It’s the “best day ever” at Delta Road Preschool in Watsonia, in Melbourne’s north-east. Children have seen some eastern rosellas soaring through the native trees surrounding the kinder.
With binoculars in hand, the entire four-year-old group and teacher Shelli run into the playground, eager to catch a glimpse of these beautiful rainbow-coloured animals.
It doesn’t take you long to realise bird watching is one of the children’s favourite things to do at kindergarten. This year they’ve spotted a few eastern rosellas, plenty of magpies, galahs, rainbow lorikeets and a blue-faced honeyeater. They chart their successes by placing stickers on a specially made bird-watching board in the kinder room.
This group has only recently discovered the wonder of birds, but Shelli said birds have been a big part of the Delta Road curriculum for almost four years. The journey started when a colleague told her about eastern rosellas she’d seen nesting in the kindergarten building.
“The excitement exploded into this amazing world of birds that we are now immersed in at Delta Road,” Shelli said.
Since then, educators have used children’s curiosity to extend their research, exploration and problem-solving skills, all crucial learning outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF).
“This whole bird project has fostered a journey of investigation and intense inquiry. It's about seeing something in its real natural space,” Shelli said.
Through group discussions, speaking with community members, online research and reading bird books and guides, children have learnt about the different bird species, when they visit and how they nest.
These discussions have also led to learning about other topics, including dog names and breeds, the weather, trees and how human children leave home when they grow up, just like magpies’ offspring.
Shelli said the bird project has also been a fantastic way to promote children’s creativity, which is connected to all five learning outcomes in the EYLF.
“This was highlighted when one of the trees the birds used to perch on near the kindergarten got cut down. The children were really sad by the tree being cut down, and … they were expressing their thoughts through their artwork,” she said.
Another example is the striking bird murals painted on the outside of the kindergarten building. The murals, funded by a community grant and painted by a local artist, feature many of the bird species the children have seen at kindergarten.
“The council and the artist came and had meetings with the children about what to paint on the murals,” Shelli said.
“The conversations with the children were amazing, about the birds, clouds and rainbows that you can now see in the murals.”
And where to next for Delta Road’s bird learning journey?
“We’ve started to document what birds we see at each time of the year,” Shelli said.
“So I’m hoping over time we’ll get a calendar with the birds we normally see at different times. We are in the process of purchasing a bird bath to encourage more birdlife into our garden.”