Archived Lesson Plans

All of the lessons plans included in this web site are listed here for your convenience.

Introduction to Shorebirds
What makes a bird a shorebird? To kick off "Migration Science and Mystery: A Distance Learning Adventure," teachers and students can use these lesson plans to answer that question.

Concepts Presented in the Introduction to Shorebirds Lesson Plans
■ Shorebirds have a unique combination of physical and behavioral characteristics that help us in their identification.
■ Shorebirds are birds specially adapted to live in open land and often near water.
■ Most shorebirds are migratory.
■ Shorebirds form some of the largest migratory groups of all vertebrate species.
■ Shorebirds are international travelers that link people and places.
■ Learning about representative species of shorebirds and their ecology can help us learn about
birds in general.
■ Many shorebird species are declining.

Introduction to Shorebirds Lesson Plans

Get to Know the Shorebirds Puppet Shows
(lower and upper elementarymiddle school)
By creating shorebird puppets and putting on a shorebird puppet show, students learn the physical and behavioral characteristics that make a bird a shorebird.
To complete this activity, you will need the Shorebird Coloring Pages.

Shorebird Profiles
(upper elementary/middle school; upper middle school/high school)
By critically reading four shorebird profiles provided in this educator’s guide, students make direct
comparisons among the appearance, food habits, migration routes, and mating behaviors of four shorebirds found in their area. They will explore values associated with, as well as threats to, these four shorebirds.
For more information on shorebirds, check out the Shorebird Profiles.

Most Wanted: Shorebirds!
(upper middle school/high school)
Students work in teams to research and then create a “wanted” poster that highlights key information about a shorebird species whose population is of concern to biologists.
To complete this activity, you will need the Shorebird Profiles.

A Year (a Day or a Week) In My Life as a Shorebird
(upper middle school/high school)
Students imagine themselves as a shorebird and write a “first-bird” account of a day, a week, or a year in its life.
To complete this activity, you will need the Shorebird Profiles.

Lesson Plans about Migration

Magnificent Migration
Bird migration, which is the seasonal movement of birds from their breeding grounds to their wintering grounds, is perhaps one of the most spectacular, physically demanding and mysterious wildlife events.

Concepts Presented in Lesson Plans
■ During each year of their lives, most shorebirds migrate between habitats located in different geographic areas.
■ Shorebirds spend most of each year at their nonbreeding sites.
■ Arctic-nesting shorebirds undertake some of the longest migrations of any animals.
■ Migratory shorebirds depend on habitat in at least three areas: breeding, nonbreeding, and migratory stopover sites.
■ Shorebirds concentrate in great numbers at their stopover sites.
■ Because shorebirds fly together in large numbers, their populations are extremely vulnerable to threats along their migratory routes.
■ Most important migratory stopovers are nutrient-rich habitats, like estuaries, that also provide resources desirable to humans, making them vulnerable to alteration, pollution, disturbance, and destruction.
■ Shorebirds migrate between northern breeding areas and southern wintering areas to take advantage of seasonal food resources.

Lesson Plans about Migration

 Migration Headache
(lower elementary/upper elementary)
Students become “migrating shorebirds,” traveling between nesting and wintering habitats. Along their journeys they experience some of the threats affecting the survival of migratory shorebird populations.
To complete this activity, you will need the Survival Cards.

Migration Math Madness
(upper elementary school/middle school)
Students discover that shorebirds migrate long distances between their northern breeding grounds and southern breeding habitats, using five defined corridors or “highways” in the sky. By using the migration map provided, they measure and calculate the distances some shorebirds travel and come to understand why shorebirds must stop to feed and rest along the way.

The Incredible Journey
(upper elementary school/middle school)
Through an active simulation game, students learn about the many threats shorebirds face on their migratory journeys.

Bird’s-eye View
(upper middle school/high school)
Students imagine that they are a migratory shorebird and design an illustration that conveys the length and difficulty of the trip, as well as the landmarks, habitats, and stopover sites they pass over along the way.
To complete this activity, you will need the Shorebid Profiles and Magnificent Shorebird Migration.

 Shorebird Migration Flyways
A migration flyway is an invisible “highway in the sky,”  a general route birds follows as they fly from their breeding grounds in the north to more southern areas where they spend their winters.  Find out more information about the flyway where you live.

