Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Goslings walking in the garden.
Goslings in the Garden in April. Photo by Steven Severinghaus.
Children’s Garden from Home
Hello Children’s Garden Families and Friends, 

Welcome back! This week we will continue our exploration of animals by becoming ornithologists (scientists who study birds). In spring, many birds are returning to our neighborhoods from their winter migrations to warmer areas. Let's use our senses and practice some skills that will help us to identify birds.

If you want to know more about the specific birds found in our Brooklyn community, check out our Birds of Brooklyn page with details about the fascinating birds that you might find in your neighborhood. Now read on for more fun lessons and projects!
Video Lesson: Birds
(Ages 2–6, 35 minutes)
Screen shot of a grey cartbird, as part of a video lesson about birds by Emily and Ashley
Bird video lesson by Emily Carter and Ashley Gagñay.
In this week’s video lesson, join Emily and Ashley to learn about birds, make binoculars, create a bird's nest and basket (with a special guest), and check in on our growing experiments. We'll also answer the questions you sent in about transplanting and birdhouses. Keep the questions coming!

We also give special hellos to some of our garden friends. If your child would like a shout out in a future video, just reply to this email with their name.
Let’s Craft: Recycled Cardboard Binoculars
(Ages 2–8, 30 minutes) 
Photo by Emily Carter.
Often, we take our binoculars to the park or look out the window to try to catch a glimpse of some of our favorite city birds. Don’t have binoculars at home? No problem! Let’s create some birding binoculars from materials you are likely to have on hand. These cardboard binoculars don't have the magnification of real binoculars, but they help kids focus their attention, and they're great for imaginative play.

2 toilet paper rolls (or a paper towel roll cut in half), decorating materials like markers or collage materials, scissors, string or yarn, a hole punch, tape

Start by decorating your toilet paper rolls with markers or collage materials. Get creative and make your binoculars as colorful or unique as you like. Once your two toilet paper rolls are dry and able to be handled, use tape, glue, or rubber bands to connect the rolls together side by side. They will start to look like binoculars!

Use a hole punch or a pencil to make holes on the outer sides of each toilet paper roll. Tie string through the hole so that you can hang your binoculars around your neck. Peek through! What do you see?
Photos by Ellen McCarthy.
Let’s Investigate: Bird Watching
(All ages, 1 hour nature walk) 
Baltimore Oriole seen earlier this month in the garden. Photo by Steven Severinghaus.
Baltimore oriole seen earlier this month in the Garden. Photo by Steven Severinghaus.

Now that you have binoculars, add this bird watching guide into your garden journal and take a nature walk outside to note how many birds you see or hear. Or, look out your window and see what birds you can spot.

Keep an eye out for color, wing shape, flight pattern, and feather placement to help identify birds. But many birds are small, fast, or able to use camouflage to hide in their surroundings. That means that our ears can also be a helpful tool for identifying birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a wonderful website to help us learn about birds and listen to their calls!
Let’s Build: A Bird's Nest and Clay Bird
(Ages 4–10, 1 hour) 
natural materials gathered to resemble a bird's nest
bird's nest made of mud and dried grasses
bird's nest craft made at home
Photos by Ellen McCarthy.
If you can get outside, gather a few handfuls of twigs and dried grasses. Maybe you can find a muddy spot. Stick the twigs into the mud in a bowl shape, and then wind the grasses in and out between the sticks to make your nest. Robins use mud at the base of their nests to bind them together. Chickadees and wrens love to collect soft materials to build their nests in bird houses or tree cavities.

If you can’t get outside, you can adapt this idea using everyday crafting materials from your home.  

Paper bowl or cup, newspaper, paper, recycled packaging material, clay, yarn, ribbon, string, scissors

Make a nest out of a paper bowl or cup, cutting the sides of the bowl or cup into strips and then weaving yarn, ribbon, or string in and out to make the nest. Try to find something soft to put in the bottom of your nest. If you want to sculpt a bird or eggs for your nest, you can make a batch of air-dry clay from cornstarch, glue, vegetable oil, and lemon juice. 

Here's a handy instruction sheet for both the the nest and clay projects. 

For older children who want to learn more about animal (and human) nests, check out this article
Let’s Cook: Coconut Bird's Nest Cookies
(All ages with adult supervision, 40 minutes)
ingredients for cookies: coconut, maple syrup, vanilla, flour, etc.
ingredients in a bowl
cookies on a plate
Photos by Ellen McCarthy.
These cookies resemble a little bird’s nest, with jam in the center. Use any jam or preserves you have on hand, and/or decorate with seeds or nuts as eggs in the nests.

3 cups shredded (or flaked) sweetened coconut
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
2 ½ tablespoons water
1 tablespoon maple syrup
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
3–4 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Jam or preserves (try raspberry, blueberry, or peach)
Optional: Edible seeds or nuts for decoration (sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Blend the shredded coconut in a blender or food processor, mixing and scraping the sides down as needed, until the texture is not quite coconut butter. When pinched, the coconut should stick together. In a bowl, combine the blended coconut, melted coconut oil, water, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and flour. Mix well. The mixture should hold together easily. Add a touch more flour or water if needed.

Scooping one tablespoon of dough at a time, roll into balls and set on cookie sheet. Press your thumb gently into the center of each cookie (the indent should be wide and shallow). If needed, gently re-form and compact the edges of the cookies after indenting with your thumb. Fill each indentation with ½ teaspoon of your favorite jam or preserves.

Bake for 1214 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown. The cookies will be very soft; decorate with nuts or seeds as "eggs" in the nests, then allow them to cool completely before eating. Makes 18 cookies.
Learning the names of just a few birds can be a powerful way for children to start to notice more and more rich layers of the natural world around them. As usual, please feel free to share any projects with us and update us on any interesting bird identifications you may have made! Stay safe and healthy.

All the Best,
Emily, Ellen, Ashley, and Greta
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