In the winter, we love to study cold weather animals. This activity allows us to start by studying penguins and end by studying our own native birds that stay through the winter.
Near the end of each fall, we collect pine cones to use for different projects throughout the winter. The key to collecting pine cones is to do so on a dry afternoon. Moisture and precipitation can cause the pine cones to close. If you’ve waited until a wet day, though, you can still open the pine cones with a simple trick. Collect the closed cones and spread them out on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to about 350 degrees and put the pine cones inside. Closely watch the pine cones. Once they start to dry out they will begin to open. Make sure to keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven once they open.
This project takes a few basic materials that will be easy to purchase at a big box or grocery store.
- 1 pine cone per student
- 2 large Popsicle sticks per student, cut in half
- 2 large googly eyes per student
- 1 baby carrot per student
- 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter per student
- Bowl of light colored bird seed
- Bowl of black chia seeds
- Hot glue
Create the frame of the pine cone bird feeder for each student prior to class. Cut one large Popsicle stick in half and glue to the bottom of the pine cone to create the feet. It helps to have a small cup to place the pine cone in upside down to let the hot glue cool.
Cut the second Popsicle stick in half and glue in the middle of the pine cone to create the wings.
The seeds will be added one type at a time to keep the two colors from mixing too much. First, smooth peanut butter in the front to create the “white belly” of the penguin. Lay the pine cone in the bowl of light colored bird seed and let the student to sprinkle bird seed on the belly of the penguin.
Next apply peanut butter to the back and over the top of the “head” of the penguin. Leave the face area free of peanut butter so you can glue eyes to the pine cone in the next step. Lay the penguin in the black chia seeds and have the student sprinkle chia seeds over the new peanut butter. Try to avoid adding too much peanut butter to the pine cone as it begins to get pretty heavy.
When all of the peanut butter and seeds have been applied, glue on the large googly eyes. The larger eyes will help to avoid having them eaten by the birds. Stick the carrot nose into the pine cone, no glue is needed for the nose.
Set the bird feeders outside near a window so the students can observe the native birds enjoying this winter treat!