Calhoun 4’s teachers noticed an unmistakable trend emerging in their classes. Many of the questions preschoolers were asking, and the books they were bringing in to share with classmates, were about animals.
Teachers decided to launch a grade-wide study of birds that would tap into their students’ natural curiosity. And as soon as the project took flight, it was clear they had found a topic that was full of possibility!
The bird study began, as any quest does, with questions. Teachers guided preschoolers in brainstorming everything they already knew about birds and everything they wanted to find out, then used these questions to guide their exploration.
Together, the class embarked on their own form of investigative fieldwork. They examined feathers, an empty nest and a birdhouse that students brought from home, and made frequent trips to the school’s outdoor terrace and nearby parks to observe birds with binoculars. To aid their research, each class read countless books on birds and even started their own library of bird books. They also heard from outside experts, in the form of a visit from a former wild life rehabilitator.
The bird study also helped preschoolers make important interdisciplinary connections. For example, students exercised numeracy and math skills by designing a bird with Tangram shapes or graphing varieties of bird eggs. Preschoolers constructed birdhouses and painted eggs, and played the role of hatching chicks in a theater performance. They even engaged with a foreign language by listening to stories about birds read in Spanish.
For the culminating event, preschoolers traveled to the Closter Nature Center to see and listen to birds in the wild. It was an exciting end to a project that each and every student had approached with gusto. They had learned that questions are just as important as answers, and that their own curiosity can be the start of a wonderful adventure.