Making bird feeders is a wonderful way to celebrate nature and to teach your lower elementary students to appreciate and care for the Earth and all its creatures! It's a fun project and there are lots of different ways to make them.
Start with Pine Cones
Pinecones are an easy item to craft a bird feeder with. As a matter of fact, if you use a natural cotton or hemp twine to hang them in the trees, you may have an entirely biodegradable product that will not require clean-up later.
Pour birdseed onto large baking sheets. Line the baking sheets first with parchment paper if you want an especially easy clean-up. Then, instruct your students to spread peanut butter on the top of each pinecone "leaf" with a spoon or dull knife. Each student rolls their peanut butter & pinecone creation in the birdseed.
The last step is to tie natural, biodegradable string or twine around the top of each pinecone, and find appropriate places in the trees to hang them.
Start with Cardboard
Another fun way to start a bird feeder is to cut shapes out of cardboard. Circles and stars are nice, some people like to get funny and creative and cut out the shapes of cats or whatever else they think of. Be generous, make sure the cut-outs are 8 to 12 inches across.
Punch a hole in the top of each cut-out. Now the student can spread peanut butter on each side, and press the prepared cardboard shape into the birdseed to coat each side. Loop twine through the hole and hang in trees! Please be mindful that with this method, you may need to gather up what is left of the bird feeders in a month or two.
Start with Milk Jugs
A generous portion can be cut out of a plastic milk jug, and birdseed sprinkled on the bottom of the jug.
I prefer using empty cardboard beverage containers, and cutting a large window out of each side. Regardless of which milk or juice jug you use, birds seem to prefer it when people drill a small hole in the front and back of the bottom of the jug. Then, push a stick through, and leave a good amount of stick length poking out the front of the bird feeder. This gives the birds a comfortable perch to rest upon while they eat.
Whatever type of bird feeder you have made, please bear a few things in mind when placing them. Depending upon where you live, there may be cats or other predators in the area. If you hang a bird feeder near a fence that a cat can perch upon, you may find you have actually made cat feeders, not bird feeders. Make sure you hang the feeders where birds will be safe.
Equally important, hang the bird feeders where your students will be able to see the birds come and eat. If you can hand some of them right outside your classroom window, your students will have ample opportunity to enjoy bird watching and to feel good about what they made.
Also remember that birds will require different foods at different times of year. Try incorporating this bird feeders activity with a lesson on birds preparing for winter.