Throughout the school year, Junior Kindergarten students have been learning about bird identification through role-playing, observation, and sketching in their journals. They’re discovering the wondrous world of birds: how they live, what they eat, and how they build their nests. Steward’s Bryan Innovation Lab
is the perfect place to spark students’ imagination about these fascinating critters. Students across all divisions utilize the Bryan Lab, which is a perfect setting to work on out-of-the-classroom interdisciplinary projects.
“The Bryan Lab is designed to support birds and other wildlife with natural habitats that provide food and shelter,” said Bryan Lab Program Coordinator Megan Young. In the winter months, lessons focused on local birds’ habitats, explained Junior Kindergarten Teacher Katy Koppanyi.
“We listened to their calls and searched for them, we drew them, and we compared and contrasted them to the birds we had already learned about,” she said. Students also made pinecone bird feeders
and hung them around campus, and they worked with Ms. Young to learn about gardening and animal life around the Bryan Lab. Creativity really took flight when students role-played bird behaviors with wooden puppets they made using the Bryan Lab’s laser cutter.
Thinking Outside the Nest
Recently, Bryan Lab Innovation Specialist and Children’s Engineering Teacher Suzanne Casey was looking for a way to tie engineering to the Junior Kindergarten study of birds.
“Birds do an amazing job of engineering the creation of their nests, and they don’t even have hands and fingers!” she said. So one day she rolled out the Rigamajig (a large-scale wooden building kit comprised of nuts, bolts, and brackets) and gathered some round yoga mats, and asked Junior Kindergarteners to build giant “nests.”
“We put one mat on the floor for each child who needed to have a spot in the nest,” said Ms. Casey, “and this evolved into lots of role-playing and creativity.”
She continued, “Some children talked about needing to build an edge on the side of the nest with the Rigamajig so that the birds would not fall out. Others focused on figuring out how to attach the Rigamajig pieces to make the nest more secure. Soon we had two nests full of sleepy little birds who pretended to snack on worms and take naps.”
Imagination + Collaboration
The Rigamajig allows students the freedom to use their imagination; it also necessitates collaboration and cooperation — essential components of the Steward experience for all students.
“This project was a great example of how the Bryan Lab can bring together the expertise of multiple teachers to connect disciplines such as engineering and outdoor education,” said Ms. Young.
Most recently, Junior Kindergarteners collected natural materials in the way that birds do and constructed their very own giant birds’ nests.
We love watching our students' ideas fly!