Thursday, December 18, 2008

Turning Kids into Scientists

News Release: December 19, 2008
Learning Bird Behavior Turns Kids into Scientists
Revised teaching unit is
released from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Ithaca, NY--Why is that
crow chasing a hawk? Do birds fly away from noisy places? How long will an
American Robin spend pulling a worm from the ground? The BirdSleuth curriculum
from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is all about tapping into a child’s natural
curiosity to answer scientific questions in a fun way. The just-released
revision of the Exploring Bird Behavior module offers educators even more
lessons, posters, and multimedia resources. The new student toolkit comes with
two important tools for collecting behavioral information about birds: a
BirdSleuth stopwatch and tally counter.

“Kids love to work with
gadgets,” says Birdsleuth project leader Jennifer Fee. “Give them a stopwatch or
put them in a lab coat, and they transform into little scientists. And then it
becomes easier to explain tricky concepts, such as the difference between a
behavioral event and a behavioral state.” (An event can be counted; a state can
be timed.)

This module also comes with a DVD showing bird behaviors most
students have never seen, including stunning slow-motion video of the exotic
courtship dance of the Greater Sage-Grouse. A 32-page teacher’s guide includes
step-by-step instructions for completing all six lessons, or “investigations.”

The Exploring Bird Behavior module, like the others in the BirdSleuth
series, engages students in inquiry by building lessons and activities around
citizen-science projects from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This module uses
the Crows Count project. Students count crows and their relatives (ravens,
magpies, and jays), observe their behaviors, and report what they see to the
Cornell Lab where scientists are studying the dynamics of group behavior in

“BirdSleuth gets kids interested in nature, gets them outside,
and teaches them to think more critically,” says Fee. “They ask questions,
collect data, look for patterns and evidence, test ideas, make conclusions, and
share results.”

To learn more about the new Exploring Bird Behavior
module and about the entire BirdSleuth curriculum, visit The staff is happy to answer any questions
about how to make Birdsleuth a welcome supplement to your existing science


Jennifer Fee, Project Leader, (607) 254-2403,
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Lab’s web site at

Cornell Lab of Ornithology
159 Sapsucker Woods Rd, Ithaca NY 14850



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