BirdWords in a Global Classroom

BirdWords logo

The BirdWords projects have been developed by EWA (the Ethno-ornithology World Atlas) to support local schools, museums, conservation groups, and communities who value diverse cultural knowledge of birds in multiple languages. BirdWords publications include free downloadable bird name posters in several Indigenous languages, the BirdWords Across Continents storymap, which maps the many names of several birds across their migration flyways, and a series of lesson plan activities to choose from.

The Ethno-ornithology World Atlas (EWA) is a worldwide collection of cultural material relating to birds. It is made up of contributions of folk-names, ecological knowledge, stories, songs, poetry, artwork, and other materials developed by users and aims to promote the engagement of all people in bird conservation.

These BirdWords Around the World (Global Classroom materials) activities were created in 2019 by Felice Wyndham and Megan Kerr with funding from the Open World Research Initiative's Creative Multilingualism project and consultation with Karen Park, Andy Gosler, and John Fanshawe. All materials are licensed as CC BY-NC 4.0 (you are free to use in a non-commercial way if you give attribution).

Click on the links below to access the downloadable teaching materials via the EWA website. Each activity includes a summary and explanation of the activity's purpose, plus details of any materials needed. There are also suggestions of variations and extensions to the activities, as well as ideas for some follow-on activities.

Teacher overview 

Includes an overview table of all resources plus a summary of the available activities and further details of how to use them.

Activity 1: What do we call them?

Students invent names for unfamiliar birds, to explore common naming features. They compare that with names of local birds to see what that tells us about how we see them.

Activity 2: What do we think of them?

Students explore bird idioms in the language through a bingo game then discuss what that tells us about how we see the different birds.

Activity 3: How do we group them?

Students group cards of birds as many different ways as they can think of, to explore the different options for classification / taxonomy.

Activity 4: What do they sound like?

Students discuss bird sounds then, according to level, knowledge and local expressions, explore: warblish (phrases birds are 'saying'), bird-specific onomatopoeia (e.g. 'cock-a-doodle-do'), or general vocabulary for bird sounds (e.g. 'chirrup').

Activity 5: Where are they going?

Students look at where their local swallows are going next and send postcards to another school or group on the migration route.


EWA logo

Click the above image to visit the EWA (the Ethno-ornithology World Atlas) website.