Supplies: cardboard roll from a toilet paper roll, lard, bird seed, popsicle sticks, scissors (& hole punch), string, permanent marker, and plastic tupperware or a baggie. All these supplies costed me about 12$ and as long as your students don’t use too much lard or too many popsicle sticks it should be enough for one class of roughly 20 students.
Step 1: Cut holes in the cardboard toilet paper roll and write name on the inside.
Step 2: Attach popsicle sticks for the birds to sit on and string to hang it with. Make the string long enough that they can tie it on to whatever they hang it from so that no squirrels or bigger birds take off with your whole feeder as a meal.
Step 3: Coat the cardboard in lard. Lard is animal fat and it and suet are usually the best recommended fats to use when making bird feeders. You can use Crisco but there are mixed feelings about using it. As well as you could use peanut butter but this is not as good plus it could be really bad if you have a student who is allergic to peanut butter! The most important thing though is these kinds of bird feeders work best in freezing or near freezing conditions so that the fat doesn’t melt off or go rancid and potentially make your birds sick.
Step 4: Cover the lard with bird seed to the birds get some more substance than just fat. Additionally if you or any of your kids are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts double check the bird seed so that it doesn’t contain any peanuts or wasn’t processed in a facility that processes nuts. I don’t want you or any of your kids to have a allergic reaction from something completely preventable so make sure to check!
TIP: Good tip for this as well is to lay down a tarp on the ground where you are doing this because kids will get seed everywhere!
Step 5: Put the bird feeders in a plastic bag or container with the student’s name on it and try to put it in a cool places or even let it freeze outside before hanging it up.
Tip: When hanging it up try and hang it somewhere that will make it more difficult for a squirrel to get it.
For this activity here are some ideas of ways to also incorporate learning about other subjects
Engineering & Physics: Talk about how some birds might be a little heavier and have a harder time standing on the popsicle sticks without tipping it over. You can use this to discuss gravity or even challenge students with it as an engineering problem to see if they can come up with creative ways to solve the problem that will still allow birds to use the feeder.
Science: Use the feeder to discuss with students how all animals need food to survive. As well as how animals that live in winter climates will change their behaviors and even food sources so they will have a better chance of surviving. For example, some birds migrate south in the winter and depending on where you live and what type of bird you might only see it at your bird feeders in the winter. Another example is some birds that are normally more shy becoming more assertive with going to the bird feeder in the winter because food is more scarce (this applies to a lot of hawks that hunt the birds and squirrels that use your feeders too).
Math: Do some math word problems based on how many bird feeders you made and how many days you estimate it will take before they are used up. Solve for how many days worth of bird feeders you have or how many bird feeders you can have up at a time. Example, “We have 20 bird feeders and each feeder will last about 3 days how many days can we hang up a bird feeder for before we run out?” 60 days! “Or we want to hang up two bird feeders a day how many days will they last now?” 30 days!
English: Have students journal or write a story about what they think will happen when the bird feeders are put up. Depending on their ages you could also do things like correct grammar sentences with the bird feeders. You could also have them create their sheets for keeping track of what birds they see and jotting down their behavior when you do the Great Backyard Bird Count.
Reading: You can have students read stories about birds and bird feeders or even if they are a little older start reading and practicing using field guides so they are ready to properly identify birds at the feeder for the Great Backyard Bird Count!
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