Teacher's Corner

Background Standards Objectives Students


Birds are indicators of environmental health. Many species indicate the results of human interaction and environmental changes. In simple terms, birds represent the "litmus paper of the environment."

Birds are capable of traveling incredible distances in their migratory movements. For example, the Black Poll Warbler flies 2,550 miles non-stop in 4 days and nights. Wetlands play an important role in replenishing the incredible energy reserves that birds need to complete their journey. In human terms, these birds often find filthy rest stops, empty gas stations, and motels with no vacancy signs.

It is very important that students propose the questions to investigate causes and possible solutions to the population decline. To get students started you could pose questions like:
Why have birds been termed "environmental indicators"?, or
What are some of the things that have been done to counteract conditions that adversely affect birds?

For additional background and activities about population studies in bird species, or environmental impacts in wetlands the following teaching resources are suggested:
Project Wild - Aquatic
NatureScope - Birds, Birds, Birds and Wading In to Wetlands
The Green Box
A Child's Place in the Environment
O'Dell Lake by MECC


This lesson addresses the following California Science Content Standards.

Grade 6

Life, Earth, & Physical Sciences

5a: Energy entering ecosystems as sunlight is transferred by producers into chemical energy through photosynthesis, and then from organism to organism in food webs.

5b: Over time, matter is transferred from one organism to others in the food web, and between organisms and the physical environment.

5c: Populations of organisms can be categorized by the functions they serve in an ecosystem.

5e: The number and types of organisms an ecosystem can support depends on the resources available and abiotic factors, such as quantity of light and water, range of temperatures, and soil composition.

Investigation & Experimentation

7b: Select and use appropriate tools and technology (including calculators, computers, balances, spring scales, microscopes, and binoculars) to perform tests, collect data, and display data.

7c: Construct appropriate graphs from data and develop qualitative statements about the relationships between variables.

7d: Communicate the steps and results from an investigation in written reports and verbal presentations.

7e: Recognize whether evidence is consistent with a proposed explanation.


In this lesson, students in grades 5-12 should be able to accomplish the following:


  • Students will use the Internet to conduct background research, analyze data, and explore environmental problems associated with the depletion of shorebird populations.

  • Students will formulate questions, choose possible solutions to a problem and demonstrate their findings through student designed investigations.

  • Students will ultilize problem solving skills in "defining," "generalizing," "comparing and contrasting," "predicting," and "infering."

  • Students will understand the role of shorebirds . . .
    i.e. as a food source biological control agent (insect control, etc...)

  • Objectives

  • Students are able to use the Internet to search and find information.

  • Students are able to communicate with others electronically.

  • Students are able to identify environmental factors affecting shorebird populations.

  • Students are able to describe migratory hazards and factors that shorebirds face.

  • Students are able to work together cooperatively.

  • Students are able to present their findings.


    Here are some suggested activities to do as further investigations related to this topic.

    Back to SCORE Science