Art-Reach Pre-Visit Activity: Art Talk

Please view the two reproductions with your class and lead a discussion using the following questions as guidelines. There are no “right” answers. The questions are meant to guide the group discussion. Students will re-visit and discuss these works as well as others during the ArtReach visit. The vocabulary in this packet will aid discussion.

Research and experience have shown that students feel more comfortable when they can connect with something familiar when the Museum educator conducts the program. The students enjoy sharing their insights from the pre-visit discussion with the educator.


The Birds ArtReach visit focuses on works of art in BAM’s Permanent Collection that feature birds. The discussion centers on naturalistic and symbolic representations of birds and the variety of materials used to create the artwork.



James Castle was an Idaho artist who was born deaf, could not read or write and only attended school for a short time. He created art based on his life, where he grew up, his family, experiences, and memories. Many of his works of art were cardboard constructions of a variety of birds.

  • How can you tell this is a bird?
  • Does it have all the parts that birds normally have?
  • Can you tell what kind of a bird this might be? Does it have naturalistic coloring like a real bird?
  • Can you tell what medium was used to make this bird?
  • Where would you be able to find similar materials to create an artwork such as this?
  • The artist left this sculpture untitled. The Museum has given it a name of Rooster to help identify the work. If you could give it a title, what would it be?

James Castle (1900-1977)
Rooster, 1900’s
cardboard, string and pigment
Permanent Collection
Purchase (1981)



  • What kind of a bird do you think this could be?
  • What colors did the artist use?
  • What kinds of lines?
  • Without hitting the person next to you, pretend you have a brush in your hand and you’re making some of the marks and lines you see here.



Jonathan Borofsky (1942- )
Berlin Dream (Closeup) at No. 2947836 , 1985
color screenprint with hand painting, edition 1/21
Permanent Collection
Gift of Wilfred Davis Fletcher


Medium: A specific kind of artistic technique or means of expression as determined by the materials used or the creative methods involved: the medium of lithography. The materials used in a specific artistic technique: oils as a medium.
Media: The plural of medium.
Naturalistic: An art object that has a photographic likeness to the real thing it is meant to represent. Many contemporary works of art are not intended to look naturalistic or realistic.
Symbol: Something that stands for/represents something else. W e often use symbols to express ideas as well. For example, the bald eagle symbolizes our country, a white dove symbolizes peace, a turkey symbolizes Thanksgiving.

ArtReach Curricular Connections

Teachers can adapt the following curricular connections to meet the needs of any grade level.


  • Set up a permanent bird feeding station at school. Keep phenology records on a chart and, after a period of time, compare recent records with preceding years. Consider the best form to represent the data (bar graph, line graph, frequency table, etc.)
  • Make school yard bird observation charts with date/time, species, quantity, and observations (such as where did you see the bird? What was it doing? etc.)
  • Use birds as an inspiration for building math skills
  • # of one kind of bird/total # of birds, #birds/area, #birds/food source, #birds/trees, #birds to water sources
  • Volume: given nest shape and size, how many eggs can fit?
  • Population estimates
  • Proportion: wing length to body weight, beak size to body size
  • Conduct a visual exercise to compare and contrast two birds. Using two, slightly overlapping circles, note shared features in the overlapping section and unique features of each bird in the non-overlapping sections of the circles (Venn Diagram).


  • Create bird feeders from a variety of materials. Create a bird habitat or garden. Consider
    giving your feeders to nursing homes and children’s homes.

    • Bottle Bird Feeder – Cut a large rectangle from both sides of a large, plastic bleach bottle
      or a 4L milk jug. Fill the bottom with birdseed. Tie string through the handle and around
      the neck of the bottle. Hang outside.
    • Milk Carton Bird Feeder – Cut windows from the opposite sides of a milk carton leaving 2”
      at the bottom. To make a perch for the bird, place a pencil through the sides of the carton
      at the bottom. Punch a hole in the top. Tie string through hole and make loop. Paint if you would like. When paint is dry, place birdseed in the bottom of carton. Hang outside
    • Pine Cone Bird Feeder – Tie a piece of string to a pine cone and form a loop with the remaining string. Roll tips of pine one in peanut butter or honey. When covered, roll the pine one in some birdseed. Cover it with plastic wrap if children are going to take the bird feeder home. Hang outside.
    • Doughnut Bird Feeder – Punch a tiny hole in the center of two plastic lids. Place a doughnut in between the lids. Tie a knot in one end of a piece of string. Thread other end through lids and doughnut. Tie the loose end of the string to a tree.
    • Potato Chip Can Bird Feeder – Cut two triangular-shaped holes in the opposite sides of a potato chip can. Make bottom sides of the triangles parallel to the bottom and 1” from the bottom of can. Punch two holes in the top of the can on the opposite sides. Lace string through the holes. Tie string in a loop. Place birdseed in bottom of can. Hang outside.
  • Provide students with crayons, markers and paper cut into squares. Show students how to make an origami bird – duck or crane, etc. Have students take turns writing the steps on the board for the class to follow again later. Ask students to make as many as they wish during the class period, leaving enough time to decorate with the crayons or markers.


