nearby park area that will be good for observing birds. This can be a window inside or a spot outside. If you are inside, open the window so you can hear the birds.
- Look at the Resources for children and teachers section on Landcare Research's website. It has things to look out for (observe) when identifying birds and helpful posters to download.
- Make an observation form of your own. Use some of the words from Room 3’s observation form.
- Spend 10 minutes observing birds. Look and listen. Take photos if it does not frighten the birds.
- Identify the birds. Look at the Identification guide resources or New Zealand Birds Online ‘Identify that bird’ section. Use the Department of Conservation's Bird songs and calls or RNZ's The Birds to listen to bird calls.
- Share your findings with the class.
- Find out which birds you have observed are native (found naturally in New Zealand) and which are introduced (brought to New Zealand by humans). Why do you think it is more common to see introduced species than native species in towns? (Hint: Think about the foods they eat and whether they are good at flying.)
- Watch the Department of Conservation video Feeding New Zealand’s Birds. Make a poster (on paper or using a device) with tips for feeding birds. Use the ideas (recommendations) from Room 3 too.
- Choose a bird from the set of colouring-in pages in the Resources for children and teachers section on Landcare Research's website. Use a photo from one of the Garden Bird Guide posters and coloured pencils to make your bird look as real as you can.
- Observe birds for 10 minutes a day for a week. Record your results in a graph like the one in ‘The takeaway table’. Which bird was most common? Which bird would you like to see more of? Find out what it eats, put some food out for it and then see what happens. You could also change the time of day or place where you do your observations. What difference does this make? What could this tell you?
- New Zealand eBird is an online citizen science project where volunteers collect observational data about birds (day, time, species, number of species and total observation time) and upload this onto the database. You’ll first need to create a user name (ask an adult to help you). You can keep track of your sightings in ‘My ebird’ and also investigate bird sightings from around the world.
- Read ‘Bringing back the birdsong’ in this Google slide presentation. Identify three different ways that communities can work together to help native birds.
The article eBird gives teachers some things to think about when planning to use this online citizen science project with students, it includes information on the New Zealand Bird Atlas project.
The article Conserving native birds – introduction has links to numerous Hub resources.
This is a curation of observation activities for primary students.
For additional bird-themed Connected articles, check out What Alice saw, Keep your cat inside and Bringing back the birdsong.
The Connected journals can be ordered from the Down the Back of the Chair website. Access to these resources is restricted to Ministry-approved education providers. To find out if you are eligible for a login or if you have forgotten your login details, contact their customer services team on 0800 660 662 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Connected series is published annually by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand.