Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2014

All About Bird Biology

Stellar videos and games fill a narrow but rich niche in the classroom

Subjects & skills
  • Science

  • Critical Thinking
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5 images

Pros: Vivid videos and fun games let users dive deep into biology, evolution, and conservation.

Cons: Without lesson plans or links to learn more, the content isn’t easy to bring into the classroom.

Bottom Line: Engaging images and info, but more explicit education connections would make this classroom-ready.

Use this to engage kids who love nature: Share the link on your classroom website as an option for students to check out on their own. Build a lesson on bird song using the free slides and the articles and interactives, especially Bird Song Hero. Use the articles, interactives, or videos within lessons on evolution, comparative anatomy, or animal behavior. For example, students can explore the evolution of feathers over time by reading articles on feather anatomy or by doing the All About Feathers interactive. Use the filters in the video library to search for the most relevant clips.

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All About Bird Biology is a collection of articles, videos, and activities about bird anatomy, behavior, and adaptations from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Resources include interactives, articles, slides, videos, and two brief courses on how to “be a better birder.” The video library is the most extensive portion of the website: Users can browse the video library to find clips like “Real Angry Birds: Sharp-Tailed Grouse Battle” or “How a Parrot Learns Its Name in the Wild.” Users can also filter the more than 90 videos by theme, like Behavior, Conservation, and Evolution.

The three articles and three interactives cover feathers and bird songs in detail, and include a game called Bird Song Hero. The Slides are a free downloadable PowerPoint presentation that offers further detail on bird songs, while the two Courses are only available for a fee.

These videos and articles are jam-packed with detail for nature lovers, and some (like the Natural & Sexual Selection animation) could be helpful in biology or anatomy class. Visuals are clear and concise; however, in an effort to keep videos short, some important concepts get glossed over a little too quickly, and some kids may come away with misconceptions. If you use this resource, unpack the content afterward to ensure that students aren't confused.

Unfortunately, some interactives don't require much interaction; for example, All About Bird Song is simply a series of live video clips with text passages. Other interactives, like Bird Song Hero, are better. In that activity, students listen to songs and select a spectrogram that matches, and they can get immediate feedback on their multiple-choice selections. While Bird Song Hero builds critical-thinking skills, keep in mind that the content is beyond the scope of the Next Generation of Science Standards. Overall, All About Bird Biology is a great resource for nature enthusiasts who want to become better birders, but using these resources in the classroom will require more context and guidance from a teacher.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Kids who love birds will be sucked in, but a general audience may have a tougher time getting engaged.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Users dig deep into accurate bird anatomy, behavior, and evolution. Some activities provide opportunities for kids to think critically about content, while others simply dispense information.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Text, video, and simulations make content accessible for a wide range of learning needs. For users who want more, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a community engaged in studying and conserving birds.

Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

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