Ornithologists' Observations
Shelley Levin, MS Science and Math Faculty

By Shelley Levin, MS Science and Math Faculty

Every fall at Forest Ridge, the fifth graders can be seen all across our campus, binoculars in hand, watching and studying birds. This fall is a little different, as all the fifth-grade ornithologists—scientists who study birds—are learning from home. Instead of a science textbook, the girls have their eyes, ears, and binoculars!

So far, the fifth graders have been observing birds in their yards, on neighborhood walks, while riding their bikes, on hikes, during family trips, and even at the zoo. Each day in science class, we share the observations we’ve made about birds recently. Many of us were surprised to learn from one fifth-grade ornithologist that a lot of the birds she saw at the zoo were actually locals who’d moved in on their own, like the flock of mallards in the zebra enclosure!

While we most often observe birds by watching them, the sense of hearing is useful, too. Fifth graders have been learning some of the common bird songs and calls of western Washington. Have you heard a bird telling you to “cheery-up cheerio”? That’s an American robin. Out at night and hear “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?” You’re hearing a barred owl. Think you hear a monkey calling in the woods? That’s not a monkey – it’s a pileated woodpecker! You can learn more about identifying birds by sight and sound at www.allaboutbirds.org.

The fifth-grade ornithologists will soon use their observations to begin the scientific process. They’ll choose a question about birds on the Forest Ridge campus to investigate, then make predictions, design an experiment to test their predictions, conduct the experiment to collect data, analyze that data, and finally come to a conclusion answering their question. Stay tuned to find out we learn!