A Bird-Day Program
BY ELIZABETH V. BROWN
BIRTHDAYS, red letter days, arbor days and bird days!
The two hundred days of the school calendar are hardly sufficient to meet the special demands made upon them in the interests of history, literature, and philanthropy. After all, is not this call for specialization something of a reproach to both home and If the child is symmetrically developed, harmoniously will not all these influences find their proper place and expression in his life in the regular course of events?
But in the meantime since ‘days’ are ordained, it is highly important that they shall be celebrated in a manner to make lasting impressions on the minds and hearts of children. The mental hysteria resulting from the spasmodic, sentimental fervor worked up for this cause to-day, and for that tomorrow, is to be strongly condemned.
As in every other subject, an interest in birds should be based upon the knowledge gained by the child primarily through his own observations and experiences, supplemented and enriched later by what he reads or has told him. The interest thus aroused leads to sympathy and love as enduring as life itself.
Hence the Bird-Day program should mark the culminating rather than the initial point of bird study for the year.
The children should be led to anticipate it. and should be prepared for it in as many ways and for as long a time as possible. All that nature lovers have written or poets sung will have deeper significance after the child′s contact with the birds of his neighborhood, as seen in parks, woods, or fields. To see their pictures is not enough. Field Work alone can give the stimulus which leads to fellowship, sympathy, love, and protection.
For young children especially, interest is most readily aroused through the study of the activities which ally bird and child. The character and the adaptation of birds′ clothing, foods and homes to their peculiar needs and environment; glimpses of nest-life; characteristic traits; disposition; the cleverness of the parent birds in outwitting enemies and protecting the young; the skillful uses of tools—bills and claws—are all readily appreciated by the children. Add to these, studies in protective coloration, migration, the relation of birds to insects injurious to vegetation, and kindred subjects, which form a never-failing source of delight. Through such work, the child learns almost unwittingly much of bird structure, classification, and description which would otherwise prove dry and barren of interest.
The boy who thus comes into fellowship with birds will not delight in beanshooters or find his chief joy in robbing birds nests and violating game laws; while his sister will try to find something more ornamental for her hat than slaughtered birds.
While programs must vary according to the needs and ability of the children, a few suggestions may be helpful to all.
‘Sharp Eyes,’ and ‘I Spy,’ by William Hamilton Gibson, ‘Nature′s Hallelujah,’ and ‘The Message of the Bluebird,’ by Irene Jerome, are full of delightfully suggestive and artistic bits of bird-life for black-board pictures.
A pretty corner may be made by a small bush or the branch of a large tree in which the nests collected by the children are appropriately placed. Pictures of bird-lovers and writers should be in evidence. Audubon, Wilson, John Burroughs, Bradford Torrey, Olive Thorne Miller, and others. Many of these may be found in recent magazines.
Anecdotes and short sketches from their books may be told or read.
Compositions prepared in advance, on various phases of bird-life, may be read by their young authors. These may be the result of work previously done in class along the lines before mentioned, or of new observations and experiences gathered for Bird-Day. The greater the variety of topics, the better.
Descriptions of individual birds, comparisons of birds, individually or by classes, as to:
Food.—Character; where, when, and how obtained.
Home.—Location; materials; construction; appearance.
Young.—Number; appearance; care and education.
Songs and Calls.—Emotions expressed; character, short or sustained, high or low, sweet or harsh, etc.
Relations.—Names of other birds of same class.
Bird Craftsmen.—Masons, miners, weavers, tailors, etc.
Tree-top Neighbors.—Spring, summer, fall and winter.
How Birds Travel.
How Birds Help the Farmers.Invitations to the birds.—Boxes put up for them; seed-cups, bits of suet nailed to posts or trees.
Stories may be told by teachers or pupils with accompanying illustrations hastily sketched on the blackboard as the story progresses. The following lend themselves readily to this work:
‘The Ugly Duckling,’ ‘The Daisy and the Lark,’ Hans Christian Anderson; ‘The White Heron,’ Sarah Orne Jewett; ‘The White Blackbird,’ Guy de Maupassant; ‘The Crane Express,’ Child World: ‘The Crow and the Pitcher,’ ‘The Fox and the Crane,’ ‘The Crane and the Crows,’ Æsop′s Fables.
FOR READING OR RECITATION
‘Nest Egg,’ Robert Louis Stevenson; ‘Anxiety,’ George Macdonald; ‘The Song Sparrow,’ ' ‘The Veery,’ ' Dr. van Dyke; ‘The One in the Middle,’ Margaret Eytinge; ‘The Bluebird,’ Emily Huntington Miller; ‘The Peter Bird,’ Henry Thompson Stanton; ‘The Robin,’ Celia Thaxter; ‘Brother Robin,’ Mrs. Anderson; ‘The Birds′ Orchestra,’ Celia Thaxter; ‘The Sandpiper,’ Celia Thaxter; ‘Little Birdies,’ Tennyson; ‘The Brown Thrush,’ Lucy Larcom; ‘The Titmouse,’ Emerson; ‘The Stormy Petrel,’ Barry Cornwall; ‘The Sorrowful Sea Gull,’ Child World; ‘Robert of Lincoln,’ ‘The Return of the Birds,’ Bryant; ‘The Blackbird,’ Alice Cary; ‘The Crow′s Children,’ ‘The Chicken′s Mistake,’ Phoebe Cary; ‘What the Birds Said,’ Whittier.