Simple Wooden Birdfeeder Plans: An Engaging Project for the Whole Family!

-Essay By Janimarie Lester DeRose, Birdfeeder Designs and Plans by: Dean Lester

Finished birdfeederI have brought my daughters to swing in their grandparents’ backyard. It is spring and their apple and cherry trees bathe the new fresh green yard in soft light and a sweet nostalgic scent. We all three sit on a large wooden porch swing, dangling our legs, listening. My girls’ usual chatter is silenced by the cacophony of bird song. Everywhere you look are bird feeders, mostly built by my Dad years ago, brimming with seed.

My parents, Dean and De Ann Lester have created an oasis in their urban yard for song birds, humming birds, at times owls and even hawks. Many children comment on the “forest” as they pass by. They have maintained hundred year old trees and replaced them as the yard changed with time, planting thick ground covers and open spaces of bark chips (instead of lawn), creating a lush, protective habitat for birds. While many traditional gardeners trim heavily, they intentionally leave many plants’ seed pods through winter, to help sustain the birds diet. Some beds are planned for the humming birds and butterflies hosting brilliant native penstimon, while other area’s are for scent and edible herbs for the birds’ human counterparts to enjoy!

feeding station bird bath

Throughout their yard, they have placed different types of bird feeders. Some styles feed the birds with a smaller Niger seed, while most host the larger Black Oil Sunflower seed (a favorite) or a more generic mixed seed. They also at times have dishes of jam for Tanagers, Humming bird feeders, and an occasional suet feeder. They also host a bird bath, heated in the winter, to create a small bit of open water in Northern Utah’s frigid or dry months.

No matter the time of year I visit, I find their yard brimming with avian life, inspiring wonder in my children. This article is on how to build your own bird feeder, to help foster a little bit of nature in your own urban landscape.

roofMy father Dean Lester wrote up the blue prints and step by step building instructions, and my five year old daughter and husband Justin were the lucky Nature Nuts to get to help build it!  This is a great project to do with your Family Nature Club!!!


Steps in Building Bird Feeder


  • Step 1-Purchase Wood

saftey protection

  • Step 2-Done safety gear- then Cut Wood to length

Pop Pop and Saw

  • Assemble the seed box
    • Hint: Water proof glue and screws will lengthen life rather than nails

Wood glue

  • Assemble the top frame with roof support upright
  • Connect the Seed Box to the top frame using the 2×2 uprights

staple gun with Justin

  • Put the tongue and groove roof panels together

top view

  • Nail or screw the roof tie bars to the assembled tongue and groove roof panels

Silvia Screwdriver

  • Attach the completed roof panels to the roof support upright and upper frame side bars using nails or screws

Nail gun with Pop Pop

  • Screw the roof cap to the roof support upright with 3” screws
  • Attach eye screws to the roof cap for hanging

feeder  fly through feeder

Congrats-you have now built an awesome feeder as a family!  Now find a tree in your yard to hang it and enjoy observing wildlife in your yard all winter long!!!  Let us know how this project turns out for you-please send us pictures of your feeder hanging in your yard and we will share it on our website.  Send pictures to

Note: This lesson is recommended for children 8 years and up (with a grandparent preferably!)

Nature Explorations: Life Under Logs…Discovering Decomposers!


Are you looking for a simple and fun activity to get your kids out into the local forest or even the back yard this summer?  Thinking about the living organisms that rely on a simple log can be a great way to learn about decomposition and the soil cycle as well as an excuse to get your hands dirty and get out and explore your forest.  We tried this activity with our family nature club and it was a blast!  This is a GREAT exploration for kids of any age!

Rotten Log Puppet Show:


The Rotten Log Real Estate Puppet Show!

Rather than just going out to roll logs and see what is underneath we started our activity with a puppet show. A butterfly was a real estate agent and many animals (ants, worms, etc) came looking for a new home (an old wrapping paper roll made the perfect “log”). The log was the ideal place to provide food and shelter for a wide variety of animals. We talked about how the log is a home and the importance of putting logs back after we turn them over.

Children’s Literature Connection:

Next we read A Logs Life by Wendy Pfeffer. This book shows the process of a tree to soil with wonderful illustrations. Through this book we introduced the word decomposition.


