Birds Help Their Young Survive (Bald Eagles)

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SWBAT determine patterns in eagles' behavior that help their offspring survive.

Big Idea

Birds protect their young in some cool ways! Were you one of the millions of viewers who tuned in to the live eagle cams in 2013? See how our national bird cares for its chicks.

Field Guide (Instructional Notes)

Over the last two lessons, we learned about how cranes and puffins care for their young through articles and video clips.  Today, we zoom in on our national bird, the bald eagle.  We watch how the parents care for their offspring and help them survive.  

Throughout this series of lessons, we add information to a Comparison Chart.  The bottom section of the comparison chart includes WOW facts.  This is where we record really unique facts, and it will help students complete the culminating task-- writing an opinion about which bird has the most interesting way to help its young survive.

In today's lesson, I start with a National Geographic Young Explorer online article.  I love having these magazines on-hand for students to reread, so my school orders them.  The online version is also free, which is great if your students have 1-to-1 devices!  I have structured the reading around Common Core ELA standard RI 1.2, identifying the main topic and retelling the key details.  We will be recording our details on the comparison chart.  

This article is mainly about how the bald eagle became nearly extinct due to DDT pesticide usage in the 1970's.  I think this article is important though, because I want to build students' awareness of how human activities can affect nature.  

After reading, we will evaluate the article and see that even though it is interesting, it does not help us answer our questions about bald eagles and their offspring.  It's important that students learn to weed through the plethora of articles online, and find something more suited to answer their specific question.

We follow-up with a video by CBS News about the Iowa bald eagle cameras.  Through the video, we are able to gain much more information and complete the comparison chart.  

Finally, students complete a retell of a key detail about how bald eagles care for their young.

Take-off (Warm-up)

5 minutes

Throughout this unit, we have recorded our observations and understandings on a KLEWS chart, which is a science-specific type of KWL.  I refer students to our current guiding question.

We are asking the question, "How do parent birds take care of their young?"  Yesterday, we learned ways that puffins take care of their young.  We recorded some key details about puffins here on our Comparison Chart.  Let's review what we learned.  

I point to the Comparison chart and touch the words as we read each row.  I use a flipchart to display the main components of the lesson, and I have also included it for you as a display if you have a different type of projection software.

Next, I uncover the third bird on the chart, bald eagles.  I ask students for any schema they have about bald eagles.  I expect them to have some knowledge of eagles as our national bird, or that it is on money.  We also live near the Chesapeake Bay, which has many nesting pairs of eagles they may have seen. 

I set the purpose for learning by sharing the objective.

Today, we will identify ways that eagles take care of their offspring and help them survive.  

Soaring to New Heights (Exploration)

20 minutes

First, I review the Comparison Chart and set the purpose for reading.  I facilitate a reading of a National Geographic article about Bald Eagles.  I usually display the article on my Whiteboard.  If you have paper copies or 1-to-1 devices, students can follow along with their own versions.

Before reading, we preview the illustration on pages 2-3.  I ask, "What can we learn about eagles by looking closely at the photograph?"  Students turn-and-talk, and then share their thinking.  

Next, we we read the introductory statement.

Authors write an introductory statement to tell us what this article will be about. Will it be about what eagles eat?  Will it be about where eagles live?  Let's read the introductory statement and see what questions this article will answer.  

This lesson is in early October, and we are still new as a class to introductory statements in articles, which usually tell us the main topic.  Here, we are grappling with using the introductory statement to figure out what the article will be about.  Will we learn about how eagles protect their offspring?  No!

I point out that some articles are really interesting, even if they don't answer the questions we originally had.

On pages 4-5, we first view the illustrations.  We can add to the Comparison Chart that bald eagles build nests.  When reading the text, we don't get additional information about caring for the babies, but we do learn about DDT.  One of my first graders wants to solve the problem, so I make sure to tell him that a scientist named Rachel Carson did just what he suggested!  

Now, I will bring in some short biographies I have on Rachel Carson the following day.  You can also check out a National Geographic Young Explorer magazine article about her here on page 16.

Also on pages 4-5, I want students to discuss how the eaglets look similar, but not the same as their parents.  While the focus of this lesson is on the NGSS first grade standard for patterns of behavior that help offspring survive, the photographs in this nonfiction article are a teachable moment that help students meet 1-LS3-1. Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents.  Here, after turning and talking with a partner, students share ways they observed that the adults and chicks are the same and different.

Then, we read the final page (the happy ending) that tells us eagle populations are now rebounding.  

Next, I transition to the video clip.

The article sure was interesting, and I am feeling really joyful that poisons aren't hurting eagles anymore.  But, we didn't get much information about how eagles care for their young.  Sometimes, especially when you are reading online, articles won't give you the best information.  So, you need to find another way to get your questions answered.  Next, I have a video clip.  While watching, we'll observe ways that eagles take care of their offspring.  Watch closely!

The NGSS standards call for students to make observations.  Video clips are a perfect way to allow students to observe nature that is not literally outside their window!  In this video clip, CBS News highlights all of the attention that an Iowa Eagle Cam was generating.  I tell students that many zoos now have cameras on animal enclosures, so that people can watch what's happening all the time.  Here, a camera was set up inside of a bald eagle nest.  As students watch, I want them to look specifically for ways that the adults take care of the offspring.  Here are a few of the ways you'll see:

  • Sitting on the nest (you can infer that they built a nest)
  • Mom and Dad take turns
  • Retract (pull in) claws
  • Fixing/adding to the nest
  • Feeding the chicks
  • Protecting the chicks from the wind

After watching, we update our Comparison Chart with the new information from the video.  

Video clips are such an incredible way to enhance instruction if they are thoughtfully chosen and relevant to the standards.  In the past, science instruction was, "read this book and gain the content."  Now, with the NGSS leaning on students to make their own observations, video clips are a way to have students observe phenomena that are not literally outside of their window.  I culled through videos and eagle cam clips to find one that was age-appropriate, included the content I was looking for (in this case, more of an overview that one specific moment, like hatching), and also some cool new information.  I know that I learn a ton from videos, and students have the same need-- they need to learn how to gather information from a source other than books.

Landing (Closing)

5 minutes

For the conclusion of today's lesson, I come back to the RI 1.2 standard that our shared reading was based upon.  This standard asks for students to retell key details.  I ask students to record at least one key detail of how eagles help their offspring-- either from the article or from the video-- in their Science Journals.  

I have also provided a response sheet you could use, or you can use plain old lined paper too!  At the bottom, I provided a picture of an eagle and eaglet.  I am going to print these worksheets in color, and I am also going to display the pictures on my Whiteboard.  Students will compare the photos and state one way the parent and baby are similar, and one way they are different.  

Here are some student work samples: