(Originator of Bird-Day)
A BIRD-DAY exercise, in order to have much value educationally, should be largely the result of the pupils′ previous work, and should not be the mere repetition of a prepared program, taken verbatim from some leaflet or paper. The program should be prepared by the pupils, under the direction of the teacher, and should contain as many original compositions or statements about birds, derived from personal observation, as possible.
Bird-Day should be announced some weeks beforehand, in order to give the children time to prepare for it. In the meantime, direct them to observe the birds, and allow from five to ten minutes each morning to receive the reports. Direct that crumbs be scattered in the back yards, and cups containing seeds be put up in the trees, or on the fences, and that bones from the table be fastened where they can be seen from the windows. Then, with an opera glass, if one can be obtained, results are to be looked for.
For directing the young observer, write upon the board a scheme like this:
Length from tip of beak to end of tail?
What is the shape, color, and size of beak?
What is the color of legs and feet?
How many toes? Which way do they point?
Gait upon the ground,—does it walk, hop or run?
Color of head and throat ? Color of under parts?
Color and marking of back?
Difference in markings of male and female?
Describe actions which indicate its character.
Is it pugnacious? Is it brave? Is it selfish?
Does it trouble other birds?
Describe its voice or song. Does it utter notes indicating diverse feelings, as joy, anger? What syllables best recall some of its notes?
For the younger pupils a few of these questions, perhaps two or three, will be sufficient for one exercise. Children will vary, and often contradict one another in answering the same questions. Dwell upon each question till it is answered correctly, and all agree upon the answer.
A similar plan may be followed for studying the Robin, Bluebird, Catbird, Oriole, or other birds as they arrive, or as they become accessible to certain of the pupils. In April, two years ago, one little girl had observed, and described accurately, seventeen different species of birds which she had seen in the little yard of her home. They had been attracted by the food she had put out for them.
The nest-building of birds is also a good subject for observation, the Robin being, perhaps, the best species for a first study.
QUESTIONS ON NEST-BUILDING, AND NESTING HABITS
Which bird does most building, the male, or the female?
Do both carry material?
Does the male ever seem to be acting as escort or guard to his mate?
What materials are used? What is the appearance of the nest? Its situation—sheltered, or not?
After the nest is completed, watch it till the young are hatched. Which bird sits upon the eggs? Does the male ever relieve his mate at this task? Does he bring food to her? Does he spend some time singing to her, as if he were trying to keep her cheerful? Does he protect her from attack by birds or other enemies?
SOME QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED ABOUT ROBINS
Learn to distinguish the voices and call notes of the male and female. Which bird wakes first in the morning and calls the other ? You may also notice, sometimes, in the night, that one bird wakes and calls the other. Which one generally wakes first at these times?
Do Robins raise more than one brood in a season? If so, do they use the same nest twice? If they raise two broods, what becomes of the first, while the mother is sitting upon the eggs for the second?
Watch for a Robin leading out a family of chicks. Notice the feeding after the birds are old enough to run and fly fairly well. The young birds are placed apart by the parent, who visits each one in turn, and rebukes any who tries to be piggish, sometimes nipping it with its bill when it runs up out of turn. Notice this parent teaching the young to sing,—it is a very interesting sight.
The teacher will need some good manual to aid in identifying some of the species, though much of the work the first season would better be upon common, well-known birds. The following are recommended:
FOR BIRD-DAY PROGRAMS
For the first Bird-Day in every school it would be well to have some one read Senator Hoar′s petition of the birds to the legislature of Massachusetts. This remarkable paper deserves reading by all friends of birds at least once a year.
Compositions.—Have also original compositions, describing some bird studied, or describing some of its habits, especially its habit of feeding, and the actions showing its disposition.
Personations.—Special interest will be awakened by having of birds. These are descriptions of birds told in the first person, as if the bird itself were telling its own story. An accurate account of the bird's appearance, habits, feelings, and life from the bird’s view-point, is given, but without telling the bird’s name. At the close of the reading, the hearers vote upon the name of the bird ‘personated.’
Audubon Society Literature.—The teacher should also obtain circulars from the secretaries of the New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and other Audubon Societies. These will give information concerning the rapid destruction of birds. Extracts may be read from them.
Poems.—Extracts from the poets naturally form an interesting feature of Bird-Day. Poets are generally bird-lovers and bird-seers. Among the poems peculiarly adapted are the following:
‘Robert O’ Lincoln,’ Bryant; ‘The Mocking Bird,’ Sidney Lanier; ‘The Sky Lark,’ Shelly; 'The O′ Lincoln Family,' Wilson Flagg; ‘The Rain Song of the Robin,’ Kate Upson Clark; ‘The Titmouse,’ R. W. Emerson; ‘The Eagle,’ Tennyson; ‘To The Skylark’, [[Author:William Wordsworth |William Wordsworth]].
Personal Experiences.—Another pleasant part of the program will be the short statements of facts about birds, by the pupils, obtained from their own observation. Birds of the Bible may also be given in short extracts.
Prose Selections.—John Burroughs′ ‘Birds and Poets,’ and ‘Wake Robin;’ Bradford Torrey′s ‘Birds in the Bush;’ Olive Thorne Miller's ‘Bird Ways,’ and many other books, abound in suitable passages for Bird-Day.
The pupils will enjoy preparing a Bird-Day program much more than learning little set speeches from one already prepared. The preliminary observation of birds will arouse an enthusiasm that will be of great value in all educational work.
Summer Boarders for Girls and Boys
THE Bureau of Nature Study of Cornell University offers to assist all boys and girls who want to take bird boarders this season. By addressing this Bureau, at Ithaca, N. Y. , one may receive a copy of an admirable leaflet entitled ‘The Birds and I.’ containing numerous designs for houses which may be constructed for the occupation of the expected ‘boarders.’