How To Do A Bird Unit Study

There’s always excitement when I put together a new unit. It’s the same excitement you might feel at the start of the new homeschool year. I love looking for new resources and assembling a nice balance of books and activities. It’s not always fun though. Sometimes I hit creative roadblocks or in other cases, I’m overwhelmed by too many choices.

In general this is what I look for when putting together a unit:
-Non-fiction books with a lot of illustrations or photographs
-Picture books
-Novels or fictions or historical fictions (if it’s a history unit) that I can read aloud to my children
-Activity books
-Cookbooks or recipes
-Kits
-Field trip or class opportunities
-Biographies
-Games

For this unit, I also got a set of flashcards that were gorgeous, but I don’t know how I’m going to incorporate it into the unit. That happens sometimes, I find things that are beautiful and in the very least, they become drawing inspiration.

For this unit, I had a number books. In fact, most of my units have a lot of books, but for this unit, I didn’t have a lot of projects planned and I got no kits except the Owl Dissection Field Biology Kit. Thankfully, a lot of project ideas came from the books we read. I love it when that happens. And thankfully, we have a lot of creative art supplies on hand, so when the inspiration hits, we were ready!

Here's a list of the books we used for this unit: 
Birds, Nests and Eggs by Mel Boring,
A Nest is Noisy by Dianna Aston,
About Birds by Cathryn Sill,
Arrowhawk A True Survival Story by Gabi Swiatkowska,
The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya by Jane Kelley,
An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston,
Outside Your Window First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies,
Birds by DK Eyewitness Books,
Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle,
United Tweets of America: 50 State Birds Their Stories, Their Glories by Hudson Talbott,
Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World by Julia Rothman,
Practical Naturalists by DK Publishing,
Animalium by Jenny Broom,
Curiositree: Natural World: A Visual Compendium of Wonders from Nature by AJ Wood,
The Spider and the Doves: The Story of the Hijra by Farah Morley,
Birds by Peter Gill.

We also used Professor Noggin’s Birds of North America Trivia game and Sibley Backyard Birding Flashcards: 100 Common Birds of Eastern and Western North America, as well as Animalium postcards.

Check out our complete Owl Unit Study with videos on how we put this unit together, the resources we used and the projects we did. You can also check out our larger Bird Unit Study which includes more projects and resources.

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Check out our Bird Egg Replicas using chicken eggs

While reading the book Birds, Nests and Eggs by Mel Boring, I had a moment of inspiration and thought it would be a fabulous hands-on project to create egg replicas of the birds we learned about in the book using chicken eggs. While this idea is a great way to learn about the different eggs and the details on each, it turned out harder than I expected. Firstly, our choice of paints wasn’t the best. Initially it seemed to be working and I got a nice range of colors. But the ink spread and bled into each other when colors or layers were combined. Then it took a long time to dry which posed additional challenges. The ink was each to smudge and it took several weeks before the ink was so dry and set that it wasn’t ruined by our touch.

The first thing I had to do for this project is buy white chicken eggs. Unless you are using acrylic paints, you’re going to need to use white eggs or the color of the ink or dye will be obscured by the color of the egg. Next, I needed to remove the yolk from the egg. Instead of blowing the contents out by poking a small hole on either end of the egg, I make a rather large hole on the backside (or long side) of the egg using a bamboo skewer first, and later my metal paper piercer which has a sharp end like a safety pin. The bamboo skewer only worked well the first time, but the tip blunt so easily, it didn’t work well after that. It was far easier to get the inside of the egg out with this single large hole, but I did still have to shake it out quite a bit.

I washed the eggs with water and dish soap because I intend to keep this project long term. If you didn’t want to keep this long term, I’d suggest skipping this step, or better yet, just painting them whole or hard boiled. I can’t say for certain how long you can keep a raw egg, but one year, my daughter kept a goose egg for months before we had to throw it out.

