This One is for the Birds

By Bradley Uebelhor, November 29, 2009

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • City of Neighborhoods

Subject Area

  • Science
  • Technology

Lesson Time

10 class periods and 30 minutes for homework


Having students become intimate with nature rather than only preaching the gloom and doom side of how we are destroying it is a much more effective way for them to become environmental stewards.  Technology is used to meet our needs and wants.  In this case, our want is to feed birds in our backyard.  Designing a bird feeder and building a model (from which they can build the final version on their own) is one such way to get students more in touch with nature.

National Standards


Standard 3. Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual

5. Knows ways in which technology and society influence one another (e.g., new products and processes for society are developed through technology; technological changes are often accompanied by social, political, and economic changes; technology is influenced by social needs, attitudes, values, and limitations, and cultural backgrounds and beliefs)

6. Knows ways technology is used to protect the environment and prevent damage caused by nature (e.g., new building technologies protect cities from earthquakes, bacteria are used in cleaning water)

Standard 4. Level III. Understands the nature of technological design

1. Knows that the design process is a slow, methodical process of test and refinement

2. Knows that the design process relies on different strategies: creative brainstorming to establish many design solutions, evaluating the feasibility of various solutions in order to choose a design, and troubleshooting the selected design

3. Identifies appropriate problems which can be solved using technological design (e.g., identifies a specific need, considers its various aspects, considers criteria for a suitable product)

4. Designs a solution or product, taking into account needs and constraints (e.g., cost, time, trade-offs, properties of materials, safety, aesthetics)

5. Implements a proposed design (e.g., organizes materials and other resources, plans one’s work, makes use of group collaboration when appropriate, chooses suitable tools and techniques, works with appropriate measurement methods to ensure accuracy)

6. Evaluates the ability of a technological design to meet criteria established in the original purpose (e.g., considers factors that might affect acceptability and suitability for intended users or beneficiaries; develop measures of quality with respect to these factors), suggests improvements, and tries proposed modifications

7. Understands that nonphysical objects (e.g., software) and physical objects (e.g., a telephone) are both subject to the design process

8. Knows that invention is the process of creating a new system or object out of an idea while innovation is the process of modifying an existing system or object to improve it (e.g., the specialization of function of a subsystem)

Standard 5. Level III. Understands the nature and operations of systems

2. Knows how part of a system can provide feedback when its output (in the form of material, energy, or information) becomes input for another part of the system

Standard 6. Level III. Understands the nature and uses of different forms of technology

6. Knows that manufacturing processes use hand tools, human-operated machines, and automated machines to separate, form, combine, and condition natural and synthetic materials; these changes may either be physical or chemical


Students will be able to:
  • navigate through the Audubon Society Web site
  • determine what bird feed is most applicable for their backyard
  • explain how technology is used to meet their wants or needs
  • explain how items can be reused instead of being thrown away
  • brainstorm ideas in a group setting
  • sketch ideas of a proposed design solution
  • builda model of a proposed design solution
  • work through the design and problem solving processes


Audubon Society Web site – simply awesome! Check out the Audubon At Home section:

Earth 911 – great how-to site for recycling – tons of information:

Birding news and sighting information:

Cornell Lab of Ornithology – lots of good stuff:

A site geared towards adults – has grant information:


  • recyclables: one and two liter plastic bottles, boxes, etc.
  • hot glue gun (must teach safety and monitor closely)
  • box knife (much teach safety and monitor closely)
  • band saw to cut plastic bottles – used by teacher – hearing protection a must!
  • cordless drill with a great variety of bits is helpful


  • John James Audubon: 1785–1851 American (Haitian-born) artist & ornithologist
  • ornithologist: a scientist specializing in the study of birds
  • ornithology: a branch of zoology dealing with birds
  • suet: the hard fat about the kidneys and loins in beef and mutton that yields tallow


Day 1:

1. Review the design process with the students.  Go over each step:

Reviewing the Challenge: The students will be given the design challenge (problem) to be solved: Create a bird feeder from recycled materials.

Investigate: The students browse the internet for various bird  feeder designs.

(Re)/Frame the Problem: Did the student's research change their thinking of the problem?

Generate Possible Solutions: The students will brainstorm ideas to solve the problem.  Brainstorming is part of the problem solving process which will already have been discussed and practiced.

Edit & Develop the Idea: The students will each take one of the brainstormed ideas that they think has potential and make a sketch of that particular idea.

Share & Evaluate: After sketching ideas, the students will share their ideas and sketches with others in their group.

Finalize the Solution: The students will pick the best solution from their group and make a model with supplied materials.

Articulate the Solution and Process: The students will present to the rest of the class their design and explain how their design solved the problem.

2. After teaching the design process, the class will be broken into groups of four and brainstorm ideas for the bird feeder.

3. Assign sketch homework, to make a sketch of a bird feeder that meets the set criteria, and have the students ask their parents/guardians if they ever put out a bird feeder and what purpose it served.

Day 2:

1. Spend time on the above Web sites studying birds found in your area and what type of feeders and food are used.

Day 3:

1. Break into groups of three or four and brainstorm possible solutions to the problem.  One sketch will be made by each student of a different feeder.  The students will compare drawings and decide which sketch will be used to make a model.

Days 4 to 8:

1. Students will build full scale models of their feeders and prepare a presentation.

Days 9 and 10:

1. Students will present their model and rationale.

2. After the students are done presenting, they will fill out their self-assessment.

3. After they fill out their self-assessment, the teacher will go over the assessment with each group.



Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their design process. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric:

How effective was your brainstorming in generating ideas?

Excellent____ Good____ Adequate____ Poor____ span>

Rate how effectively you analyzed the information you used to identify your problem:

Excellent____ Good____ Adequate____ Poor____

Rate the effectiveness of your presentation:

Excellent____ Good____ Adequate____ Poor____

Rate how clearly you communicated your ideas:

Excellent____ Good____ Adequate____ Poor____

Rate how clearly you communicated your solution:

Excellent____Good____ Adequate____Poor____

Rate your effectiveness as a problem solver:

Excellent____ Good____Adequate____ Poor____

Rate your creativity:

Excellent____Good____ Adequate____ Poor____

Rate how well you met guidelines:

Excellent____Good____ Adequate____ Poor____

Excellent = 10 points

Good = 7 points

Adequate = 5 points

Poor = 2 points

Total for activity = 80 points possible

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