Even if you’re not taking part in the RSPB’s Big Bird Watch this January. (Although why wouldn’t you? It is a chance for your children to get involved in ‘real’ science and practice data handling using genuine data). It is worth taking advantage of this colder weather to start feeding the birds (if you aren’t already). At this time of year hungry birds will readily start using new feeding stations that they would be more suspicious of in less desperate times.
The wonderful Woodland Trust’s Nature Detective site has some great ideas for making a squirel proof bird feeder. If you live in an area where squirels are likely to steal bird food this might be a worthwhile DT project. If not, the RSPB has some simple step by step instructions for making bird cake. If you would like the activity to fit with the ‘Changing Materials’ element of the science curriculum it might be worth heating the lard so that it melts. Nevertheless, the activity fits with ‘Humans and other Animals’. It could also be used to support children’s experience of ‘Working Scientifically’. Perhaps children could experiment to find out which is the best recipe to attract the birds. Or maybe they could keep a record of which birds, and how many, visit the feeder as the seasons change.
I do not think that it is uncommon for children to start feeding the birds but to forget to keep the feeders topped up. This happened in one school where I worked; I think that this was because we made the mistake of siting the bird feeder at the other end of the playing field. It was not only ‘out of sight out of mind’, but a long muddy walk to fill it up. On the other hand my most successful experiences have been when I have attached feeders to the classroom window. In one school the flocks of blue tits became so distracting that I had sometimes to draw the blind while I delivered whole class teaching to have any chance of being noticed! More recently our class window feeder was frequented regularly by a Robin which was extra exciting as our class was Robin class!
Do remember to keep feeding sites as clean as possible. Dirty feeders can spread disease amongst birds. Similarly adults and children must wash their hands thoroughly after handling the bird feeder.