Nests~ Sticks and Stones

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SWBAT determine how birds help their offspring survive by building strong nests.

Big Idea

Empty nest syndrome? "Nesting" in your new home? Maybe we have more in common with birds than you think! Let's build a nest together.

Field Guide (Instructional Notes)

This spring, my yard was blessed with 2 nests, and my children were fascinated as we watched birds in both outgrow their nests, chirp for their parents, and look up to the sky with wide-open mouths!  The robin adults got very upset and squawked every time we came near, as they flew to a branch nearby.  The other bird literally dive-bombed us to keep us away!  

Birds, like many animals, have such amazing instincts to protect and nurture their babies.  In the next few lessons, we compare how four different species care for their offspring (NGSS 1-LS1-2).  Each lesson will include digital texts and/or video clips so that students are actually making the observations themselves, in alignment with NGSS Science Practices.  As we investigate each species, we will also compare how the young resemble but do not look exactly like their parents (NGSS 1-LS3-1).

In today's lesson, we ask students how parent birds help their babies survive.  Throughout the unit, we build on these ideas with facts from the articles and observations of the videos.  We also introduce some atypical behaviors-- like penguins that build nests of rocks on the ground (not sticks up in a tree; go figure, there are no trees in Antarctica!).  

Finally, the entire unit culminates with students writing an opinion piece to answer the question, "Which bird has the most interesting ways to protect its young?"

Take-off (Warm-up)

5 minutes

Throughout this unit, my class has recorded our observations on a KLEWS chart.  This is a science-specific type of KWL chart.  Today, we come back to the KLEWS chart and I write a new question under the K-- What We Know.  This is a discussion question to find out what students already know and also to set up the learning over the next few lessons.  (This year, I actually got really lucky, and a student asked this questions a few lessons prior!)

Today, I have a new question for you to think about.  Then, we will turn-and-talk to share our ideas with a friend.  How do parent birds take care of their babies?

Discussion is so important!  It gives *all* students the chance to process the question, get their ideas together, and practice listening and speaking skills.  Discussion also works wonders for your shy students!  Plus, if there isn't a lot of excited discussion, that's a clue to me that I need to build a bit more background knowledge.  

I have students turn-and-talk, and then I call on a few to share with the larger group.  Hint: While students are sharing, I make sure all friends have found a partner.  Then, I try to listen in and find unique ideas that will take our conversation farther.  

As students share their background knowledge, I write it in a bulleted list under the question on the KLEWS chart.

I anticipate that students will know that birds build nests, sit on the eggs, and feed their babies.  In today's lesson, we will make observations of nests.

At the end of the discussion, I want to verify whether students have the misconceptions that most first graders come with.  Here is my thumbs-up, thumbs-down quick strategy for finding out what students think they know specifically about nests!


Soaring to New Heights (Exploration)

20 minutes

The NGSS Science Practices call for students to make observations.  Videos are a great way to give students access to nature that is not (literally) right outside their window!  First, students watch a video of robins building a nest.  Most students knew that birds build nests, and that the nests are made of sticks and twigs.  Today's video will extend their knowledge.  I set the stage for viewing:

Most of you knew that birds build nests to protect their eggs, right?  But, how do they build the nest?  How do the sticks all stay together, especially in a storm?  And, does only the mom build it, or does dad help too?  Today we are going to watch a video of robins building a nest.  While we watch, let's look for new learning about how to build a nest!

There are lots of time-lapse-style videos online, however, some of them move too fast to actually observe what the birds do.  The video I chose is long-- about 8 minutes-- but it is meaty with new learning.  Students will record new learning in their Science Journals.  I use marbled composition notebooks, but post-it notes or lined paper would work just fine too!  

I also pause the video at specific locations to up the WOW factor by addressing interesting things that happen.  For example, in the first 30 seconds, I pause and say, "Oh no, this nest doesn't look sturdy at all!  How do you think the robins will keep the nest from falling apart?"  I pause at 0:45, when we observe the robin stomping down the sticks to compact the nest.  It's really funny looking!  At 4:05, we see both the male and female bird.  I pause here so that students can record that both parents help.  At 4:11, they add trash to the nest.  Did students know that birds sometimes add trash?  Finally, at 5:45, the birds start bringing mud.  Mud is like glue, and it also helps the nest expand as the baby birds grow.  At the end of the video, the farmer who shot it shows the inside of the nest, which is covered in mud.  And, we see that the nest isn't in a tree, but on a vehicle!  Did your students know sometimes birds choose places besides trees?

Next, I want to address the misconception of whether all birds build their nests in trees.

The video we just watched had robins building nests on the corner of a little farm vehicle.  That makes me wonder, I thought all birds build nests in trees.  But maybe not.  Do birds build nests in other places too?  Turn-and-talk to share any new thinking you are having.  (Students talk, then share.)

Next, I have a second video.  This time, we will watch the Gentoo penguin build its nest.  Look for details about whether mom and dad both help, and also what they build their nests out of.  You may be surprised!  

This video is just a minute long, so I don't pause during it.  Afterwards, we have a conversation to answer our questions.  We also infer why the nests are made of rocks, and whether they would be comfortable to sit on!  Again, students take notes in the Science Journals.

Landing (Closing)

5 minutes

Next, I come back to the 3 misconceptions about nests.  I again ask students for a thumbs-up, thumbs-down assessment.  This time, though, after students give their answer, I ask, "What's your evidence?"  By asking this extension question, I am moving students towards Science Practice #6 Constructing Explanations.  See it in action:

After the lesson assessment

Finally in closing today, I want to come back the content objective.

Today, we talked about ways that parent birds take care of their babies.  We had some ideas about how they build nests with sticks in trees.  Then, we watched videos that changed our thinking!  The videos showed more details about how different nests can be.

Let's record today's observations under the "E" Evidence/Observations portion of the KLEWS chart.  I write, "Birds build nests" under the E.  Then, I tell them the greater understanding, "Our observations showed us that animals have special behaviors, like building nests, that help their babies survive."  I record it under the "L" Learning portion and draw an arrow between the two.