  • Provide year-round water sources for birds. Make sure your containers are scrubbed and refilled each day to reduce changes for birds to become diseased.
  • Place nesting material outdoors such as short pieces of yarn (6 inches or less), hair or grass clippings.
  • Construct life sized silhouettes of birds of prey and affix them to windows. Birds often fly into windows because the reflection of trees and clouds makes windows appear to be openings in the walls. This is an excellent way for students to learn about the actual sizes of these formidable birds.
  • Discuss the effect of pollution on birds. Obtain one large bowl, one measuring cup, water, cooking oil, different dishwashing detergents, paper towels or a piece of cloth, sponges, string. Have students divide into groups of three (or as class size logically permits). Each group will do the following: Fill half of the bowl with water. Measure ¼ cup of oil and pour into the bowl of water. Gently shake the bowl to create ‘waves.’ Did the oil and the water mix? The first group should try to clean up the oil using paper towel or cloth. The second group should use string to make a border around the oil and try to drag the oil to one side of the bowl. The third group should use the sponge to try to soak up the oil. The fourth group should try to clean up the oil with each kind of detergent. Have students discuss some things they can do to reduce pollution. As an extension, introduce some feathers into the oil and discuss oiled birds and how they can be cleaned.
  • Discuss the impact of urban sprawl and habitat loss on birds. Discuss bird species that have adapted well to human (urban) habitat and why it is important for some to adapt. Are there species that do not adapt? What happens to those birds?

Language Arts

  • Have students complete a word search related to birds. Go to for a search with a variety of bird names.
  • Have students look up the word “duck” in the dictionary. Discuss the different in meanings between its noun and verb use. Give students about ten minutes to write down as many sentences as they can with the most varied or creative uses of the word “duck.” Then ask them
    to share some of their sentences with the class.
  • Learn new vocabulary words related to birds: thermoregulation, incubation, dehydrating, shaft, contour feather, vane, molting, preening, barbs, barbule, cavity, warm-blooded, camouflaged, metabolic rate, down feather, calcium carbonate. Create a space where students can post terms and phrases and draw attention to new words. Possible topics include: identification and nomenclature, territory, courtship, nest-building, breeding, plumage (molts), seasonal movement, bird and human interactions (urban, pollinators, agriculture).
  • Write letters to ornithologists, gardeners, companies, etc., to find out more information. Present new information in the form of a radio show, journal article, newspaper, letter to the editor or a web site. Researching about a bird can lead to writing a children’s story, poem or creating a puppet show based on factual research.
  • Teach children how to read critically for facts and main ideas. Compare web sites, text books, and journals – how can you tell what is accurate? Look at children’s literature about birds, how much is fact? Is there a problem with what they find out? What could they do about it? The class could re-write the book with corrections to make it more accurate.
  • What are students seeing in the media about birds? Look in newspapers, television, the radio, and internet. Create a bulletin board, “what’s flying the world around us?”
  • Write a story or develop a journal where the author is a migrating bird. Include illustrations. Some suggested point to include could be:
    • The urge to fly
    • Numbers of birds preparing for migration; mostly young, inexperienced flyers that may not complete the migration
    • Eating like crazy to increase fat reserves
    • Waiting for proper weather (low pressure – rain and cold) to head south
    • Losses of flock before heading south due to predation, starvation, poisons, etc.
    • Cruising at heights around 4,000 feet and appearing on airport radar screens
    • Flying at speeds up to 30 mph and distances of 270 miles per day
    • Reviewing a map and selecting resting locations that include food and cover
    • Hazards encountered during light such as power lines and ice storms
    • Arrival on the winter grounds; where; when; losses occurring due to starvation, loss of habitat, predation (animals) and hunting (man)


