Unit Plan: Field Study – Birds

Science / Grade 4

Big Ideas


  • All living things sense and respond to their environment.

    Essential Questions

    Students will keep considering…

    • How have I experienced ‘Senses’ at  ODS? (e.g. how birds interact with  each other and their environment)
    • How am I connected to ‘Senses’ in my everyday life?
    • How do birds communicate with each other?
    • What interactions do you observe –between birds, and between birds and their environment?
    • How do human impact birds and how can negative impacts be mitigated?
    • How do living things sense and respond to their environment?
    • What does using my senses in nature look, sound, feel, taste and smell like?
    • How do my senses compare to the senses of other plants and animals?
    • How is sensing and responding related to interdependence within ecosystems?

    Evaluative Criteria


    Monitoring Progress

    Teacher will monitor progress:
    Teachers can monitor progress through ongoing formative assessment including but not limited to:

    • Class discussion
    • Group and pair discussions


    How will teachers and their students reflect on and evaluate the completed project?

    Teacher Reflection

    • What aspects of the unit went well?
    • What did students struggle with?
    • What did you struggle with?
    • What would you add/revise the next time you taught this unit?
    • Were there any unintended outcomes?
    • Were students engaged?




    The Cornell Lab of Ornithology “Amazing Birds”

    Binoculars – ideally one pair per student

    Binocular Basics sheet

    Cheakamus Centre Bird Study map

    Laminated Cheakamus Centre Seasonal Field guides to birds

    Laminated Indigenous Ways of Knowing Bird Cards

    Legends: Keepers of the Earth – How Turtle Flew South for the Winter (p.157)

    People of the Land: Legends of the Four Host First Nations – Smekw’á7 – The Great Blue Heron (p.75)

    Squamish Legends: Seagull Raven and the Daylight Box

    How the Robin Got Its Red Breast: A Legend of the Sechelt People – illustrated by Charlie Craigan.

    Beetles: I notice, I wonder, It reminds me of

    Beetles: Walk and Talk


    Stage 3 – Learning Plan



    • These learning events/activities are suggested activities only. 
    • In some cases the plans are not fully completed lesson plans. 
    • The teacher may choose some lessons/activities to span over several lessons. 
    • Teachers may add, revise and adapt these lessons based on the needs of their students, their personal preferences for resources, and the use of a variety of instructional techniques.

    Learning events are enriched for students when teachers consider the “WHERE TO” acronym and guiding organizer by Wiggins and McTighe.

    > Click here for more information on WHERETO

    <h2>Where To</h2>
    <table style=”height: 1175px;” border=”2″ width=”813″ cellpadding=”8″>
    <td width=”67″><strong>W</strong>here:</td>
    <td width=”212″>Where are we going in this lesson Why? What is expected of my students during and after this lesson?</td>
    <td width=”378″>• Present the performance task to students early in the unit • Post essential questions; students can generate their own questions as well • Check for  misconceptions</td>
    <td width=”67″><strong>H</strong>ow:</td>
    <td width=”212″>How will I hook and hold student interest during this lesson?</td>
    <td width=”378″>• Use a provocation as an entry point • Present students with a mystery or challenge</td>
    <td width=”67″><strong>E</strong>quip:</td>
    <td width=”212″>How will I equip students for expected performances? How will I make sure to teach the foundational skills so that they can understand and complete tasks?</td>
    <td width=”378″>• Access understandings and experience with solid instructional practices • Consider strategies that work for divers e learners • Incorporate literacy 44 strategies</td>
    <td width=”67″><strong>R</strong>ethink and Revise:</td>
    <td width=”212″>How will I help students reflect, rethink and revise their ideas, writing, and tasks?</td>
    <td width=”378″>• Have students rethink the big idea • Have students reflect on  their learning  to build understanding</td>
    <td width=”67″><strong>E</strong>valuate:</td>
    <td width=”212″>How will students self-evaluate and reflect on their learning after each lesson/task?</td>
    <td width=”378″>Some ideas for self-evaluation include:
    <p style=”padding-left: 30px;”>• Ticket out the door • Rubrics and checklists • Formative assessments and feedback</p>
    <td width=”67″><strong>T</strong>ailor:</td>
    <td width=”212″>How will I tailor learning to varied needs, interests and styles? (refer to the NVSD Adaptations Checklist).</td>
    <td width=”378″>• Differentiate to your students with the product, the process and the content</td>
    <td width=”67″><strong>O</strong>rganize: <strong> </strong></td>
    <td width=”212″>How will I organize and sequence the learning in each lesson and transition to a new lesson?</td>
    <td width=”378″>• Start with the end in mind</td>
    <td colspan=”3″ width=”657″>Please note that the order in which teachers present this to their students is not mandated to the order of the acronym.</td>
    <p style=”text-align: justify;”>
    <p style=”text-align: justify;”>

    The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions.

