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I think that in order to get people involved in wanting to help the
environment you need to touch them in some way by: (1) building their
appreciation of nature so they want to make a difference and (2) by
helping them realize their personal impact in the scheme of things.
The focus of my lesson is on building birdhouses (or bat or butterfly
houses) for a site at school as well as students backyards. As we
continue to reproduce and build more housing we force wildlife into
smaller natural areas and into populated areas. We see wildlife in our
communities trying to survive (not as many varieties as in the country)
but they are still there trying to co-exist with us. For those
creatures that try to live with us we can make it easier for them by
planting natural food sources and making our backyards wildlife refuges.
First, I would teach students how to recognize different bird species
visually, through their calls and tracks, then take them on nature walks
to put to practice what they have learned. Then, we would install
birdfeeders and suet in our chosen sites to see what birds populate the
area. We would then research different birds we want to draw to the
area and the needs of different species. Each child is to choose a
species to focus on and do further research in class (I would supply a
good number of books). Then, they are to draw the type of birdhouse
they will create (taking into consideration such factors as: wind, rain,
predators, competition with other species, species native to the area,
which species are cavity nesters, needs of the species, dimensional
requirements, ease of cleaning, danger to wildlife, habitats that blend
in with nature, and recycling or reusing materials that are not
hazardous to the birds). And, each student will build a birdhouse.
Emphasis would be on using natural materials and reusing leftover
materials donated by parents/community/businesses. Also, to use
materials we picked up on nature walks and along streams (there is a lot
of wonderful debris along rivers -- beautiful driftwood and planks from
docks). Secondary to the needs of the birds and function, students are
to be conscious of making the boxes aesthetically interesting and to
blend in with nature.
Artists I would present are: NYC Artist Laura Foreman and her
"Birdhouses as Metaphor" which presents a "Homeless Birdhouse" on the
plight of the birds and also the housing crisis of the homeless. Also,
non-functional birdhouses created by local artisans that would serve
symbolically to represent our unconsciousness in destroying natural
habitats, our unconsciousness in recognizing our own impact, and our
being unconscious if we do not take into account the needs of the birds
when creating birdhouses. These examples show birdhouses where the
holes are too small, the hole is too low (making birds susceptible to
predators), multiple holes (which only purple marlins like), and metal
roofs which can bake the birds. Then, I would show functional birdhouse
examples made by backyard naturalists that are built properly and show
natural aesthetic properties or ideas.
I hope students would get out of this an appreciation for nature,
recognition of their personal impact, the fact that they can make change
even if it is one step at a time, and that we can safely reuse and
recycle materials in doing so. That if we do not make a conscious
decision to make change then we are making an unconscious decision to
perpetuate the problem.
Thank you in advance for any input, I hope someday to really put this
lesson to the test. Lisa