Thinking Outside the (Nest) Box

Thinking Outside of the (Nest) Box is an educational resource created by NestWatch, a citizen-science program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This curriculum will introduce grades 5–8 to the world of nesting birds and engage youth in STEM learning and citizen science through the construction, installation, and monitoring of nest boxes.

The activities in Thinking Outside of the (Nest) Box will introduce youth to the life cycle of nesting birds and provide instructions for building and installing nest boxes, which in turn will enable youth to become citizen scientists and report their observations of nesting birds to the NestWatch program. Five activities are included which cover:

  • building and installing nest boxes,
  • habitats,
  • life cycles,
  • proper monitoring and observation of nesting birds, and
  • data collection and analysis.


Make one birdhouse as a class, or one per student—it’s your choice. You’ll get students outdoors to peek into a wild bird’s nest, collect data, make predictions from information presented in graphs, and ask questions based on your unique habitat. The lessons align with Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards for grades 58.

If you cannot print these resources or simply prefer a full-color printed copy, please email for a free copy (shipped within the US and Canada, while supplies last).


Additional resources:

Activity 1 Resources:

NestWatch slideshow


Activity 2 Resources:

Video 1 – How to assemble a nest box


Video 2 – How to install your nest box


Nest Check Data Sheet

NestWatch Mobile App for iOS or Android


Activity 3 Resources:

NestWatch slideshow: download from Activity 1.

Bingo Playing Cards


Activity 4 Resources:

NestWatch slideshow: download from Activity 1.

Video 3 – How to check a nest

Activity 5 Resources:

NestWatch slideshow: download from Activity 1.

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