Prepping this project took longer than most projects we did for this unit, and you may choose to involve the kids in this process, but I chose to prep it for my 12-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter.

We had 24 eggs, and it was my intention for us to each do the same eggs so I could walk them through the process of painting each one. So we chose eight birds from the book. In the end, each child only did a few because it proved to be more difficult than I expected to get the detail of each egg. For the remaining eggs, I made them on my own to complete the set.

While this was a great project to do with supplies you probably already have around the house (you can experiment with various paint mediums), I found that ultimately, I didn’t like the finished project. I was bothered by the fact that all the eggs we made were one size: chicken size, which meant they were all too big. With some eggs being the size of a dime or quarter, I decided to do the project again with Oven Bake Ultra Light Polymer Clay so that we could make them in the appropriate sizes. You can check out that tutorial as well.

The birds we made egg replicas for our chicken egg and polymer clay project are as follows:
Northern Cardinal, Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, American Robin, Barn Swallow, Northern Oriole, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Meadowlark, American Goldfinch, Red-Winged Blackbird, Bluejay, House Sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, Black-Capped Chickadee, and Killdeer.

Check out our complete Owl Unit Study with videos on how we put this unit together, the resources we used and the projects we did. You can also check out our larger Bird Unit Study which includes more projects and resources.

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After making egg replicas using chicken eggs, I decided I wanted to make something that was a little more accurate. I wasn’t sure how to go about doing this project, but my Instagram family really came through. You always do 🙂

Polymer clay was suggested as a material to make eggs that are just the right size and shape. I had completely forgotten that I still had some Sculpey Ultra Light Oven Bake Clay, and as I was rummaging through my polymer clay bin, I found my Ultra Light Oven Bake Clay. This stuff is awesome!! It’s super easy to work with (especially when working with children), it stays soft indefinitely, it’s very soft yet bakes hard and you can paint it with acrylic paints (Distress Inks don’t work).

This project also had its challenges. For one, you have to make sure that your hands and surfaces are very clean as the clay easily attracts dust and other things. Second, it’s not as easy to shape the clay into egg shapes (though it’s easier to make little eggs versus big eggs as you’ll see in our An Egg Is Quiet egg replica project). With some effort, I was able to make a complete set, but mid-way through the project, my 12-year-old son got frustrated with this project and abandoned it completely. After a day, he revisited this project with new enthusiasm.

While he did shape most of them, I did help with some of the more challenging shapes and sizes. Once the eggs were shaped, we baked them at 275 degrees for 20 minutes. We let them cool completely before painting them with a variety of acrylic paints. I don’t have a large selection and they are from several brands so I can’t share with confidence which ones we like or how they’ll hold up over time. However, with our limited supply, we were able to mix enough colors to paint these eggs to resemble the ones in the book.

To make painting easier, I mounted each egg on a 1/2 inch square piece of watercolor paper using a glue dot. This made painting each egg so much easier! I honestly can’t believe I didn’t think of this solution sooner as I started using it with our peg doll projects, too.

Once the eggs were painted, we used our hot glue gun to adhere the eggs to either our watercolor paper covered chipboard. I labeled each egg in pencil, but you could use a permanent marker or print labels.

One thing my son wanted to do differently than my example was mount them in a shadow box frame. The frame was purchased from PartyCity after Easter for a deep discount. Instead for several dollars (I’m not actually sure of the original price), these frames were only $0.50! What a deal! Because the frames were so small, there wasn’t room to label each egg by hand, and instead, I printed up labels of each egg and he glued them beneath each egg.

For his project, I also added a metal label plate to the front of the frame and that really distinguished the piece nicely.

The birds we made egg replicas for our chicken egg and polymer clay project are as follows:
Northern Cardinal, Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, American Robin, Barn Swallow, Northern Oriole, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Meadowlark, American Goldfinch, Red-Winged Blackbird, Bluejay, House Sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, Black-Capped Chickadee, and Killdeer.