  • Research/discuss the theory of evolution of birds and how birds are related to reptiles /dinosaurs.
  • Learn about the classifications and families of birds. Using field guides, show how birds are split into families based on physical characteristics. The most ‘primitive’ birds are depicted first in the books; ducks are more primitive than owls, which are more primitive than sparrows.
  • Have students build a key of birds. A key consists of opposite statements. It begins with general characteristics and ends with characteristics which differentiate two similar species.
  • Have students build a key of classmates using characteristics such as boys/girls, color of hair, length of hair, color of eyes, hometown and does/doesn’t have a dog. As the principal to come into the class and, using the key, locate one particular student.
  • Have students classify and sort the birds commonly seen on the school ground. Discuss similarities and differences of the birds such as habitat needs and how they obtain food.
  • How and why can birds fly? How do airplanes fly? What are their similarities and differences?
  • Compare the bone structure of birds to humans. What about the anatomy of the human body compared to birds? What makes a bird a bird? How are birds’ senses and sensory organs different from those of humans?
  • For a fun poetic movement activity for 1-3 grade students to learn about the parts of bird
    anatomy, go to


  • Research population trends of the bald eagle and other birds since pioneer settlement using bar graphs to show increasing or decreasing trends.
  • Wildlife populations are valuable for a variety of reasons. Select a bird species and research and discuss its values in the following categories: cultural, ecological, economic, educational, scientific, historical, recreational, aesthetic, symbolic, intrinsic and ethical.
  • Invite speakers from the Peregrine Fund, MK Nature Center or Zoo to discuss birds and birding. Ask for a banding demonstration.
  • Read about the artist John James Audubon (1785-1851) and how he chronicled the birds of North American in his paintings and lithographs. Research other famous ornithologists and what contributions they have made: Alexander Wilson (1766-1813), Cordelia Stanwood (1865-1958).
  • Where are birds from? What kinds of diseases do they carry, what role have they played in history? What were some early beliefs, traditions, or stories about birds? How did some birds get introduced to the United States?
  • Create a survey to find out about people’s attitudes toward birds. Survey students, parents and neighbors. Share your findings in the school newspaper.

Post-Visit Activity: MAKE IT!

To extend the ArtReach experience and connect the visit to your curriculum,
please consider using or adapting this suggested lesson.

Bird Prints


The ArtReach visit gives students the opportunity to create imaginary or naturalistic representations of birds using oil pastels and canvas. This lesson exposes students to another process for creating an image of a bird through printmaking. Printmaking is a perfect process for creating multiples for the production of classroom books, etc. This is an ideal lesson for involving parent volunteers who can assist at each station.


  • Photos of birds
  • 8 ½” x 11”paper
  • 6” x 9” paper
  • Pencils
  • Scratch Art Foam 6×9” – one for each student
  • Water soluble block printing ink
  • Sheets of Plexiglas
  • Brayers


Inking station (brayers, ink, Plexiglas)
Paper station for pulling prints


Demonstrate these procedures for the students before they begin their drawings and prints.

  • Show the Borofsky print to the students again. This is a type of print. Student will be
    creating a print using a different type of printmaking technique, but with similar final results.
  • Have students draw their birds – simple line drawings work best – on the 6” x 9” paper.
  • Once the drawings are the way they like them, have students place the drawings over the 6” x 9” Scratch Art Foam sheets (printing plates) and draw over the top of the drawings with their pencils. (Pencils that are not too sharp work best to prevent pressing through the foam.) Students should make impressions in the foam so they can feel the impressions with their fingers, but should not press all the way through.


