Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Unit Study: For the Birds ... some more resources we're using

We started a unit study on birds ... starting with the incomparable John James Audubon!  We're having such fun learning about birds and all the amazing things they do ... much more than merely pecking at the ground and flying!

Here are some of the best resources we've used recently:
  • Capturing Nature: the writings and art of John James Audubon (edited by Peter and Connie Roop with illustrations by Rick Farley) ... this is a great introduction to Audubon, using his own words to describe his background, how he got interested in birds, and a bit about how he learned to draw them so beautifully.
  • John James Audubon: Writings and Drawings (the Library of America) ... this is a great companion to the above children's version; here you have the actual writings (misspellings and all) of Mr. Audubon, including his journals for going up and down the rivers and his ornithological directory (with amazingly personal notes about each bird) and his letters and notes about drawing birds.  This is a great addition to our study as we can do copywork from here and really get to know Audubon!
  • John James Audubon: Wildlife Artist by Peter Anderson ... this is a great chapter biography about Audubon, illustrated throughout with Audubon's own prints/paintings of birds.  The author, Peter Anderson, does a great job of explaining in accessible language all about this great naturalist, artist, outdoorsman, painter!
  • Winged Migration -- this is an AMAZING DVD that covers 40 countries, all seven continents, following birds on their migrations.  It is an amazing work of art to watch this video.
  • Life of Birds -- the indomitable David Attenborough does a fabulous job of explaining birds -- in all their many facets -- to the audience of this series.  Add the award-winning cinematography and gorgeous soundtrack and you'll understand why we are taking the time to watch this 5+ hour series.  One of the cool things is that Attenborough and his team seem to make a point of showing less-well-known birds and their antics.
  • Nature and Environment: Great Lives by Doris and Harold Faber is a compilation of biographies about many naturalists and scientists.  Written for a elementary-school level, the chapter on Audubon is great.  Don't worry if you;re tempted to head off on rabbit trails to discover more about other naturalists discussed in here including:  John and William Bartram, Luther Burbank, Rachel Carson, George Washington Carver, Jacques Cousteau, Jean Henri Fabre, Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt ... to name just a few. We did just that and found this lovely chapter book:  Children of Summer: Henri Fabre's Insects -- this is a great read-aloud about bugs!
Spring is such a perfect time to launch into nature studies ... and we're having a blast!  What have you found that we should look for?

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