Last week, a teacher in the gifted program brought her class of 5th graders to the media center for a lesson to compliment their reading of The Westing Game. One of the characters in this book is an avid bird watcher, and his skill at observation proves to be instrumental in his actions in the book. We collaborated on a lesson to explore bird watching and put ourselves in the shoes of this character.
To start, I shared my own experiences with close observation of nature. A few summers ago I went to Skidaway Island to take a class, and my focus was on taking careful notes about the observations I made in nature and using those notes to create poetry. I then connected this to authors such as Jim Arnosky who does sketches of the wildlife he observes and writes about his journeys in observation. I also shared poems written by Jane Yolen using photographs of birds that her son took. We had discussions of how being a good observer can benefit you in life. Students paired and shared their thinking and came up with many benefits to being good observers.
The big fun came when we moved into the computer lab and practiced our observation skills by watching webcams of birds. Some of these cams were live at bird feeders. Others were recordings of webcams that had previously captured bird behavior. Students explored these sites through Delicious and used their detective books from their Westing Game project to take notes and sketches of what they saw. After careful observation, we came back together and students shared the observational notes and sketches using our document camera. All of the students were able to clearly see the descriptions and sketches that students captured during their viewing of the webcams. What a fun lesson. I loved hearing one student say, “I can’t believe how fast our time went by”. Our work together was 50 minutes, so it was nice to hear students excited about how engaged they were in their learning. Check out pics of students viewing the webcams and pics of student sketches and observations.
If you have other examples of using webcams to support student learning, then post a comment and let us hear about it! I would love to discover other ways to use these great tools that really engage student attention and interest.