Lesson Plans about Shorebird Habitat

Shorebird Habitat
Shorebirds, like all wildlife populations, rely on healthy habitat. Shorebirds may use three very diferent habitat types and geographic areas for breeding, resting during migration, and living the majority of the year. For instance, shorebirds that nest in the northern tundra may migrate inland, stopping near ponds, and spend the winter on southern mudflats.

Concepts Presented in Lesson Plans
■ Habitat is the place where an organism lives because it is adapted to find food, water, shelter, and space there.  Numerous habitats are located within an ecosystem.
■ Shorebirds are one part of a healthy functioning ecosystem.
■ Shorebirds depend on at least three different places for habitat every year of their lives.
■ Shorebirds face numerous threats.
■ The most serious threat to shorebirds is loss of habitat.
■ Both shorebirds and humans depend on clean, healthy ecosystems.
■ Wetland and grassland ecosystems provide extremely important habitats for shorebirds.
■ Your local environment may provide important habitat for shorebirds.
■ Your local environment is part of a natural ecosystem that we all depend on.

Lesson Plans about Shorebird Habitat

Shorebird Food Webs
(lower elementary, upper elementary/middle school)
In this activity, students take on the roles of abiotic or biotic components of a wetland or grassland habitat.  Using a ball of yarn, students create a web to demonstrate how shorebirds are connected to all parts of their habitat. They discover how changes in the food web can affect a shorebird’s survival.

Wetland Metaphors
(lower elementary, upper elementary middle school)
Students make comparisons between unrelated objects through metaphors to learn the functions of a wetland.
To complete this activity, you will need to read Shorebirds Depend on a Chain of Healthy Habitats.

Can’t We Share?
(lower elementary)
Students learn how natural and man-made events affect shorebird survival by playing a game of musical chairs in which the students are shorebirds and the chairs are different habitats.

Match the Habitat Cards
(upper elementary/middle school)
By playing a card-matching game, students learn that shorebirds use diverse habitats. Students will discover that shorebirds use these habitats to meet their own specific needs.

Map Your Habitats
(upper middle school/ high school)
By examining maps, students discover the variety of habitats that local shorebirds might use.
To complete this activity, you will need to refer to Types of Habitat and Shorebirds Depend on a Chain of Healthy Habitats.

Lesson Plans about Shorebird Research

Research and Technology
Through the following lessons, students learn about some of the activities scientists conduct to learn about shorebirds. 

Concepts Presented in Lesson Plans
■ Research is vital for shorebird conservation.
■ Through research we learn what shorebirds need and what we can do to conserve them.
■ Some shorebirds concentrate in great numbers at their stopover sites, which provide large populations of birds for study.
■ There are many tools researchers use to collect information about shorebirds.
■ The Scientific Method of Inquiry is the method researchers use to develop a clear hypothesis and a strong study plan.
■ Technology provides vital tools for research.
■ There are still many unanswered questions about shorebirds and how we can conserve them best.

Lesson Plans

Banded Birds
(upper elementary school/middle school)
Students conduct a banding simulation in which they attach colored construction paper armbands to a group of classmates and then observe and record its behavior over the course of a school day.

Bird Beans
(upper elementary school/middle school)
Using beans and their desktops, students learn and practice techniques for estimating a population of shorebirds.

You Be the Scientist
(upper middle school/high school)
Students work in pairs to develop a study plan that will help them investigate a question about shorebirds.

Imaginary Mist Nets
(upper middle school/high school)
Students create a study plan to answer a research question, they “band” their fellow students and collect data to answer their question.

Shorebirds on the Web
(all levels)
Students use the computer as a resource tool to learn about shorebirds, ecology, wetlands, other cultures, and ecosystems, while at the same time they discover computer technology that will help them throughout their school years and beyond.

Lesson Plans about Shorebird Adaptations

Shorebirds have a number of traits or characteristics that have enabled them to be successful in their habitats.

Concepts Presented in Lesson Plans
■ Shorebirds, like other animals, are adapted in three ways to survive: physically, physiologically, and behaviorally.
■ Shorebirds have many physical, or morphological, adaptations to help them walk, find food, hide, reproduce, and fly long distances during migration.
■ Shorebirds are also adapted physiologically to their migrating lifestyle, particularly in their fat-loading abilities which enable them to store energy for long flights.
■ Adaptations are naturally selected over a long period of time, and specialized animals like shorebirds cannot adapt overnight to damage or alteration of their habitat.

