To foster stewardship and community throughout PSA, classrooms have volunteered to care for different areas of our school. The White Room teachers and children chose to care for the zebra finches and the aviary. To get to know these birds better and to begin to understand what their aviary habitat might require,we began by discussing, observing and drawing the birds.
“Is that nest a house or a bed?”
The process of taking the time to discuss and observe the finches helped to solidify in the children’s minds the characteristics and aspects of the birds which the children deemed most important- the beak, the colors, the markings, and the feet. Though some of the children chose to draw the action of the birds in flight (and as a result drew flying patterns and marks), all of these characteristics were present in each of their drawings. The children wondered about the home life of the birds, and asked are they happy? Do they like to visit each other in the nests? How come some of the birds have yellowish feet and some have orange feet? Why are they so little? And, is that a pancake they are eating? Kristin helped us to identify the “half-a-pancake” as a cuttlebone-or a way for the finches to get calcium.
“Do you know the boy finches have rosy cheeks?”
Continuing our dialogue and research the next step was to plan out and experiment how we would complete the backdrop for the birds.
“We can paint the plants and leaves on. Pretend leaves will hurt the birds if they eat them.”
One student shares that he thinks it is important that the tree drawings reach “all the way up to the sky” because the birds fly in the sky and they might need a place to rest.
“We should make the sun and blue sky!”
“Yeah! ‘Cause what if the birds get so lonely for sky!”
Another suggests that they should include pictures (drawings) of the birds’ families in the aviary. “Just like we have at school.”
In their words, the new and improved aviary should include: places for rest, lots of trees where they can climb, more pancakes! (cuttlebones), more toys, sticks, decorations, and plants, and pictures of their family. I was struck that so many of the children expressed the need to create a space that felt comfortable and safe for our dear zebra finches, and was touched by their sensitivity towards the feelings of the birds. They wondered how we would change the aviary without the birds flying out and when I told them that Gail, our pet care specialist, would take them out of the aviary while we were changing it, they worried that she would not be careful with them. This work has really brought the children’s empathy to the surface, for our birds and for each other.
Next, we took some time to look closely at some aviary-approved plants and create representations using sharpie and watercolor.
“The birds need plants to eat and to hide.”
“I think the birds will be so happy about this!”
Once the plexiglass has been measured and cut to the correct size, the window has been masked off, and we are ready to begin the first steps in transforming our birds’ environment. We start with line drawings of the elements the children thought were most important – sun and clouds, blue sky, beautiful flowers, trees and greenery, and representations of other zebra finches.
“I’m going to add a rainbow in the sky. It will really make our birds happy.”
The process of adding color to our aviary backdrop is done with great intention and in layering steps (light to dark) so that the colors on the plexiglass remained distinct and the details of their beautiful line work would be visible when we flipped the plexi (paint side towards the wall). The first step was to add the lighter colors of the clouds, the sun(s), and the different blues in the sky.
After all of the painting was complete, the background was painted over to make sure there were no gaps in coverage.
The school used the instillation of the painting as an opportunity to give the aviary a deep clean. Our birds got new nests, new branches, new food and water dishes, and even a new plant!
The whole school was invited for our big reveal!
The final aviary is a beautiful thing! The whole entry way of the school feels more lively and beautiful. We are so proud of the White Room!
“I didn’t know my flowers would be so beautiful!”