Feathery Focus

by Katherine Houseman – Lloyd Center Educator/Naturalist

Hawk – click to enlarge

What makes a bird, a bird? Most people know what birds look like: feathers, wings, and beaks. But did you know birds have hollow bones and tiny air sacs all over their body?!

The Feathery Focus Program uses birds as a vehicle to demonstrate the value of science as a means to understand the amazing world around us. This program consists of several in-class lessons during which Lloyd Center educators return to 3rd grade classrooms once a month to talk about birds. The lessons focus on describing the parts of a bird, knowing what a bird eats based on the shape and size of its beak, recognizing individual species of birds by their field marks and the calls they make, how and why birds migrate, and the methods scientists use to track migratory bird populations such as the osprey.

Many students see birds around their homes and schools every day, whether they live in the city or the woodlands. By focusing on birds, 3rd graders are able to apply the knowledge they learn throughout the year directly to their own lives. Additionally, students are encouraged to make their own bird observations and report any field marks or behaviors they noticed. All of the lessons are designed to be as hands-on as possible, requiring every student’s participation in the activities.

After all in-class lessons are complete, 3rd graders travel to the Lloyd Center where they look for local birds such as the red-winged black bird, American robin, and black-capped chickadee. The Feathery Focus scholars perform their own bird counts, putting their graphing skills to the test just as scientists do!

House finch – click to enlarge

While hiking the Lloyd Center trails, students search for signs of birds, nests in trees, feathers on the ground, bird calls in the forest, even sighting osprey fishing in the estuary! Students then use their knowledge of field marks to match preserved bird specimens with their correlating field mark descriptions.

Lastly, students are shown one of the Lloyd Center’s resident raptor ambassadors: Hawk the red-shouldered hawk, or Koko the Eastern screech owl. Students get an up-close look at these majestic birds of prey and are able to ask questions and make first-hand observations.

Throughout the duration of the Feathery Focus lessons students are able to see their environment through the eyes of a bird, developing a deep appreciation for feathered friends in their own backyards.