Lesson Plan: Building Nests


Based on the article “Birds Flock to New Home in Texas

Click here for a printable PDF version of this lesson.


Objective: To identify habitats that make nest-building more successful for birds.

Overview: Students will experiment with different nest-building materials representing two different environments. One environment will have very few materials available, representing a mine area before reclamation; while another will have better nest-building materials, representing a reclaimed mine area.

Standards Addressed: National Science Education Standards: Content Standard C

  • As a result of activities in grades 4-5, all students should develop understanding of
    • The characteristics of organisms
    • Life cycles of organisms
    • Organisms and environments


  • Paper or foam trays or plates
  • White glue or mud (made from mixing potting soil and water until the consistency of pudding)
  • Small sticks, pine needles, dried leaves, grass, etc. (from outside)
  • Feathers (from craft store, in natural colors if available)
  • Yarn
  • Cotton balls
  • Rocks or gravel

Activity Steps:

  1. Students will be put in pairs, with two trays or plates per pair. First, each pair will only be able to use the glue, mud, rocks, or gravel. This is simulating a bird trying to build a nest on an existing mine. After they try to build a nest with mud and rocks, allow them to use the glue, mud, outdoor materials, feathers, yarn, and cotton balls to make a second nest. This will simulate nest building in a reclaimed area.
  2. The task is to use the materials available to build a nest. The first nest will be more difficult than the nest that uses the lighter and more varied materials.
  3. Allow the nests to dry overnight.
  4. Then have the following discussion.
    • Which nests are likely to be more successful for the birds? Why?
    • Which nests do you think are better for birds to lay their eggs in? Why? Be sure the delicate nature of eggs and their need for soft, protective nests is mentioned.
    • What do birds need in order to live? Students should mention resources like food and water, and places to hide from predators.
    • Guide the students to realize that a reclaimed mine area makes a much better habitat for a bird than a working mine area.
  5. Have the students write an advertisement for their nest. Which of the two nests they built would be more appealing for birds looking for a place to live, and why?