As part of a migratory bird study conducted with my bilingual second graders in Washington, DC, the students in my elementary science class spent four weeks getting to know all about birds! We initially focused on birds that migrate from our Mid-Atlantic forests to the tropical forests of Central America (an area where many of them are from). During a discussion about why our birds migrate south, some students began to wonder about birds that spend the winter in our area as an escape from worse winter conditions elsewhere. After consulting Mike Petrula, a biologist with Alaska's Department of Fish and Game, I chose the tundra swan for my students to study. The students participating in this lesson had already "adopted" local birds to become experts on. They had already mapped these birds' journeys south. This lesson built upon that prior knowledge and brought together previous studies of nesting behavior, migratory flyways and the morphology of birds.
Students will be able to list three defining characteristics of tundra swans. Students will be able to describe the migratory habits of tundra swans as well as draw their migration path on a map of North America.
Hook: Have students listen to swan vocalizations. Ask them to imagine where they might hear these kinds of calls. Is it a large bird or small bird? http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/tundra-swan/
Hints: They migrate in groups. They live in the Arctic. The story of The Ugly Duckling is about a cousin of this kind of bird. Ask for students to share prior knowledge.
Information: Read National Geographic Kids information about swans as a group, using LCD projector. http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/animals/creaturefeature/tundra-s...
Active Engagement: You…a swan! Use your swan savvy to now live the life of a tundra swan.
Migration Mapping! You swans have now started to migrate. But if you were a swan, where would you go? Track a tundra swan. Use a floor-sized map of the US/North America. Give the kids stopover cards in groups to read. Where do these swans come from and where do they go? Using the clues on the cards, students should add a place-marker to the map indicating a stopover. Students can interactively map the migration path a flock might take (See attachment for clue cards).
Watch video about swans. http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/animals/creaturefeature/tundra-s...
Play "Musical Migration". Place pictures of good stopover spots around room. Have students play musical chairs acting as migrating birds. When the music stops, they must find a good resting spot. As game progresses, replace woods and lakes with housing development and shopping mall-type pictures.
Discuss: How can development be hard on migratory birds? What can we do to help?
Good music choice: Fly Away by Lenny Kravitz
Mike Petrula, Alaska Department of Fish and Game http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/tundra-swan/ http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/animals/creaturefeature/tundra-s...
Simone Welch, sciencesimone [at] gmail.com