Education Program

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  • Overview: Education as part of the Cornell Lab's mission

Publications

We aim for students to investigate their own questions about birds and biodiversity. Beyond the classroom, we spark curiosity, build science skills, and inspire action by lifelong learners within the United States and abroad.

Project Highlights

Resources for Educators

Our web, print, and multimedia resources engage students in research, citizen science, and the use of emerging technologies to learn about science and conservation.
K-12 Resources | Undergraduate Resources

K–12 Curriculum Resources:

BirdSleuth

Students become scientists with the BirdSleuth curriculum. They observe birds, ask questions, and conduct investigations to seek answers. They can publish their research in Classroom BirdScope and help scientists by contributing their bird observations to the Cornell Lab’s citizen-science projects. BirdSleuth students benefit from spending time outdoors, connecting with nature, and learning how they can make a difference.

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Crossing Boundaries

Crossing BoundariesThrough Crossing Boundaries, students in middle school and high school learn science and develop visions of career possibilities through technology-enhanced exploration of biodiversity conservation issues. Using Google Earth, students zoom into remote locations across the planet to observe landscapes change over time and predict impacts on biological communities. With geographic information systems (GIS), they weigh social and biological factors to select the best location for a new biodiversity preserve in the Amazon. In their own communities, they conduct field studies and use GPS to accurately locate their field data on maps and satellite imagery of their study site.

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Physics of Animal Behavior

Curriculum resources for elementary, middle, and high school engage students in investigating questions about how birds and other animals can do things such as produce a complicated song or glide long distances. The lessons use rich media including sounds and videos to spark student interest in understanding the physics underlying biological adaptations. Teachers can download individual lessons or units addressing science standards about waves, forces, and motion.

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Undergraduate Resources:

The Handbook of Bird Biology, 2nd Edition

Published in 2004, the Cornell Lab’s Handbook of Bird Biology has sold 12,000 copies and is now out of print. The Handbook is the text for our Home Study Course in Bird Biology and is used in college courses. The third edition of the Handbook is currently being revised and updated by 15 leading ornithologists.

Student Research Using Online Data

In a new project funded by the National Science Foundation, we are developing curricula and tools for use by undergraduate faculty and their students. Without requiring access to field sites or laboratories, students will be able to use real-time online data to investigate questions about animal behavior, avian ecology, and conservation using the eBird and Project FeederWatch citizen-science databases and the Macaulay Library archive of animal sounds and videos.

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Teacher Professional Development

We work with teachers to engage, motivate, and inspire students to investigate questions related to birds and biodiversity through research, citizen science, and use of technology.

BirdSleuth Workshops: Supporting Student Inquiry

BirdSleuth workshops equip middle school teachers to engage their students in learning science by addressing intriguing questions related to birds. We offer in-person workshops at various education conferences—and interested educators can request a customized workshop for your area. In addition, we offer online professional development opportunities.

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BirdSleuth Online Course: Supporting Student Science Investigations

Inquiry is important in today's classrooms, yet teachers who have never conducted research often feel under-prepared to lead students in formulating questions, designing experiments, and presenting data. In our five-week distance-learning course, middle-school teachers do their own scientific investigations and reflect on how to engage their students in scientific inquiry. Teachers share their challenges, ideas, classroom strategies, and resources with one another. As a result, they become better prepared to help students tackle real-world problems and questions through investigations of their own design.

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Getting Kids Involved

Our online resources guide for anyone who would like to help children learn more about birds and science.

Books & Activities

Choose from books on migration, habitat, adaptations, and conservation—each with related activities and resources.

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Identify Birds

Check out our excellent resources to help you identify birds, including our online bird guide and "Inside Birding" videos.

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Kids Doing Science

Youth can help scientists when they learn to collect simple data about the birds and habitats in their area.

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Educational Games

Kids have fun while learning about habitat, nests, feeding adaptations, and conservation.

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Distance Education

Through online courses, you can hone your knowledge and skills related to birds, birding, and the natural world.

Home Study Course in Bird Biology

More than 8,500 people have enrolled in the Home Study Course in Bird Biology during the past 15 years, delving into bird biology with guidance from Cornell Lab’s scientists and educators. Learn about bird behavior, ecology, conservation, and many other subjects at your own pace from anywhere in the world, using the Handbook of Bird Biology as your text. The course is written at an introductory college level and is suitable for anyone with a serious interest in learning more about birds.

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Investigating Behavior: Courtship and Rivalry in Birds

Why do birds do what they do? How can we tell what they are doing? This online course uses video, online discussions, and tutorials to help you develop skills and learn concepts that will increase your enjoyment and understanding of birds. Sounds and video are drawn from archives of the Macaulay Library.

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Online Courses

Online webinars and tutorials are now available to feed your hunger for more information about birds. Webinars consist of a live interactive presentation using photographs, videos, sounds, and audience feedback. Each series of five webinars highlights a specific group of birds, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors. If you can't attend a live session, the archived versions are also available. The two-part "Be a Better Birder" online tutorial is available to help beginning birders learn how to identify birds on their own time at their own pace. The tutorials focus on how to use size, shape, color, and patterns to identify birds.

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Learning at the Lab

Families, schoolchildren, and birders come to the Cornell Lab for events, field trips, courses, and children’s book readings.

Adelson Library Children's Book Readings

Children and their parents or caregivers meet at the Cornell Lab’s Adelson Library to build their connection to nature through compelling stories and activities. This series features readings from some of the best in children’s nature books, combined with explorations of the Lab’s online and museum resources, hands-on crafts, and interactive games. Featured topics include flight, nesting, migration, habitats, and conservation. Recommended for children in preschool through elementary school.

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Kids Discover the Trail

Each spring, more than 350 fifth-graders from 7 schools in Ithaca, New York, discover the importance of habitat through pre-visit lessons, a field trip to the Cornell Lab, and post-visit activities back in their classrooms. Students learn bird-ID skills, study the habitats in Sapsucker Woods, and explore our Visitors’ Center exhibits. Each class collaborates with students from another school to build friendships before the students enter a common middle school the following year.

Spring Field Ornithology

Each spring for more than 30 years, new and experienced birders have come together at the Cornell Lab to hone their birding skills and view the diverse range of birds in our region. Learn to identify and understand birds of the Finger Lakes region during our eight-week birding course that includes weekend field trips as well as weekly lectures taught by Stephen Kress (vice president for Bird Conservation at the National Audubon Society and director of Project Puffin) and other Lab staff.

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Migration Celebration

This annual, one-day event in early May offers visitors the chance to learn about birds and research underway at the Lab. More than 1,000 visitors each year enjoy interactive exhibits, bird-watching and nest-viewing walks, bird-banding demonstrations, and children’s games and activities. This local event is one of hundreds held across the western hemisphere in celebration of International Migratory Bird Day, created in 1993 by the Cornell Lab and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center to raise awareness of bird migration and conservation.

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An interactive online course in Bird Behavior: Courtship and Rivalry from the Lab of Ornithology is newly available
Birds of North America Online, ultimate source for bird info, join for $5/month
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Your Gift Counts Twice!

Donate now to double your impact for birds and conservation