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    School: What’s New This Year {Part II}

    August 21, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    Maybe I will write about binders until I lose my entire readership. There’s a winning idea. I might have to do this because we are enjoying our binders as much as I had hoped. Of course, this is only our second day of school.

    The Birding Binder

    Our second binder is the Birding Binder. Last year, we had an attempt at a nature journal, but it was too much for E. This is because there was too much to look at. He couldn’t choose what to write down {well, dictate}. He was overwhelmed. So this year, we chose birds. Next year {or semester, maybe}, we will learn about trees. The year after that, most definitely we will learn about bugs with our budding entomologist Miss A.

    In three years, we will have built a bit of an ecosystem in the children’s brains. They will know the names of various birds, the names of the trees said birds live in, and the names of the insects said birds eat. Why not continue to add in amphibians, reptiles, and mammals?

    I don’t underestimate the power of knowing the names of the creatures God made. Naming was the first form of science. Knowing names also increases reading comprehension. Good literature rarely refers to a bird as such. Rather, it calls the birds by their names: raven, mockingbird, dove, sparrow, sandpiper. And if the children know their birds intimately, they will call to mind the beautiful images of these friends whenever they read of them in a poem or a story.

    Our Birding Binder is a tool for building the memory of the birds we are meeting.


    I wanted to be a strict birder and say that seeing a certain bird didn’t count if it was in captivity. But the five-year-old doesn’t agree, and I don’t want to deflate his enthusiasm. So our binder contains these dividers: At Home, In My City, While Traveling, and In Captivity. Of course, this might mean that we see a mourning dove everywhere and end up with one in every section, but this will simply reinforce to him that some birds are more plentiful than others.

    How We Do It

    Again, we start with a three-hole-punched {with holes reinforced} piece of colored construction paper. He is not ready to draw a specific bird, so I decided to go with coloring pages and let him practice drawing during craft time. Bird coloring pages are easy to find {for free} online. Here is the color page I printed off for a Burrowing Owl, but I cut and pasted it into a Word document so that I could reduce the size to about a quarter of an 8.5×11″ sheet.

    We only create a page for birds we have actually seen. Small children like to collect things, and this is like a bird collection without all the chores to accompany having an actual bird. If we see a bird on our morning walk, E. dictates a little paragraph about it. If he is having trouble describing things, I will prompt him to get him started {saying, “The Burrowing Owl lived in…” and he finishes the sentence and keeps going}.

    So now we have construction paper, a coloring page and a neat little dictated paragraph.

    My son colors the page as realistically as he can. Since we aren’t actually looking at the bird, I let him use the photos in our Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America as an example. He cuts the art work out and pastes it on his construction page. Then, he cuts out the paragraph we completed earlier, and pastes that on the sheet as well. I also print out some additional information on the bird {since our field guide is very brief}, and he cuts that out, reads it, and pastes it on the back of the construction paper.

    Hence, we have a double-sided page full of information on, in this case, a Burrowing Owl.

    Additional Birding Activities

    If I have a poem or story in the house that references the bird we saw, I read it to the children. In the case of the Burrowing Owl, I used one of my children’s favorite books, Bear’s New Friend. It was exciting to see the light of recognition on their faces as they realized the owl in the story must be a Burrowing Owl since it was hiding in a hole in the ground.

    Also, if the bird appears in Scripture, I would have E. add the applicable verses to the page. For instance, if we saw a dove {which we will} he would include the account of Noah sending out doves to check for dry land.

    The possibilities are, I suppose, endless.

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