This past February, we worked with the 5th and 6th grade science classes at Hebron Station School in Hebron, ME to set up feeding behavior experiments with birds. The class had previously studied feeding birds as part of Project Feederwatch. Building off of students’ base knowledge of birds and the bird feeders they had outside their classroom window, we helped students create their own research projects to expand their knowledge on bird feeding behavior.
One of the goals of this project was for students to come up with their own original projects they could submit to Bird Sleuth, a student only scientific publication focused on birds. Bird Sleuth is put out by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and does a great job of making scientific research accessible to students. With this goal of publication in mind, as well as meeting the NGSS LS2-1 and the CommonCore MP.4 and RI.5.7 educational standards, we set out with these classes to turn their window feeder into a field research station.
In the first 60-minute session of this project we started by reviewing students’ background knowledge on birds and discussing the risks birds must balance when foraging for food. Once primed we ran students through our Student Driven Research Protocol to help students develop their own original research questions and begin planning out how to experimentally test their ideas. This first session concluded with students refining their hypotheses, writing out their experimental methods, and creating a list of materials needed.
Over the next few weeks students carried out their experiments, analyzed their data, and created presentations to give to their fellow students. During this part of the projects their teacher Mrs. Eusden worked with students with some support from the Headwaters Staff.
A few of the students submitted their project to the Bird Sleuth Journal and had their submission accepted. Their project looked at the response of feeding birds when predatory bird calls were played near the feeders. You can find the 2015 Bird Sleuth publication here. While most of Headwaters programs include some outdoor component, this project was especially neat because students were able to fully conduct their own field research project without ever stepping outside. This goes to show that you really can do real science anywhere.
Finally, congratulations to Gwenna, Jacob, Brandon, and Ethan for building such a great research project!