Winter is the perfect season for focusing on birds, as the local avian population flocks to birdfeeders.
A birdfeeder was a large part of my exploration station on birds. My STEM table is right next to a large window, which provided the perfect opportunity to put up a birdfeeder directly outside the window. I ended up getting two birdfeeders, a traditional seed feeder and a suet feeder to attract a different type of bird. It’s difficult to see in the picture, but I centered the birdfeeder so that you could see it from any part of the trapezoidal table. On the table I placed printed out pictures ofNew England birds labeled with their common names, including cardinals, woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, robins, crows, sparrows (although one of my homeschoolers and a future ornithologist pointed out that I had printed out a species of sparrow that is less common in this part of the country), and a bonus picture of a squirrel. For some reason the children kept untapeing these pictures and moving them around. Perhaps they thought it was another sorting activity? Maybe they just enjoyed the sensation of the tape sticking and unsticking. It didn’t hurt the display, but it was odd.
I was a little disappointed at how long it took before birds started using the feeder. As you can see in the picture, it is right next to a road, and I suspect that that influenced it. My young birder friend suggested hanging it on the other side of the library where there is a protected area and lots of bushes, but that would have defeated the point of putting it where people can see it. It took a good long while, but the birds eventually started eating the seeds, though it was still relatively uncommon for them to do so when the room was filled with people.
Luckily spying on birds through the window was not the only aspect to this exploration station. I had also ordered stuffed birds that play birdsong recordings. Again, I specifically chose New England species that children may already be familiar with: a chickadee, a cardinal, a crow, and a blue jay. I tied the birds to the legs of the table to keep them from wandering, as they were a very popular attraction. I could hear birdsong coming from that area all day long. Luckily I have a very tolerant library community, and the general feeling was that children learning more about birds and birdsong was a positive development.
To broaden the educational opportunities of the singing birds, I put a sign on the table encouraging parents to talk to the children about the patterns of the birdsong. Which bird sang long, short, short? Which bird sang short, short, short?