Welcome, Birds of Prey Club, to our first meeting of this "spring" session. This spring, we plan to learn about navigation and orientation, seeing as this is something that birds tend to be experts in. I plan to gradually build up the sessions to be more complex or include more gadgets. I'm also hoping the mountains of snow will disappear and that flooding won't be too extreme so we can do some geocaching without needing to dig through two feet of snow or wearing hip waders to find the treasure we're seeking.
Today, though, we're starting out with the most primitive of navigation techniques, as we'll do our best to replicate what our feathered friends do. No tools. Just nature.
To link this navigation unit with our beloved Birds of Prey, I did a bit of research to see what humans know about bird navigation. It turns out that humans have not quite unravelled the mystery of how some birds can travel thousands of miles and arrive at their desired destination. I shared the information from this website with the Club to give them an appreciation for how difficult it is to answer the simple question "how do birds navigate?" Fortunately, part of the answer tied directly into our activity.
We moved our discussion outside and I provided each of them with a blank compass and a pencil. I asked the children to tell me what they knew about how people would navigate before the days of compasses and GPS, and guided the conversation to talk of using the sun and the stars, as most birds do. We observed where the sun was in the sky to determine which direction the club members were facing (which was a challenge given that the day was rather overcast). We talked about which directions the sun rises and sets from, as well as where the sun is in the sky in relation to us in the northern hemisphere.
Then we played a short little game where I gave them instructions to move in various directions and they were to complete the movements and determine what shape they had made as they moved from their starting to their finishing positions (the idea for this game came from here). We started with a basic square (3 steps west, 3 steps north, 3 steps east and 3 steps south) and triangle (using the directions of west, northeast and southeast), then moved on to writing letters. I mixed up the letters P-R-E-Y, then asked them to see if they could make up a word with the letters they walked out.
The children were able to cooperatively decide how to spend free time on their own, and the end of the session was very quiet as the clubbers went deep inside their imagination to draw dragons and birds.
I'm looking forward to building a primitive navigation tool at the next meeting!