Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bird Feathers and Feet

Keeping with our bird unit, it was now time to learn about the wonders of the feathers & feet of birds.

This experiment came from The Rogers' Family Circus and it's fantastic. Fill one baggie with ice, another with feathers. First, place the baggie of ice on your hand & notice how cold it is. Now place the feathers on your skin & put the ice baggie on top. Notice that the ice doesn't feel quite so cold anymore. This was a great way to really show my kids how important feathers are.

This also came from The Rogers Family Circus. I gave each of my boys a feather & asked them to get their feather wet using a spray bottle. They noticed how yucky the feathers became.

Next, we talked about preening. I explained that when a bird cleans itself, it is also adding a layer of protection to their feathers. They have a gland that secretes an oil-type fluid. They take this "oil" and spread it around their feathers. This "oil" waterproofs their feathers.
This time, the boys brushed olive oil (I think they may have applied a bit too much) on their new feathers. Now, when they sprayed their feather, the water beaded and ran off the feather. Another great hands on activity.

We also read & discussed the feather page in our Encyclopedia Britannica book.

Capt. N added a couple feather books to the duck pages in his notebook. I believe I got the books from Homeschool Share.

We began our discussion about bird feet examining the Encyclopedia Britannica book again. We talked about the different type of feet & their purpose: The big talons on birds of prey are used for catching their next meal. The little brush birds have feet built to hold on to branches. Ducks have webbed feet perfect for swimming.

They played a matching game I printed from Fernbank Science Center. There are pictures of birds & pictures of feet. The boys job was to match the foot with the bird it belonged to.

The boys then made replica's of bird feet out of pipe cleaners. From Tired, Need Sleep.

What I loved most about these projects was how engaged my boys were. They already knew some things about the feathers & feet of birds, which was fantastic because then they were both able to take part in our discussions. They also learned a few new things - like preening. And, now they are even more aware of what makes each type of bird unique. Occasionally, they will comment about the feathers or feet of a bird they spot outside.

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