Birding as a Brain Break

We know student energy can be infectious. In the blink of an eye your classroom can be a buzz of distractions, keeping students from paying attention to your lesson. Time for a brain break! When information is constantly presented in the same manner, whether it be on a chalkboard, computer, or paper handout, students can easily become bored and unfocused. A quick interlude between lessons when attention seems to be waning can be just the trick for refocusing students and refreshing their minds.


Students play Bird Bingo.

Offer students a break from sedentary lessons in the classroom and engage their senses by taking them on a bird walk. According to Dr. Lori Desautels, an assistant professor at Marian University, engaging the sense of hearing produces a powerful calming effect. During the walk, have students stand still in complete silence for a couple of minutes and listen carefully to the birds calling around them. Can they count how many different songs they hear? Now have students use their sense of sight to try and spot as many birds as they can. Binoculars are a great tool for students to use so they can see high into the treetops or across the playground. The BirdSleuth Bird Bingo Cards are also a valuable tool on walks. Students actively search for birds while having a blast playing the game.


Students use binoculars to spot birds.

Not only does a bird walk break up the time spent in the classroom, it provides an opportunity for students to connect with nature and develop a sense of appreciation for the world around them. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, explained in an interview with NPR host Steve Inskeep, “the idea is that biologically we are still hunters and gatherers and we need…direct involvement in nature…And when we don’t get that, we don’t do so well.” A brain break in nature helps us refocus so we can perform better and more efficiently at work or school. No need for a school bus – there is quite a bit of exploring to do right outside your back door!

The next time you find students distracted or restless in class, take a brain break and go birding. Even a short pause in the lesson can make a remarkable change in how students react and focus in the classroom, plus they can learn about the beautiful birds living in their own backyards! Sounds like a win-win to us!


Desautels, L. (2015, January 14). Energy and Calm: Brain Breaks and Focused-Attention Practices. Retrieved from

Louv, R. (2005, May 5). Saving Kids from “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Retrieved from

One Comment

  1.  by  Donna Malloy

    Yes, the best part of the bird walk is when my grandkids and I stop talking and listen to the sounds of nature. It truly does relax

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