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Friday, May 23, 2014

To Be a Black-capped Chickadee

In the morning and evening these days, the spring air is filled with bird song. The leaves are waking up and many birds have built, or are in the process of building, nests. At Forest School, as songsters offered up music to our ears, students experienced themselves as Black-capped Chickadees in spring. They learned about behavior and nest building through the age old tradition of listening to an oral story and then pretending to be Chickadees; establishing territory, finding a nest site, and building their nests.

Oral story telling can be a powerful way to teach. It offers a rich experience for both story teller and listener. Oral story telling brings youngsters into their imagination and delivers information in a way that is engaging and easily absorbed. Children just love stories! Story telling also offers teachers an opportunity to be fully present with the whole group, creating something out of their imagination just for the students.

On this day, as a Black-capped Chickadee sang his spring song close by, I shared an oral story about a male Chickadee named Harry who met a female named Sally. The story was fun and sometimes silly yet interlaced with details specific to chickadees and their process of nest building. Eyes were wide as the tale was told. Alive in their imagination from story telling, the group was ready to become Black-capped Chickadees.

An excellent nesting site is discovered by several chickadees.
The birds use imaginary play to work through a
territorial dispute. Finally, one pair is driven off and finds
another suitable site.

Pretending and imaginary play is often a wonderful way for young children to learn. A child can embody the learning and easily connect with the subject in a personal and meaningful way. These Forest Schoolers were excited and fully engaged as they became Black-capped Chickadees. They set off in pairs; one the male and the other the female. After locating a nesting site and gathering materials, the female Chickadee crafted a nest. While she was focused on her task and working hard, the male Chickadee of the pair searched for and delivered food to keep up her energy. Our male Chickadee Forest Schoolers found actual worms and grubs! Thank you to Angie Barger, Curriculum Coordinator at the North Branch Nature Center, for developing a fantastic lesson.

A pair of busy chickadees show off their tree cavity nest built with moss and sticks at the base and a lining of soft fuzzy materials.
A cozy nest for eggs and hatchlings safe in a tree cavity!
Chickadees gathered back together for sharing about their experience and refueling after a fun filled morning.  

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