Check out our complete Owl Unit Study with videos on how we put this unit together, the resources we used and the projects we did. You can also check out our larger Bird Unit Study which includes more projects and resources.

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Any excuse to pull out our art supplies for a project is a good reason! I love adding art and color to our unit studies, and this is one project I’m sure you’ll love to try. This project was inspired by the book An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long. This book is packed with gorgeous illustrations, and this two page spread entitled An Egg is Colorful was the inspiration for this art project. We used our Distress Inks in a rainbow of colors. I especially like Distress Inks for their versatility in uses and colors. As an ink pad, Distress Inks can be used in the traditional sense with stamps, you can also squish the ink pad onto a non-porous surface like contact paper, glass or an acrylic block and used them as watercolors, or you can use a smudger and add color to paper and leave as is or blend with water. I also love the range of colors. Distress Inks come in a wide assortment of colors that are natural and work perfectly for many of the projects we do in which we need browns, greens and blue that are true to nature.

Though I show you a variety of paint mediums in the video, and I think any of them would do, I chose to work with our Distress Inks. Unlike watercolors, these inks dry permanent. I decided to use Strathmore 140 lb. Watercolor paper for this project because it is a high quality paper and more importantly it was larger than the two-page spread in the book giving us enough room to watercolor the eggs and label each one.

Check out our complete Owl Unit Study with videos on how we put this unit together, the resources we used and the projects we did. You can also check out our larger Bird Unit Study which includes more projects and resources.

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https://youtu.be/X9x575Wn1h0

We love our Professor Noggin’s Trivia Cards, so making our own was not just a fun way to make a game we know we’ll love but it was also a great way to add essential skills to our lessons: research, synthesis of information, handwriting and drawing. Coming up with questions requires looking at the information with a new different approach. In some ways it’s not only harder, it also helps solidify the information on a deep level.

This is the second time we’ve done a project like this. The first time was earlier in the year when we did our astronomy unit. We made trivia cards for all the planets and other astronomical occurrences. For that project we used our watercolors.

This time around we had a more difficult time making these trivia cards because we didn’t have resource material that was specific for each bird, instead we had a lot more general cards. If I were to do this project again, or if we continue this project moving forward, I would get books specifically on each bird we did a trivia card for, or rather, make trivia cards on general information about birds like feathers, eggs, flight and more.

For this project, we also opted to use our Sargent Art Chalk Pastels. This posed challenges as well because the chalk pastel easily smudges, so rather than do our drawing first and then write up the questions, we did the writing first followed by the drawing. This meant that if any mistakes were made in the drawing that didn’t suit the student, the whole card had to be done again. As my 12-year-old son doesn’t especially like handwriting, he made due with the drawings that weren’t exactly what he wanted.

We also lamented the cards as soon as we had a set of two. Two cards fit in one Black and Decker 5 mil laminating sheets, so as soon as we had two, I laminated them so keep them from smudging or getting ruined. I used my Heidi Swapp Minc machine to laminate the cards, but a simple laminating machine would work. I do like my Minc machine because it heats up quickly, it’s over 12″ wide and has 5 temperature settings as well as a reverse movement function.

For this project we used Fabriano 90lb. watercolor paper that measured 9×12 inches. I cut each piece in half and then in half again using my CutterPillar Pro so that each card was 4.5″x6″. This size is a bit larger than what I would have wanted for trivia cards but was easier in that I only needed to make two cuts to each piece of paper. The slightly larger size also meant that my student had an easier time fitting in the trivia questions because they were handwritten.

Check out our complete Owl Unit Study with videos on how we put this unit together, the resources we used and the projects we did. You can also check out our larger Bird Unit Study which includes more projects and resources.

Find me on YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Facebook

Check out our complete Owl Unit Study with videos on how we put this unit together, the resources we used and the projects we did. You can also check out our larger Bird Unit Study which includes more projects and resources.

Find me on YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Facebook

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