Sunday, March 4, 2018

An Open Letter To The Science Teacher

Dear 4th Grade Science Teacher,

DD came home from school last week with the following assignment: Observe a bird for a week or so and make a feeding table that is suitable for its needs. The example DD gave me was, "if it has a long beak you need to put the food in a long bottle." (I think she may be remembering the picture from the Aesop's Fable about the stork and the fox.) And then she has to present it to the class.

She or I may have misunderstood but as it stands, this assignment is not going to happen for the following reasons.

1. We can observe the pigeons that sit on our window sill. They are big, gray, and they have short beaks. There are lots of other little birds that come to our balcony. They are all grey or brown and they all have short beaks. No pelicans, storks, or flamingoes come to our balcony or window sills so I think it's fair to say that the birds we observe will all have short beaks.

2. Apart from the pigeons, I have no idea what any of the other birds are called in English, let alone in Hebrew. These are the birds I know: hen, penguin, ostrich, duck, swan, parrot, vulture, pelican, stork, flamingo. (I'd also recognise a Robin Red Breast if it were wearing its Christmas scarf and hat. 😉) None of these birds come to our balcony for observation.

3. DD doesn't know how to build things. When I was a child I lived in a house with a tool shed out the back. My father knew how to work all those tools and he was quite good at building things too. Had I ever brought home a school assignment for him to do, he could have done it very nicely and I would have happily helped him and then presented it to my class for him. This never happened as all my homework was stuff I could do myself.

4. These are the tools we have in our apartment: a hammer, an Ikea allen key, a vegetable peeler, a garlic press, a ladle, a fish slice, several wooden spoons, sellotape, sticks of paper-glue, scissors, colouring pencils, pens, and paints and paint brushes for art. I could find an old shoe box or a plastic water bottle but seriously, I don't know where to start making this into a bird feeder.

I am very happy for DD to learn about birds. If you want her to do some work at home please give her the name of a bird. We will look it up on the internet or even go to the zoo to observe it. Then we would happily read and learn about it. DD could write about it, draw it, and even present it to the class.

Instead of enjoying science, DD has spent a lot of time worrying about how she will face you without having built a bird feeder. Sadly I suspect this is not going to draw her into the subject or inspire a life-long love of science and nature.

Thank you for your understanding.
Rachel (DD's mother).


  1. Maybe your letter could say "we can't build anything but this is our compromise" and put out a tray on the balcony floor near the edge with bread crumbs or if you cook with seeds a sprinkle of those and see if anything comes to peck. A stale bread roll smeared with peanut butter could be hung with string from your railings or even a falafel ball. And always a dish of water, possibly big enough for a little splash if you've got room. Then wait as it takes time for word to spread through the feathered community that there's treats available on your balcony. Birds don't need a purpose built mansion!

    1. I actually don't want more birds on my balcony as they tend not to be potty trained. However, along the same lines as you suggest, other friends have also pointed out that it isn't meant to be a carpentry project. I was directed to to some simple feeders made out of egg boxes, milk cartons, etc.... As usual I overreacted. I'll post an update later. Thanks xxx

    2. As you're vegan I avoided suggesting the egg boxes and milk cartons. Know what you mean about the mess they leave though.

    3. Aha, but the oat milk that I drink also comes in a carton. And sadly we've gone back to eating eggs as we were starving. :) Thanks for your comments MumB. xx

  2. Take some pictures of the birds and let dd create a poster. She can label all the short beaks and then take a small plate with some seeds as a suitable bird feeder for birds with short beaks. Job done. I don't think you actually want to put it out on your balcony. Do you want to share your outside space with a load of birds?

    1. See my reply to MumB above. No I absolutely don't want more birds on my balcony. We made a bird feeder in the end and the update is tomorrow's post which I've already written. Thanks xx

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