    Lesson 1 - Introduction

    The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

    • How have I experienced ‘Senses’ at  ODS? (e.g. how birds interact with  each other and their environment)
    • How am I connected to ‘Senses’ in my everyday life?

    Introduction (Lesson 1)

     1. “Step into the circle if”:

    Gather students in a circle and step into the circle if the statement applies to them, then step back out.

    • You can name three species (ask them to define term) of birds found in B.C..
    • You can name three things birds eat and which birds eat them.
    • You have every used binoculars.
    • You have seen a live eagle or hummingbird depending on the season

    2. Play a round of Eye Spy- used to learn what field marks in birds are. 

    Put students into pairs, have partners describe each other using hair colour, size, clothing type and colour, eye colour, footwear.  Compare these characteristics to how field guides identify birds (colour, size, distinguishing features, …).  Would all features of their partners be the same in different seasons?  Note birds change plumage sometimes with the seasons (or with age!).

    3. Explain that they will be discovering the amazing world of birds today. Concepts you can include in your field study (taken from Cornell Lab of Ornithology):

    • Birds need air, water, and food in order to survive
    • You must be quiet and still to observe birds.
    • Birds share common physical adaptations.
    • Birds have many unique physical and behavioral traits that help them to survive in their particular environment.
    • Birds make sounds to communicate about territory, danger, food, and to locate one another.
    • Birds’ beaks come in many sizes and shapes.
    • Beaks are different because of the different jobs they do. Beaks are similar to simple machines.
    • Wing shape and structure helps a bird to fly.
    • Feathers have different functions and are a physical feature unique to birds.
    • Some birds migrate when the weather changes and their energy source decreases.

    Lesson 2 - Forest Lab

    The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

    • How have I experienced ‘Senses’ at  ODS? (e.g. how birds interact with  each other and their environment)
    • How am I connected to ‘Senses’ in my everyday life?

    Lesson 2

    Prior to entering – Let students know that there are many stuffed birds that have been preserved in inside. These birds have been donated to the Outdoor School over the years and they are all representations of birds that live in this local habitat. It is very important that the students DO NOT TOUCH the stuffed birds. Tell them to walk around and take a good look at all of the birds and then sit down at table when they are done. See below at the bottom of this section for a list and description of the Forest Lab stuffed birds.

    Activity 1:

    Have students work in pairs or as a group to create a list of all the different types of birds they can think of. Then hand out the Cheakamus Centre double-sided seasonal field guides. Students can look around the Forest Lab to see if any of the stuffed birds are on the field guides. They can also see if any of the birds they know are there. Students can share stories they have about their interactions with bird with their partners or as a group.

    Optional Extension: Introduce the concept of a habitat (the place where a plant or animal normally lives and grows). Explain that ODS has several habitats (farm, forest, river, & pond) Ask what birds you would find at the farm? You can also introduce the idea of “biodiversity”  (the number and variety of living things found within a habitat).


    Activity 2:

    Discuss the following questions as a group (adapted from Cornell Lab of Ornithology):

    Q: What do we see when we observe birds? What are some of their features?” “What do they have in common?” “What do you think they eat?” “How do they fly?” In other words – what makes a bird a bird?

    Remind students that birds, along with all animals, need air, water, and food in order to survive. Begin a discussion with students about ways to observe birds.

    Most students have had experience chasing birds only to watch them fly away. Discuss how it is important to be very quiet and still while watching birds. A bird feeder is a great way to bring the birds closer. We do have a bird feeder by the Art Lab at the Cheakamus Centre. You can ask staff to help you fill it up with seeds to attract birds.

    Explain to students that Aboriginal people believed that animals were on the earth before humans and they believe they can learn from animals.  They observe animals very carefully because they have been here longer and we can learn from them.  Ask: what can you learn from watching birds? Teach students the Squamish words for a variety of birds:

    • Eagle: spa-coe-s
    • Owl (horned): chee-it-mayo
    • Owl: shut-you
    • Raven: scow-c
    • Thunderbird: ain-in-yah-hxa-in
    • Hummingbird: touch-touch-nais


    What makes a bird a bird? There are more than 9,000 different kinds of birds in the world. Each bird has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction. Some birds are very colourful to attract mates, while others are drab, which helps protect or hide them. Some are very big, and others are very small. Birds’ external physical features can enable them to carry out life’s functions in their particular environments. For example, some birds have very long wings that help them soar through the air, while some cannot fly at all. The differences are endless, but there are a few adaptations or traits that all birds have in common. All birds have beaks, two legs, and feathers.

