Topic: Birds

1st Grade, Art & Literacy Curriculum Set



In this project, student artists learn about how scientists use drawing in their field research. They focus their studies on the ornithologist John Audubon . He was notable for his extensive studies documenting all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats. He eventually produced a book called ‘Birds of North America’ which contained 435 life-sized watercolours of North American birds, all reproduced from hand-engraved prints. 

Students begin the project by creating ‘field sketches’ through which they learn the basics of observation drawing. They then pick an animal figurine of their choice, draw it from observation, study the habitat of the animal, create an accurate background for their drawing, and then turn the drawings into a series of prints. 





Copy paper for pages in a sketchbook, colored or construction paper for a cover, stapler, pencils, sharpeners, erasers, botanical examples (e.g., flowers, leaves, etc.), scissors, copy paper & styrofoam printing plates of equal size, *animal figurines, tape, ball point pens. 

Optional (L1): colored pencils, magnifying glasses 

Group printmaking stations that include: Breyer (one clean and one for inking), **printing tray,*** printing ink, ****a selection of printing paper 

*Use a selection of print-outs for students to look at if unable to get animal figurines (figurines can often be found in science kits, or in play sets. Consider asking the science teacher, or having students bring in animal figurines/toys from home). 

**Something flat and non-porous, such as a Styrofoam lunch tray, a piece of laminated wood, a piece of plastic or glass, or an extra styrofoam printing plate. 

***Your choice of color(s)

****Printing paper should be paper available in quantity—it can simply be copy paper or construction paper, or you can purchase specialty printing paper from online retailers 


  • L3: (optional) Printouts of Habitat examples 


L3: (optional): 

A collection of Books about locations/habitats:

-Web of Life series by Madeline Dunphy

  • Here Is the Southwestern Desert (Web of Life)
  • Here is Antarctica
  • Here is the Coral Reef
  • Here is the African Savanna
  • Here is the Southwestern Desert
  • Here is the Wetland 
  • Here is the Tropical Rainforest

-Planet Earth: As You’ve Never Seen It Before

-National Geographic Kids Bird Guide Of North America, 2nd Edition

-National Geographic: Oceans

Alternatively (or additionally), allow students to research on their own computers/tablets. 


Text Set:

Text Sets support all learners, especially those with background knowledge or vocabulary deficits, by building up these domains through a volume of reading on Science, Social Studies, and other high interest topics. You can learn more about building and using text sets here. 

The texts listed below have been pulled from,, El Education modules, and resources referenced in text sets from based on their connection to the topics addressed in this lesson.  Texts listed are at a variety of reading levels and could be read aloud or printed/provided for students to read, depending on the needs of the readers in your classroom. These texts are not integrated into the lessons; they are an optional extension, and listed here as a reference for educators interested in building their student’s background knowledge around the project’s core topic. 

ISBN/Website  Title  Author Type ‘Birds’, Article a Day Collection Various Article/Non-fiction The American Bird Susan LaBella Article/Non-fiction A Really Big Bird Readworks Article/Non-fiction Caught on Camera: The greater bird-of-paradise By bioGraphic, adapted by Newsela staff Article/non-fiction Poo-Poo Project saves birds and makes people laugh By Atlas Obscura, adapted by Newsela staff Article/non-fiction Researchers use museum bones to study extinct flightless dodo bird By AFP, adapted by Newsela staff Article/non-fiction Scientists study how to save birds’ rest stops during migration By NASA, adapted by Newsela staff Article/non-fiction Racing pigeon sold for more than a million dollars By Atlas Obscura, adapted by Newsela staff Article/non-fiction
1452131481 An Egg is Quiet  by Dianna Aston Book/non-fiction This is a Bird By Katherine Page Book/non-fiction Birds By Chuck Garafano Book/non-fiction
1561454745 A Place for Birds  by Melissa Stewart Book./non-fiction
141693359X City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male by Meghan McCarthy Book/non-fiction
*see also the texts listed as ‘optional’ within the Books/Media part of the lesson. While these are incorporated into the lesson itself as an optional extension, they would make useful additions to a text set. 


