I must say a huge thank you to Tanya (and her art group) from Belmont Primary School for this fabulous guest post showcasing their fantastic, hand-made bird feeders. Hopefully you'll inspire some other people in other schools to do something similar:
Tetra Pak Bird Houses
Having endured a very wet and windy winter so far, my children and I found that we were filling up our rusting bird-feeder all too frequently this year, and we chatted about how it would be nice if the birds had somewhere colourful, pretty and happy to get their food from and we began to imagine the 5 star Bird feeder and how we could build one. Coincidentally their grandmother had been collecting 20 or so tetra pak cartons for my after school Arts club at BELMONT PRIMARY SCHOOL in Chiswick, london http://www.belmontprimaryschool.org.uk/ and we were looking for ideas as to what to do with them. The two things came together and we built a successful prototype at home with sticks, balsa wood and foam to make it water proof, and decided we should ask my makers and painters at school to build many, many more...
After an email drive among parents to collect more tetra pak cartons, we managed to provide cartons for 40 children at the Arts Club. The children are aged between 5 and 11 and were given a pre-cut tetra pak carton, known as a tetra brick (which is waterproof), some cardboard (pre-cut for the roof), balsa wood (pre-cut for the roof) and a gazillion lollipop sticks, strips of foam and roles of masking tape. They spent the first week building their feeders, roofing them and boarding up the wall with the lolly sticks and attaching the roof hooks with garden wire. There were various levels of difficulty but each child managed to complete the build with only a little assistance.
They produced such variations! bird platforms, square holes, round holes, peaked roofs, crooked roofs, fully slatted walls and bare walls. They then each requested a colour for the foam roof and a bird or flower decoration for the front of their house that was made from carton lids and pizza polystyrene bases. They were glued tight with my glue gun and the foam roofs attached.
The next week, the feeders were returned to be painted and decorated. The children had the choice of all colours under the rainbow and embellished their houses with gusto and care. Some were given stripes, others monochrome and the polystyrene birds were given lives of their own, robins, blue tits, black birds and Jays and the flowers painted with the promise of early spring.
The children took such care building these feeders and they showed such pride in their work and emotion for the birds that would visit them. They each took their feeders home with a cupful of bird feed and a small poster of local birds likely to visit their new feeders.
In their own words.....
Emily: age 5' when I first noticed what we will make I was so excited! I said hip-hip hurray! I first thought that will be tricky to make but when i started to paint it green I just thought I would like to make it as colourful as I can. I put so much paint on is that kept dripping... I wanted just little birds to come because I am afraid the big ones will break it and I spend so much time to making it and I love it too much! I will take it to my grandma's house because she has a big garden and I will try to make pictures about the birds what I would like to come in! '
Anna: age 8'When I first saw Emily's I felt really excited. When I actually made it was tricky at first but when I started to painting it I felt that was easy. When I finished it it looked really good! And I loved it so much! I didn't want big birds to come in it only little birds were allowed.'
' I knew i wanted a red roof because we have lots of robins in our gardens and also to have a small hole so none of the bigger birds could come in and take all the food. It make me really happy to see the little birds jumping in and out of my house'
Sofia: Age 9
First you need a 1 liter tetra pack and you need to cut a medium sized hole close to the bottom but not exactly. Then under that make a little hole by the bottom. After that get two pieces of cardboard that fit on two of the sides for the roof. Then you stick them on. After you need to get two triangular shapes (that are water proof) and stick them on the other sides. Then you can decorate it (for example you could stick small pieces of wood on it and paint it.) After that you need a strong stick of wood and stick that in the little hole you made, the one that is closest to the bottom. Then you can put bird food in it or some small sticks or hang it up. I think it was very fun making the bird house because it is very creative and also you can use It. I recommend making this to 5+ because some parts are a bit hard and fiddly. I was very proud to give it to my Dad on valentines day.
''When I started decorating my bird feeder I was going to paint a bird on it, then I thought this might scare away hungry birds so I painted a flower. I am going to hang it out of the window in my room as I live in a flat in London and don't have a garden to put it in"
"It was really fun making the bird feeder. The fun part was when we painted the bird feeder. The hard part was when we stuck the sticks on the boxes. It took two weeks to make. I painted mine black, yellow, green and red."
Caitlin age 10
"Making birdhouses was really fun. I loved when we painted them. I think the birds will love them. Even though it was challenging, it shows how much we care and love the birds."
Once again, a huge thank you to Tanya and all the children in her art group for not only making these wonderul creations, but also for taking the time to share what they had done with everyone else. Thank you!
If your class, group or club has done something creative with a wildlife theme and you feel like sharing it, please feel free to get in contact. I'm always on the look out for wonderful ideas to show-off!
If you want to turn your garden into a haven for your flapping, fluttering, buzzing, burrowing, snuffling and slithering neighbours, then growing wildflowers is a great place to start. Bumblebees, butterflies, birds and bats (as well as a whole host of other wildlife that start with different letters of the alphabet!) benefit from having them around.
And even better? Planting wildflowers is a great outdoor activity for children too. It gets them out in the fresh air, they learn new skills and get to enjoy watching the seeds they’ve planted come alive.
Interested? Now what if I told you that you could get a wildflower seed kit for free? Well you can! All you need to do is at register at growwilduk.com and they’ll send you a kit that’s been designed to help you grow beautiful wild flowers to provide a haven for bees, butterflies and birds. Each kit contains five bumper packs of seeds, a build-your-own bee house, 2-4-1 entry to Kew Gardens and the chance to win an iPad mini or a fab trip to Go Ape. And all in time so you can get outside and get planting over the Easter holidays!
You need to register by 10 March so what are you waiting for?
At last, all the data from the website and all the data that has been sent via the post has been collated. An enormous thank you to every single school, club, family – every single person that has taken part in this year’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch.
The data will now spend a few weeks with our scientists who will analyse it and find out the top ten birds for 2014 – as well as finding the top ten birds for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It will be interesting to see how the fortunes of our birds have changed since last year.
Whilst we’re all waiting for the results to come out, do remember that if you log onto your account for Big Schools’ Birdwatch you obtain access to some data handling software, allowing you to compare your own data for this year to your data from last year, or, if you didn’t take part last year, to compare this year’s data to the UK average for last year.
The results should be out in a few weeks time. I will be posting a summary on the blog when they are released, and everyone that took part should receive a letter and a free minibeast poster on the same day.
Until then, consider following us on Twitter @RSPB_Learning for our latest education news.
A grey heron, a species recorded by at least three schools during Big Schools' Birdwatch 2014: