Our school has a problem that I’m sure many of you have seen or have experience with. We have angry birds. Not the ones that live on an iPhone, iPad, or other device. These are ones that take a crash dive into the windows of the school and either knock themselves out or something a little more grimm. Our students, of course, notice this every time they pass by a window.
Mrs. Shealey’s 3rd grade students have decided to do something about this, so they have launched into an action research project which ties to many of their curriculum areas including habitats, research, information writing, data collection & interpretation, and more. It would be easy for a small group of adults to sit down and figure this out, but it is much more meaningful when the students are involved. It is also our hope that the process of this project will carry over into the lives of students outside of school to notice problems, investigate, and take action.
Mrs. Shealey is doing a tremendous amount of work for this project within her classroom, but the library has been one small piece of this larger initiative. Mrs. Shealey, Ms. Hicks (spectrum teachers), and I met to brainstorm and map out a timeline.
I wanted to help the students with observational skills. When I stayed on Skidaway Island for 2 weeks a few years ago, I practiced careful observation in a field journal. We decided to have one lesson in the library that explored careful observation. I shared my journal including the sketches, quick notes, and deep reflection that I did on various pages. I talked about the importance of being still, staying focused, noticing the small things, and observation stamina. Then, students moved to computers where they used multiple live and recorded webcams to practice observing. While students observed, the three of us made note of what they were doing well, what needed to be worked on, and what we might need to focus on as we did our actual observations of the birds at Barrow. I think this practice session was really helpful to the process.
In class, students began making bird feeders that they plan to put outside the windows that birds are crashing into.
Mrs. Shealey also split the class into 4 small observation groups that both me and Ms. Hicks took to observe at the windows in the hallway leading down to the media center.
Here’s a quick look at what we saw:
I was amazed by the noticings the kids made after 30 minutes of careful observations and prompting from me and Ms. Hicks. Some examples are:
- Birds were more attracted to the tree that had berries and leaves on it outside the window than to the tree that was bare.
- Some students had put laminated colorful pictures of flowers on the outside of the window and birds were flying straight into those pictures.
- The window is different than other windows because the outside is exactly like a mirror.
- Birds did not fly into the window when we were outside watching, but they did fly into the window when we were inside.
- The tree with the berries seemed to have a smell that some students thought might attract birds.
- Students noticed that birds were not flying into the windows of other hallways and wondered if it was the height of those windows that caused that.
- Students began to wonder if bird feeders, statues, dark colored window decals, and perches might deter the birds from the window.
I think that these students crafted some wonderful, authentic questions that they can now research and create things to test out in this space. As we observed, several teachers stopped and thanked the students for working on this project and asked them to share their findings with the whole school because some teachers are having the same problem at their classroom windows.
Here are a few of the student reflections about what they saw: