The Return of the Birds!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Seasons (Spring), Birds (Migration)

Mathematics – Fractions, Social Studies – Map Skills

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Charley Harper, Giacomo Balla, Bouchra Khalili

Abstraction, Illustration, Shapes (Geometric and Organic), Printmaking (Silkscreening)

When I’m talking about the birds here, I’m not talking about a sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s  movie “The Birds”. Nor am I talking about the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. I’m talking about real physical birds that return in spring. We all know that robins are famous for returning this time of year, but they aren’t the only ones. From my little house on a creek, I’ve noticed the osprey are back in full force. We counted five flying around just the other day. If you are interested in what birds are returning to your area, check out this website. So, if you are interested in spicing up your seasonal or bird unit, this is the post for you.

In my last post, I wrote about spring blossoms. One of the suggested blossom branch lessons (found here)  talked about adding Charley Harper inspired birds. Harper was a painter, printmaker, illustrator who created birds and animals from simplified shapes. Check out the ways he simplified his subjects here and here. Can your students identify the geometric shapes (named shapes found in mathematics) and organic shapes (shapes that don’t have names and remind us of objects in nature)?  What would you say is Harper’s favorite bird shape? Might it be the teardrop shape?  If you happen to be studying birds and fractions at the same time, use Harper as an inspiration and try out this lesson.

I also love Charley Harper because he often shows his birds in motion. The first artists to try to emulate motion in paintings were called Futurists. Below note how Giacomo Balla repeats legs and the dog’s tail in “Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash” to show motion.


Now look back at the works by Charley Harper here and here to see how he repeats straight lines, curved lines and sometimes shaped outlines to create the illusion of bird movements. Find a moving bird lesson here. Students could also create collaged moving birds in a spring theme. Students could brainstorm bird actions (flying to a nest to feed their babies, flying to a bird house, birds splashing in a bird bath or puddle, taking off or landing). Next, they could create their bird bodies and heads from cut and glued basic shapes. Last, students can print the wings over and over again using the edges of straight cardboard or toilet paper rolls in the construction method found in this lesson, or this lesson. If you’d like to make a 3D version of a moving bird use this lesson as an inspiration.

I was going to end this post here, but WAIT. WAIT! Isn’t this post about birds returning in spring? And isn’t that migration? I’ve seen a lot of artworks on Pinterest and in local galleries created on maps. So, if you have some old road maps hanging around, simply create a flock of moving birds on said maps. You can use the bird making method outlined in the above paragraph. Also, migration reminds me of an exhibit I saw this past weekend at the MOMA in NYC. I walked into the museum to see eight tv monitors depicting hands tracing routes on maps with sharpies. I just had to check this out.  I discovered that The Mapping Journey Project” by Bouchra Khalili depicts African refuges recording their stories of migration to freedom. You can read more about this exhibit here. With this exhibition in mind, students could record a specific species of bird’s migration on maps then add a flock of the birds around the journey line. Or they could even draw the route as tiny moving birds traveling along their route like ants on a log. If you are really ambitious, students could create the 3D bird sculpture mentioned above and use it in a stop motion movie to show migration on a map. After all, film making was one of the next steps in showing movement in art history. If you are up to the challenge, check out this post.

So, now I think I can end this post. Can any of these ideas enhance one of your science, mathematics, or social studies units? Let me know what you think. Simply highlight this post’s title, scroll down to the bottom to leave a comment.

Stop by again real soon!


One comment

  1. Jeanne Carter · May 1, 2016

    I like this


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