• Overview
  • Lesson Preview
  • Teaching Materials
  • Bonus Content
  • Background
  • Learning Standards
  • Feedback
  • Credits
  • Acknowledgments
  • Version Notes
  • Overview
  • Lesson Preview
  • Teaching Materials
  • Bonus Content
  • Background
  • Learning Standards
  • Feedback
  • Credits
  • Acknowledgments
  • Version Notes
English (US)

Heard That Bird

A Pop Culture Intro to Birding by Ear

A Pop Culture Intro to Birding by Ear
Sponsored by:
Galactic_PolyMath_First_Sec_Mobile_Info
The Gist:

Students play an interactive gameshow alongside researchers to ID birds singing in video clips. They will learn how to use sound visualizations (spectrograms) and leave class excited to use the free Merlin app to ID birds in their neighborhood.

Target Subject:
Science
Grades:
6-12
Estimated Time:
1 x 45 min. class
Target Subject:
Science
Grades:
6-12
Estimated Time:
1 x 45 min. class
Subject breakdown by standard alignments:Subject breakdown by standard alignments
Subject breakdown by standard alignments
Subject breakdown by standard alignments

Driving Question(s):

  1. What natural sounds surround us as we go about our daily lives?
  2. What can bird sounds teach us about human emotion and communication?
  3. How can spectrograms (sound visualizations) be used to help us identify birds in the environment?

Hook(s):

Students will love playing a gameshow! They will have numerous opportunities to share their own knowledge and observations with each other.

Keywords:
Animal communicationbird songspecies identificationornithologyacoustic
For Lesson 1
What bird is singing in this Taylor Swift song? 🐦 #birdsounds

Teaser: Students will learn terms and techniques for identifying bird sounds in pop culture by playing along with bird researchers!

by Galactic Polymath
For Lesson 1
Heard That Bird? Scientists ID bird sounds in popular media

Full Video: Interweaves with an interactive presentation. Students play along with scientists to get more curious about natural sounds.

by Galactic Polymath
  • What bird is singing in this Taylor Swift song? 🐦 #birdsounds
  • Heard That Bird? Scientists ID bird sounds in popular media

3 x 45 min

Available Grade Bands

Available Teaching Environments

Learning Objectives

Students will able to...

  1. Students will analyze spectrograms to visualize and differentiate sounds.

  2. Students will mirror the process of real scientists to identify bird species.

  3. Students will analyze bird sounds in popular culture to foster curiousity of birds in their daily lives.

Materials for Grades 6-12
  1. Presentation (Lesson 1)

    Need: WiFi, Computer, Projector, Sound

    lesson_tile
  2. Student Worksheet (Lesson 1)

    Print 1 Per Student

    lesson_tile
  3. Teacher Worksheet (Lesson 1)

    Print 1

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Steps & Flow

5 min: Engage

1.

Listening Hook

1.

Listening Hook

Students will listen to two different bird sounds and think about what words or feelings come up.

10 min: Introduce the Game

2.

Play Clip #1: Practice Round

2.

Play Clip #1: Practice Round

During the initial practice round, students will learn the format of the gameshow and be introduced to sound spectrograms.

  • Sound spectrogram: a visual representation of frequencies in a recording over time

25 min: Play the Game

3.

Play Clips #2-5

3.

Play Clips #2-5

During the game, students can keep track of their scores in the Heard that Bird worksheet and play alongside bird song researchers at Vanderbilt University!

5 min: End the Game

4.

Complete Exit Ticket

4.

Complete Exit Ticket

Students will reflect on the game by completing the exit ticket questions on their worksheet.

Students can further test their bird song skills by exploring Cornell University's Bird Song Hero! (see "Going Further")

Going Further

Ideas and resources for deepening learning on this topic.

  1. Cornell University's Bird Song Hero

    This game will further test students' spectrogram skills in identifying bird songs!

  2. Article: The link between birdsong and language

    What can birds teach us about human connection? This article gives us a look into how bird scientists can help us make better sense of linguistics and human culture

  3. Chrome Music Lab: LIVE Spectrogram!

    Click on the microphone tab at this link and enable sound permissions on your browser if asked. Have students visualize their voices in real time! (Use the microphone tab in the app). You can also use Merlin to play bird sounds into your mic to visualize and have students try to mimic them. Opportunities to discuss comparative anatomy of sound producing organs.

  4. Programming your own spectrogram in R

    For students who are familar with programming in R, all the spectrograms for this unit were made in the package dynaSpec. Have students create their own by following the examples on the GitHub page.

  5. Cornell University's Merlin ID App

    Record birds live and ID them based on their songs

  6. The Language of Birds: Video from Cornell's lab of Ornithology

    Allow students to further explore bird communication in detail

  7. Bird Communication k-12 Lesson Plans

    Looking for more lesson plans on birds? Check out these materials

  8. Cornell University's eBird Essentials

    Get your students into nature and collecting data like real scientists with Cornell's eBird project

  9. The Anatomy of Bird Song Presentation

    Dive into the anatomy of bird song with these free slides

  10. The Joys and Challenges of Birding While Black: Video by PBS

    Bird watching is for everyone, but systemic racism in the US means that not everyone has the same experience birding. Learn more about the different experience of birders, and help your students consider ways to make birding more accessible to everyone!

  11. Article: How LA's bird population is shaped by historic redlining and racist loan practices

    Provide your students with a case study to explore how historical and social factors impact bird populations today. Redlined areas have less data samples of birds.Encourage your students to collect data and support a science in urban areas. We need more citizen scientists producing data in our communities!

  12. Article: The Sounds that make us calmer

    Explore the exciting connections between bird sounds, music, and human emotion

Connection to Research

In this lesson, students directly play alongside scientists who are working to better understand bird communication. They see how an undergrad, graduate student, and professor work together and deal with uncertainty. They also learn a few useful terms and approaches for understanding natural sounds.

Research Background

We don’t need to learn how to cry or laugh, but some of our abilities—like speaking a language—we need to learn over time. Like humans, some birds learn to sing and communicate by interacting with others in their community. Nicole Creanza’s lab looks at how these learned singing behaviors came to be, and how they are evolving over time. Learning more about bird communication helps us to better understand our own human language.

Further Reading from Dr. Creanza and colleagues:

Accessible Scientific Article

Learning Standards Chart

This Galactic Polymath Learning Chart illustrates the areas of knowledge covered. This lesson targets Science, but it helps teach national learning standards in 4 subjects:

Click...?below to see how lessons address each standard.

Target Standard(s)

Skills and concepts directly taught or reinforced by this lesson

Dimension: Science & Engineering Practices

How does the lesson address this standard?

Students use spectrograms and mnemonics as models to identify bird species in video clips. In discussions they will construct arguments for which bird is found in each clip.

How does the lesson address this standard?

Students use spectrograms and mnemonics as models to identify bird species.

Connected Standard(s)

Skills and concepts reviewed or hinted at in this lesson (for building upon)

Dimension: Science & Engineering Practices

How does the lesson address this standard?

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How does the lesson address this standard?

skip

How does the lesson address this standard?

Students compare video clips to spectrogram representations of sounds to determine which species of bird is singing. This is an advanced analytical challenge.

Dimension: Developing Questions & Planning Inquiries

How does the lesson address this standard?

By observing how the scientists solved the questions, students will see how scientists work together and might disagree in a productive way

Dimension: Peace and Prosperity

How does the lesson address this standard?

Students will gain curiosity to listen to birds and explore natural sounds in their daily lives. Being connected to nature has been shown to be important to positive mental health by numerous studies.

Please let us know how it went with your class!

We want to know what you (and/or your students) think!

Share your feedback in < 5 min with these forms:

Matt Wilkins, PhD: Hosted and directed video development and managed entire project

Ella Houlihan: Led lesson material development, produced videos

Stephanie Rapciak: Assisted lesson material development, produced videos

Nicole Creanza, PhD: Produced and participated in videos, provided feedback and fact-checking at all stages of development

Heard That Bird Contestants
Clip #8 Bird Detectives

Researchers we consulted to try and unravel the mysterious Taylor Swift bird song clip

  • Jay Love, PhD Research Associate, The University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT
Heard That Bird Alpha Testers

Participants in a test run-through that helped us improve the video tremendously

  • Faiza Hafeez PhD Student, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Lincoln, NE

Major Release Beta

0.1.0 Lesson initialized

January 22, 2024

0.2.0 Unit alpha draft published

April 26, 2024

Major Release 1

1.0.0 First full build, ready for public release!

May 22, 2024