Tier 2 (academic vocabulary) words appear in many different contexts and are often subtle or precise ways to say relatively simple things, for example “relative” or “accumulate”. We’ve determined several rich Tier 2 vocabulary used in this lesson by analyzing the language used in the project’s video lessons through Achieve the Core’s ‘Academic Word Finder’. Vocabulary instruction is critical for students as they develop reading, writing, and oral language skills.  We recommend supporting students’ understanding of these words by using them in conversation, reinforcing them in discussion, and encouraging student use of new words, More information is available here.  

Access the full file, with definitions, here. 

  • Share
  • Object
  • Working
  • Shape
  • Connected
  • Recover
  • Match
  • Success
  • Couple
  • Print
  • Copy
  • Double
  • Pressure


Tier 3 words are vocabulary words that address specific content in the lessons, or are related to the Visual Arts. Tier 3 words are central to building knowledge and conceptual understanding within the various academic domains should be used and reinforced throughout the teaching of these lessons.

  • Field Sketch 
  • Observation Drawing 
  • Habitat
  • Printing plate
  • Breyer
  • Print



Level: Lower Academy





W.1.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects 

W.1.8 With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question. 

Lesson 3, researching their animal’s habitat. 


SL.1.1a Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions. 

SL.1.1b Build on others’ talk in conversations by responding to the comments of others through multiple exchanges

SL.1.2 Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.

Lessons 1-4: discussing the inspiration image, Lessons 1-5: student artwork presentations  

SL.1.1c Ask questions to clear up any confusion about the topics and texts under discussion. 

SL.1.3 Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to gather additional information or clarify something that is not understood.

SL.1.5 Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings. 

Lessons 1-5: student artwork presentations



2.G.1 Recognize and draw shapes having specified attributes, such as a given number of angles or a given number of equal faces. Identify triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes. 

Supporting this in Lesson 1 & 2 when identifying the shapes that make up an object or animal



  • Mathematics
    • identifying shapes
  • Science
    • how scientists use field research and what scientific observation looks like
    • easily support science lessons on plants/flowers/pollinations/etc by providing organic matter that aligns with the matter being studied in class during lesson 1. 
    • Connects to lessons on animals/birds/habitats by providing appropriately aligned figurines in lesson 2
  • U.S. History
    • extending the biography to include John Audubon’s business ventures which were affected by war, as well as his participation in the westward expansion
  • Geography
    • John Audubon traveled all around the country and the paintings could be used to illustrate a variety of regions, most specifically the West. 


Core Content are common topics used all across America to address Social Studies and Science standards. This project supports the following core content in social studies:

Historical Inquiry



Core Content are common topics used all across America to address Social Studies and Science standards. This project supports the following core content in science:

Scientific Inquiry

Organisms -Plants/Animals 


EL Education

EL Education ( ) is an open-source literacy curriculum. 

This art project supports the ideas and learning in the following EL Education Domains:

Grade 1: 

Domain 8: Animals and Habitats

This domain will introduce students to the wonder of the natural world, focusing on the interconnectedness of all living things with their physical environment and with one another. Students will learn what a habitat is and will also learn to identify specific types of habitats and their related characteristics. They will learn to recognize different plants and animals as being indigenous to specific habitats. 

Domain 7: Westward Expansion (this project could easily support this domain with some adaptations: John Audubon’s biography could be expanded to include the Westward expansion). 

This domain will introduce students to an important period in the history of the United States—the time of westward expansion during the 1800s. Students will learn why pioneers were willing and eager to endure hardships to move westward. Students will learn about important innovations in both transportation and communication during that period, which greatly increased the movement of people westward. More specifically, students will learn about Fulton’s steamboat, the Erie Canal, the transcontinental railroad, and the Pony Express. Students will also come to understand the hardships and tragedies that Native Americans endured because of westward expansion. This domain will build the foundation for learning about The U.S.




Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

VA:Cr1.2.1a: Use observation and investigation in preparation for making a work of art. (Lesson 1, creating scientific sketches, Lesson 3, researching a habitat for their anima). 

Anchor Standard 3: Refine and complete artistic work.

VA:Cr3.1.2a: Discuss and reflect with peers about choices made in creating artwork (Lesson 1-5, during artist presentations). 


line, shape/form



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