Habitat Connections Kit

Hands-on lessons that take kids outside

There are seven lessons in the curriculum, designed to be easy to follow and implement.  Each includes concise learning objectives, background reading, reflection and evaluation questions, and teaching slides (a Powerpoint file on a USB drive) to help you. The lessons were field tested by 3-8th grade teachers, and are tied to the NGSS and Common Core Standards!

  1. Habitat Investigation: Students learn about the habitat needs of birds, then go outside to map the habitat in their schoolyard. These maps can be used to create a YardMap, a citizen-science project.
  2. Migration Obstacles: Students run a migration obstacle course to actively experience some of the challenges that migrating birds face. (In the photo above, a “bird” dashes across a road and around a window, bringing the challenges of real birds alive!)
  3. A teacher leads her class in the "Bird Survivor" game (lesson 2).

    A teacher leads her class in the “Bird Survivor” game (lesson 2).

    Bird Survivor: Students discover the life cycle of birds and the challenges that nesting birds face by playing a “Bird Survivor” game.  They are invited to take action by participating in the NestWatch citizen-science project.

  4. To Migrate or Not: Students learn about the costs and benefits of migrating or staying in one area all year through a demonstration, and then do research on individual birds.
  5. Scientist in Action: Students are introduced, through videos, to a scientist who studies migrating Hudsonian Godwits. They learn about the scientific process and the nature of science by examining his work.

    Students meet Nate Sennar, a migration scientists, and confront their own conceptions of "scientist." (lesson 6)

    Students meet Nate Sennar, a migration scientist, and confront their own conceptions of “scientist.” (lesson 5)

  6. Modeling Migration: Students look at animated bird-distribution maps created using citizen-science data, and discover the value of models in understanding where bird species are located throughout the year. They are invited to take part in the eBird citizen-science project and explore eBird data.
  7. Improve Your Bird Habitat: Through mapping and planning habitat improvements in their schoolyard or another open area, students learn about the importance of small-scale habitat management and discover the characteristics of green spaces that create good habitat for birds.
“When you connect children with their local place through sensory awareness of the local flora, fauna, and habitats, they learn to love those places and to feel safe and confident. What one loves, one will protect.”  —Nicole, BirdSleuth teacher
Order the kit via our online store.
An Innovative Approach to Project Based Learning!

Bringing Citizen Science to your Classroom…

Students compare and contrast animated maps (created using eBird citizen science data) and draw conclusions about migrating and resident birds.

Throughout this curriculum, you will find connections to five of the Cornell Lab’s citizen-science projects. Citizen science refers to efforts in which volunteers partner with professional scientists to collect or analyze data. Citizen scientists are individuals in all walks of life—including young people. The data submitted by citizen scientists help researchers better understand bird distribution, abundance, and habitat requirements—crucial information in determining population trends and conservation needs. Students are motivated knowing that their data will be put to use addressing real-world issues of local and global concern.

Rather than memorizing the “scientific method,” students can engage in inquiry and discover for themselves the multifaceted nature of scientific research. This directly supports the NGSS mandate for students not only to know science concepts, but also to “use their understanding to investigate the natural world through the practices of science inquiry.” Throughout Habitat Connections, you are invited to jump into the Cornell Lab’s citizen-science projects. Lessons, background information, and posters will support your citizen science efforts in these projects:

Connect to Conserve

Habitat Connections activities encourage students to think critically about conservation issues in their local area, then collaboratively develop and participate in projects to help birds in their own community. Such projects could improve habitat through tree-planting, shoreline cleanups, and building bird boxes, or raising awareness among family and friends through community education campaigns. By engaging students in local environmental stewardship efforts, and explicitly teaching them about the importance of their actions, we help them to see themselves as part of a larger force working to ensure healthy ecosystems now and into the future.

This unit encourages students to make connections to other classrooms by putting their conservation actions on BirdSleuth’s Action MapWe hope that students become inspired by the actions taken by other young people throughout the world. Migratory birds offer the opportunity to connect kids from different countries. Though a child in the United States or Canada lives far away from a child in the Caribbean, Costa Rica, or Brazil, they share some of the same birds.

Flexible Enough for Many Learning Environments

Habitat Connections Cover 2The lessons are a blend of indoor and outdoor experiences and very hands-on, so they are ideal for camps and clubs as well as school-based  programs. The lessons were tested in 3-8th grade classrooms and carefully reviewed by a team of middle-school teachers. There are many connections to NGSS and Core Curriculum Standards (see below) making them useful for teachers. Computer (with internet) access is needed to fully participate in some of the lessons.

The lessons are sequential, but could be used independently to supplement existing curricula or complement your textbook. You might elect to teach the curriculum as a 2-3 week unit, with ongoing citizen science participation throughout the year.

Get started by ordering the kit from our online store.

An exciting resource that meets the standards you need to teach

Your students will gain experience in each of the Scientific Processes and delve deeper into the  Crosscutting Concepts of science throughout the curriculum (see table.) This lesson series also addresses the following Disciplinary Core Ideas in life science and earth science as listed in the Next Generation Science Standards.

NGSS lesson tableLife Science Disciplinary Core Ideas:

From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

  • LS1.A: Structure and Function
  • LS1.B: Growth and Development in Organisms
  • LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms

Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
  • LS2.B: Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems
  • LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience
  • LS2.D: Social Interactions and Group Behavior

Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

  • LS4.B: Natural Selection
  • LS4.C: Adaptation
  • LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans

Earth Science Disciplinary Core Ideas:

Earth and Human Activity

  • ESS3.A: Natural Resources
  • ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
  • ESS3.D: Global Climate Change
 Order today!


Your kit includes:
  • HC suppliesTeacher’s Guide with seven lessons, includes thought-provoking reflection and evaluation questions plus extensions for each lesson;
  • Student Journal and Reference Guide that can be reproduced;
  • Printed resource materials including photos, posters and “Bird Survivor” and “Migration Obstacle Course” cards used within the activities;
  • USB drive packed with videos, animations, and Teaching Slides used throughout the unit;
  • Citizen Science Toolkit, containing project information, brochures, and posters for each of the citizen-science projects.
 Sample Pages…
Sample student journal page, lesson 4.

Sample student journal page, lesson 4.

Sample student Resource Page, taken from the "Habitats and Ecosystems" article.

Sample student Reference Page, taken from the “Habitats and Ecosystems” article.

Reflect and Evaluate Questions, lesson 6

Reflect and Evaluate Questions, lesson 6