    Q: Why do birds sing?


    Birds have special body parts similar to a person’s vocal cords that allow them to sing. Birds use songs (which are longer) and calls (which are shorter) to communicate about territory (space), danger, food, to attract mates, and to locate family members or other birds of the same species. Each species of bird has its own song. Some birds are born knowing how to sing (inherited) and some learn their songs from their parents. Birds that live in different Habitats have different kinds of songs and places to sing their songs. We have a collection of CD’s and a CD player to use if you would like to share some bird calls with your students.


    Lesson 3 - Outdoor observation

    The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

    • How have I experienced ‘Senses’ at  ODS? (e.g. how birds interact with  each other and their environment)
    • How am I connected to ‘Senses’ in my everyday life?

    Activity 3

    Time to get outside! It is easier to understand why birds are making the sounds they are if you can also see their behaviors. Take your class outside and listen quietly for as many bird songs or calls as possible. Upon returning to the classroom, make a list of birds heard and compare them to the songs on the CD’s. If time or weather doesn’t permit this, you may also wish to show a few different examples for some general categories of why birds communicate (alarm, contact, territoriality or attracting mates).

    Go outside to observe birds and observe their behavior and listen for their sounds (eating, flight, walking…)

    Binoculars – go over rules for use and demonstrate how to focus (use “Binocular Basics” sheet in lab)

    • Leave all cases and lens covers on table if possible (some are attached to binoculars)
    • Follow bird map to see what you can find!

    Return to lab – share observations as you walk

    Leave binoculars on table to dry. Group discussion of observations.

    Walk and Talk debrief on your way back to the patio or the ELC–

    • What did you learn today about birds that you did not know already?
    • What did you see that you had not observed before?

    Lesson 4 - Optional activities

    The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

    • How have I experienced ‘Senses’ at  ODS? (e.g. how birds interact with  each other and their environment)
    • How am I connected to ‘Senses’ in my everyday life?

    Lesson 4

    Optional: Spring Birds Scavenger Hunt

    This is a fun hook to get kids interested in bird watching. Quiet bird watchers see more birds! Write these on the board omitting the information in the brackets. Have field study groups compete against each other for score. Record the highest score. No points earned until you are back in lab. Bonus birds must be pointed out to teacher or counsellor. To equalize the group scores, groups can gain bonus points with recall of bird facts learned. More than one point can be earned, e.g duck (species, gender, interesting fact learned about species = 3 points.

    • BC’s provincial bird (Steller’s Jay)
    • Backwards flying bird (Hummingbird)
    • Duck
    • Hawk
    • Owl (there are plastic owls outside dining hall at fireside lounge)
    • Woodpecker
    • Nest
    • Feather
    • Scat
    • Bird that eats scat (mother Robin cleans nest for babies)

    Bonus: other birds ID and facts learned

    Optional: Share a story

    Share the Squamish story “The Great Blue Heron” in “People of the Land: Legends of the Four Host First Nations”

    The following resources are made available through the British Columbia Ministry of Education. For more information, please visit BC’s New Curriculum.


    Big Ideas

    The Big Ideas consist of generalizations and principles and the key concepts important in an area of learning. The Big Ideas represent what students will understand at the completion of the curriculum for their grade. They are intended to endure beyond a single grade and contribute to future understanding.

    Visit the Ministry of Education for more information

    Core Competencies

    orangecommunicationCommunications Competency

    The set of abilities that students use to impart and exchange information, experiences and ideas, to explore the world around them, and to understand and effectively engage in the use of digital media

    bluethinkingThinking Competency

    The knowledge, skills and processes we associate with intellectual development

    greensocialSocial Competency

    The set of abilities that relate to students’ identity in the world, both as individuals and as members of their community and society

    Visit the Ministry of Education for more information

    Curricular Competencies & Content

    Curricular Competencies are the skills, strategies, and processes that students develop over time. They reflect the “Do” in the Know-Do-Understand model of curriculum. The Curricular Competencies are built on the thinking, communicating, and personal and social competencies relevant to disciplines that make up an area of learning.

    Visit the Ministry of Education for more information

    Additional Resources

    First People's Principles of Learning

    To read more about First People’s Principles of Learning, please click here.

    For classroom resources, please visit the First Nations Education Steering Committee.