  • Advise the students in advance that the final print will be backwards and in reverse of their drawing. (This is especially important for any numbers or letters.)
  • Everywhere the student makes a pencil mark with be white in the final print and every where there are no pencil marks will be white.
  • If students wish to have the final print turn out the way the original drawing was created, have them turn the original drawing over and trace it on the back of the paper and then trace that drawing onto the foam.
  • Have a separate station set up for students to ink their printing plates (Scratch Art Foam).
  • Put a small amount of black water soluble block printing ink on the Plexiglas (some teachers have also successfully used baking sheets which contain the ink with its rims).
  • Roll the brayer through the ink so that the brayer is covered with ink and the ink begins to make a ‘sticky’ sound. (The objective is not to cover the Plexiglas or the baking sheets, just the brayer)
  • Roll the brayer over the foam until it is well covered.
  • Move the foam to a clean table (so the ink from the inking table does not transfer to the paper)
  • Center the 8 ½ x 11 paper over the top of the foam and press firmly over the entire foam.
  • Hold one edge of the paper while peeling from the opposite corner to ‘pull the print.’
  • You may re-ink the plate and pull multiple prints of from the same piece of foam.
  • Once you are finished making prints, the foam may be rinsed in the sink and dried with a paper towel.
  • The brayers and Plexiglas (or cookie sheets) should be washed in the sink before the ink
  • Prints will need to sit overnight to completely dry.




  • Aigner-Clark, Julie. Baby Einstein: Birds. 2002. Hyperion.
  • Johnson, Angela. Mama Bird, Baby Birds. 1994. Orchard Books.
  • Massie, Diane Redfield. The Baby Beebee Bird. 2003. HarperTrophy.
  • Mazzola, Frank. Counting Is for the Birds. 1997. Charlesbridge Publishing.

Ages 4-8

  • Arnold, Caroline. Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines. 2003. Charlesbridge Publishing.
  • Boring, Mel. Birds, Nest, & Eggs. 1998. Northword Press.
  • Brandt, Deanna. Bird Log Kids: A Kid’s Journal to Record Their Birding Experiences. 1998. Adventure Publications.
  • Domnauer, Teresa. Odd Birds. 2007. School Specialty Publishing.
  • Gallo, Frank. Bird Calls. 2001. Innovative Kids.
  • Gans, Roma. How Do Birds Find Their Way. 1996. HarperTrophy.
  • Garelick, May. What Makes a Bird a Bird? 1995. Mondo Publishing.
  • Hoglund, Rudy. Roger Tory Peterson’s Colors: A Book for Beginner Bird Watchers and Crayon Users. 2002. Universe Publishing.
  • LeTord, Bijou. A Bird or 2: A Story About Henry Matisse. 1999. Eerdmans Books.
  • McLerran, Alice. The Mountain That Loved a Bird. 2000. Aladdin.
  • Pallotta, Jerry. The Bird Alphabet Book. 1989. Charlesbridge Publishing.
  • Rockwell, Anne. Our Yard Is Full of Birds. 1992. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.
  • Mary Lyn Ray. Welcome, Brown Bird. 2004. Harcourt Children’s Books.
  • Sills, Cathryn, About Birds: A Guide for Children. 1997. Peachtree Publishers.
  • Visca, Curt. How to Draw Cartoon Birds. 2003. PowerKids Press.

Ages 9-12

  • Ames, Lee J. Draw 50 Birds: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Chickadees, Peacocks, Toucans, Mallards, and Many More of Our Feathered Friends. 1996. Main Street Books.
  • Davies, Jacqueline. The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon. 2004. Houghton Mifflin.
  • DK Publishing. Bird (DK Eyewitness Books). 2004. DK Children.
  • Harrison, George. Backyard Bird Watching for Kids: How to Attract, Feed, and Provide Homes for Birds. 1997. Willow Creek Press.
  • Kelley, Ellen A. My Life as a Chicken. 2007. Harcourt Children’s Books.
  • Thornhill, Jan. I Found a Dead Bird: The Kids’ Guide to the Cycle of Life and Death. 2006. Maple Tree Press.


  • Hickman, Pamela. Birds of Prey Rescue: Changing the Future for Endangered Wildlife. 2006. Firefly Books.
  • Hoose, Phillip. The Race to Save the Lord God Bird. 2004. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • Landau, Elaine. State Birds: Including the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. 1992. Franklin Watts.
  • Larosa, Dominic. How to Build Everything You Need for Your Birds. 1973. Larosa Publishing.
  • Latimer, Jonathan. Birds of Prey (Peterson Field Guide/Young Naturalists). 1999. Houghton
  • Saunders, Mary Chloe Schoolcroft. Spread Your Wings and Fly: An Origami Fold-And-Tell Story. 2001. Bear Club Books.
  • Snedden, Robert. What is a Bird? 1997. Sierra Club Books for Children.