Lesson Plans

Build a Shorebird
(lower elementary)
Students will learn about the physical adaptations unique to shorebirds by dressing up a volunteer with bird “adaptations” that gradually transform him or her into a bird--and then into a
shorebird. They will discover that shorebirds are a diverse group of birds designed to feed and nest in specific habitats. They will become familiar with some of the most common threats to shorebird survival.
To complete this activity, you may want to refer to Shorebird Adaptations.

What Can I Eat with This Beak?
(lower elementary, upper elementary/middle school)
Students collect a variety of simulated shorebird food items, using “tools” that represent four
different shorebird beak designs. Then they determine which type of food their beak was designed to collect by sorting and identifying which food items they were most successful at catching.

Avian Olympics
(upper middle school/high school)
By competing in physical and math/science activities, students come to understand that shorebirds are incredibly adapted to long distance migration.

Lesson Plans about the "Big Picture"

The "Big (Shorebird) Picture"

Through the activities in Explore the World with Shorebirds!, students have discovered that shorebird habitat is also our habitat. They have observed and learned about other species that coexist with shorebirds and understand that all living parts of the habitat depend on clean water, air, and soil. In the Big Shorebird Picture, students share their knowledge with each other and their community in creative and thought provoking ways.

Concepts Presented in Lesson Plans
■ Taking an active role in shorebird conservation requires that we apply knowledge.
■ Sharing our knowledge about shorebirds with others is one way we can help shorebird conservation.
■ Environmental stewardship is vital for the long-term conservation of our shared natural resources.

Lesson Plans

Shorebird Decision Dilemmas
(upper elementary/middle school, upper middle/high school)
In this activity, students draw cards that describe a shorebird or habitat issue and decide how they would work to resolve the problem. Through discussion, students examine their own values and beliefs as well as those of their classmates.

Shorebird Values on the Line
(upper middle school/high school)
Students rank to what degree they “agree” or “disagree with” a set of statements pertaining to shorebirds and shorebird habitat. They compare their rankings with those of their classmates, examine the reasons behind them, and discuss what factors influence a person’s values.

Shorebird News
(upper middle school/high school)
Students research what makes a good newspaper article and then write a story for their local paper about their involvement in the Shorebird Sister Schools Program.

What You Can Do for Shorebirds!
(upper middle school/high school)
Students participate in a conservation project to improve the environment and help wildlife. The situation may involve “hands-on” experiences like planting or picking up litter, or a political campaign in which students participate in influencing the actions of others.

Lesson Plans about Nesting and Breeding

Nesting and Breeding

Many shorebirds breed in the Arctic Circle and are "site-faithful," returning to the same breeding grounds, and sometimes the same territory, year after year.

Concepts Presented in Lesson Plans
■ During a shorebird’s breeding season, its habitat is where it courts, nests, and raises its young.
■ The Arctic tundra is critically important breeding habitat for many migratory shorebirds.
■ Your local environment may be important breeding habitat for some shorebirds.
■ Shorebirds migrate to higher latitudes (like the Arctic) for breeding so they can take advantage of the summer’s abundance of invertebrates.
■ Some shorebirds defend breeding territories.
■ Shorebirds nest on the ground.
■ Shorebirds face numerous threats at their breeding grounds.
■ Shorebirds have elaborate behavioral adaptations for courtship display and protection of their nests and young.
■ The elaborate behaviors of shorebirds for attracting mates and protecting young are some of the most spectacular and complex of all birds.
■ Shorebird nests are camouflaged. Chicks use both camouflage and behavior to stay concealed from predators.
■ Most shorebirds look different during the nonbreeding and breeding seasons.

Lesson Plans

Colorful Changes
(lower elementary, upper elementary/middle school; upper middle/high school)
Students discover that some shorebirds have dramatically different breeding and nonbreeding plumage. They then create an artistic representation of a shorebird species in both seasons.

Guard Your Nest
(lower elementary, upper elementary/middle school)
Students, pretending to be shorebirds, must guard their nests from a multitude of predators and threats. They discover that camouflage and distraction displays are two strategies that increase a shorebird’s chance of nesting success.

It’s a Tough Life!
(upper elementary/middle school)
Students play a game that simulates the challenges shorebirds face when trying to feed along many coastal beaches. Students actively begin thinking about what shorebirds need and the things that are threatening their survival.