First Grade Feathered Friends

First Grade Feathered Friends

Submitted by: Crystal Aveson, Lisa Farthing, Amy Feaver, Janet Givens, and Kristina Rilee
Collaborator: Beverly Brown
School: Echo Lake Elementary


After completing our animal essentials, the first grade team developed a project based learning unit focusing on birds. Students made real world connections about birds and their habitats through communicating with peers, family, neighbors, and friends around the world. Based on each classroom’s interest, the students developed questions as a guide and researched a bird and its habitat using a variety of resources. In order to attract their particular bird, students used their research to develop and create nesting boxes and birdfeeders. Once the artifacts were created, they were sent to destinations around the world. Correspondence with those communities will continue by various forms of communication such as the grade level blog, Skype, letters, pictures, and videos.

TIPC Ratings

Teachers first researched appropriate tools for their learners to use to facilitate their own research. Each teacher did extensive front-end planning to provide research opportunities to students that were age-appropriate, relevant, and dynamic enough for the real-life activities they would be engaging in each class. As children developed questions, teachers would continue to probe them to think deeper and further develop questioning skills. Students were able to engage in research by selecting the research tools they were most fluent with to guide information gathering. The students used the research they gathered about birds to help them address the correct approach to building their class’s birdhouse. Using a variety of tools the students were able to gather an extensive amount of information and were able to share the information gathered through class slideshows and videos.

The five first grade teachers and Mrs. Brown worked and planned extensively in order to create authentic tasks where students were engaged in meaningful communication and purposeful collaboration. Because of this high level of collaboration between the teachers, the children were able to communicate more effectively and build relationships with older peers outside of the classroom. Ultimate concrete goal——create a birdhouse, birdbox, platform, or birdfeeder. Ultimate abstract/ higher level goal—-students communicate and collaborate effectively to reach a common goal, in the classroom and on a global scale
Variety of communication methods
Electronic messaging -First grade blog/website to gather bird sighting data, discuss bird sightings around the world, encourage conversations between family members /friends across distances, create new topics of conversation between children and family/friends
Multimedia publishing -student-made movies, slideshows, presentations published on the grade-level blog to share to a global audience, published vimeo movies, future communication with birdbox recipients via (recipients will register birdboxes on the website and report findings as birds nest in the boxes in the spring)
Face to face collaboration and communication—between students, with guest speaker, with students from other first grade classes as well as with the upper grade students who helped with activities, discussions with adults about birds seen in neighborhoods, discussions with teachers on how to move forward with many aspects of the project
Video-conferencing -skype to Australia with Ms. Feaver’s bird feeder recipient, skype to England with Mrs. Givens’ birdbox recipient, future video chats with other birdbox owners to report on progress

The teachers facilitated the children in developing relevant research questions based on their bird. Based on questions the students developed, teachers guided them to extend beyond simple questions. Students’ critical thinking is evident in comments posted on the blog as well. As research progressed, students had to analyze information in order to select the best birds for each classes’ recipient. For example, as Ms. Feaver’s class videoconferenced with Ms. Robinson in Australia, students discovered that native birds do not use nesting boxes. These insights led the children to reevaluate their plans, thus leading to the creation of the birdfeeder. Students also selected many tools to document data collected such as taking pictures and videos, later incorporating them into slideshows and movie presentations that were used to communicate their research globally. We are so proud of our students taking a simple idea like a birdhouse, adding their own thinking and imagination to it, and allowing this final global collaboration to emerge!

Teachers provided a wealth of 21st century tools in order for students to further expand on preliminary information researched by the teacher. The students creatively designed a campaign presentation advocating where their research indicated the best home for specific birds would be. Models were constructed from a variety of supplies (string, unifix cubes, etc.) to demonstrate the flight pattern of birds to the new nesting location. Students experienced using hand tools and building materials including hammers, screwdrivers, drills, screws, rulers, and measuring tapes. Students took strategic risks as they were constructing and realized measurements had to be modified due to human error. To further the process for future growth, students and recipients have the capability to skype, email, blog, and share pictures & videos of their bird watching pleasure.

Student Artifact

Download Files


  • Lesson Plan
  • Bird Data
  • Bird Map
  • Invitation
  • Links Folder
  • Student Samples
  • Visit the blog

This post was written by:

- who has written 55 posts on Henrico 21.

Contact the author

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Quick Links

Faceted Search (click arrows to expand)