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Beautiful Birds Review by Heather Randall and Kathy Gelzer

By Cindy West ad Melissa Leach
Shining Dawn Books, LLC

Beautiful Birds is one of several NaturExplorer unit studies created by Shining Dawn Books. The 61-page e-book is a collection of projects, ideas, and inspiration for budding ornithologists. It provides many activities that serve as science lessons, nature tools, and inspiration for outdoor study. Students will enjoy learning how to identify birds in their yard by sound. Beautiful Birds also contains lovely notebook pages to record observations, a form for charting the birds that visit your yard, bird anatomy information, art activities, experiments, a nature hunt, bible study suggestions, and so much more. Children will learn tons about birds in a playful and natural setting while exercising their creativity and fine-tuning their observation skills. They will take pleasure in learning to appreciate the unique features of birds. Beautiful Birds is available to download within 24 hours of purchase. The pdf format is easy to download and visually attractive.

Beautiful Birds is designed with elementary students in mind. The range of activities is wide, making it easily adaptable for younger or older grade levels. NaturExplorer unit studies promote an appreciation and understanding of nature by getting children out in it. For example, your children might spend an afternoon tracking the birds that visit your yard. You might also enjoy a peaceful walk while the children hunt for feathers, nests, tracks, bird droppings, and other signs of birds. They could notebook about their findings or use pages to narrate new information they've gathered on the subject of birds. They might enjoy building a bird feeder or learning ways to promote healthy bird environments and features that draw birds in for a visit. You can use pages in order or however you see fit. All types of homeschool methods and styles will find this study helpful. It will be especially appreciated by those using classical, Charlotte Mason, or relaxed approaches to learning. Families that value nature study will find Beautiful Birds to be a wonderful, well-priced resource. Children will enjoy the extremely flexible hands-on learning.

I homeschool with a somewhat eclectic, relaxed style. I'm very influenced by Charlotte Mason's approach, and Beautiful Birds was a wonderful fit with my family. I was so impressed by the quantity and quality of ideas provided at such a low price. The inclusion of a book list, website references, Bible study plans, art, music, and poetry suggestions made it a gold mine of information at my fingertips. My children loved searching the neighborhood for signs of birds (even if we found mostly droppings). We had fun learning new facts about birds while reading about them and observing them in their natural environment. We had fun getting beyond the glossy pages of a science textbook to experience nature first-hand. My family was very satisfied with Beautiful Birds. We will be using other NaturExplorer units in the future.

Product review by Heather Randall, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2010

Another review:

Beautiful Birds is a thorough 60-page e-book unit study on birds, written by two nature-loving homeschool moms. The overall topics included are information about birds, common backyard birds, and bird feeding and observation. Although we typically think of studying birds as a springtime activity, this unit study can be done any time of the year. This is a Biblical study, and it includes Scripture references.

The authors maintain that Beautiful Birds caters to all styles of homeschooling, from unschooling to classical and everything in between. Although the target age group is elementary school, it is adaptable to older and younger students. The appendix contains three articles that the authors suggest parents read first: "Why Study Nature," "Where to Study Nature," and "Gearing Up and Being Safe." I wonder if placing these articles at the beginning of the e-book rather than at the end would reinforce this suggestion.

The book is divided into five main sections. "How to Use This Book" gives some general tips with plenty of leeway. It is difficult to do justice to the bulk of learning opportunities contained in Beautiful Birds, but I will try.

"Getting Started" begins with a Literature Launch listing two recommended books and a link to more bird titles. "Inspiration Point" is a personal note from one of the authors that does indeed get the reader excited about this topic. "A Bit of Background" contains basic scientific information about birds, such as the definition and classification of birds, the definition of ornithologist and birder, the benefits of birds, the number of bird species, and the number of birds in the world. There is also an extensive list of suggestions for bird identification.

"Getting Outside with Birds" provides an introduction to birding, with lots of observation activities that can be facilitated with some of the notebooking pages included in the appendix. Children can go on a scavenger hunt, observe woodpeckers, study a bird's behavior, or map birds in the backyard, for example.

"Branching Out with Birds" contains hands-on activities: creating a bird-friendly yard, making a bird blind, resources for making birdhouses, and birdfeeder instructions. You will also find here how to make a diorama, a poster idea, how to start a feather collection, how to make nesting bags, an eggshell craft, and recipes for bird snacks. Many writing and research ideas (such as comparing birds, labeling bird parts, mapping migration routes, and creative writing assignments) are listed, many of which utilize the notebooking pages given. "Bible Lessons from His Creation" has Biblical bird references and analogies for student analysis.

Here you will also find poetry, art, music, and Internet links. The authors also have suggestions for including younger or older children and co-op or similar group applications of this e-book.

The appendix includes the before-mentioned articles ("Why Study Nature," "Where to Study Nature," and "Gearing Up and Being Safe"), 16 notebooking pages, and how to make a bird unit notebook.

If I could, I would make two changes to Beautiful Birds. Many photos of birds and bird habitats decorate the pages. It would have been helpful to know what particular bird or object is in the photo, but there are no titles or mouse-over names available. Secondly, some of the information is written in the first person. I wish I knew which of the two moms was talking; that would have added a personal touch.

As you can see, this comprehensive treatment of the study of birds will delight both children and grown-ups alike as they embark on the adventure of studying this aspect of God's creation!

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2010