Outdoor Activity:

Before heading outside each child got a sheet of paper with pictures of the animals they might find under a log. We talked about what each animal would eat and determined which were decomposers. As we entered the woods we listened for other animal sounds. When we got to the log, children were asked to feel if it was hard or soft, wet or dry, and use other senses before looking under the log. This helps focus children so the log turning isn’t as much chaos. We turned over one big log together and looked; then children were free to explore on their own.

FullSizeRender(9)Art and Nature Connection:

At the end, children could draw their favorite living organisms they observed in their nature journals.

Have fun rolling logs with your friends and family and discovering decomposers everywhere!!!!


Activity Written and Created by: Carey Truebe

Tips for Exploring Local Wild Spaces: Ponding with Children


Heading to the pond!

Do you need a simple outdoor idea for a great activity you can do right in your local town or forested area this summer?  Find a small pond near home and your kids will spend hours of enjoyment outside with a net and a bucket exploring the world of wildlife that exists beneath the surface of a small pond.  The summer is a perfect time to get adventurous and give ponding a try!

Ponding Tips:

All you really need for ponding is a net (fishnets work great) and a bucket.  But speaking from experience teaching many science lessons catching and looking at aquatic invertebrates I can provide some tips for making the experience a little more successful.

1.  Using a white bucket is very helpful for seeing what you have caught!  The perfect ponding bucket is actually a  white dishpan.

2.  Catching technique:  Encourage the kids to swish their net above the surface of the bottom of the pond back and forth quickly three or four times and then pick up their net and look for movement in the net.  Pick out the insects and put them in the white bucket rather than dumping the net with all the leaves etc into the bucket.  This allows you to see what you catch easier.

3.  Bring along a field guide to pond life or your phone or camera so you can snap photos of what you catch and look them up later!  You might be surprised how interesting the larval stage of many common insects appear.  Dragonflys, Damselflys, and beetle larvae are all very common and fun to observe (to name just a few!)


Larval Dragonfly, Dobsonfly, and salamander sorted in a deviled egg dish from the local dollar store…a white paper underneath the dish helps you see the organisms.

4.  After you catch into a big bucket get an white ice cube tray or deviled egg tray and use spoons to sort and count the types of animals you catch.

5.  Art and Nature Connection: Encourage your kids to use their scientific observation skills and to draw their favorite pond animal after you catch-remind them in scientific drawing to be as accurate as possible!


After sorting the organisms you can draw your favorite animal!

Science and Inquiry Connections:

1.  For a deeper exploration try ponding in the same place week after week (or every few weeks) as the spring turns to summer and through the summer.  Encourage them to record their findings.  It is a very cool experience to see how the pond life changes as the summer progresses.  Encourage them to predict how they think the pond might change through the season in diversity and total numbers etc.  Have them test their hypothesis by collecting data throughout the season and recording their observations in a nature journal. 

2.  Also studying larval pond life gives you a perfect chance to learn about metamorphosis…show the kids pictures of the larval and then adult stages of the same insects or animals and discuss how they are similar and different and explore the term “life cycle”.

Remember to remind your children to be respectful and careful with the living creatures they catch and to put them back when they are finished!  Have fun exploring the pond this summer in your town or neighborhood!

Butterfly Activities

By: Susan Olcott

butterfly 3Our family nature club, Nature Nuts,  recently met and participated in this fun lesson all about butterflies…perfect for the warm spring weather we have been experiencing.  You might want to try all or some of these ideas with your family and friends!

Have Fun, be creative, and please share if you add more to these ideas!

We started the day by reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and passing out the fruits in the story to each child to hold up during the reading when their particular fruit came up as an item the caterpillar ate.  This was a fun way to engage the children with this wonderful classic story!

butterfly lesson 1            Butterfly lesson 2

Then we made butterfly hand kites out of butterfly shaped construction paper-we just drew and cut out our own design, thin crepe paper (streamers), straws (for a proboscis) and pipe cleaner antenna.  To make a hand kite you simply cut a strip of construction paper and make it into a loop-and attach it to the bottom of the paper butterfly.  The children can then use this as a handle and can run around “flying” their butterflies.

butterfly 4            butterfly 5

Next, we wrapped the children up in towels with their butterfly hand kites.  The children then pretended to be caterpillars hatching out of their cocoons into the butterflies they had made.  They wiggled until their “cocoons” began to break.

butterfly 6Butterflies are cold blooded and have to huddle for warmth when it gets chilly, so we had a butterfly huddle and then migrated all together across a local bridge and back.

butterfly 7            butterfly 8

Tired from the “migration”, we huddled up and read a few more butterfly poems from the great book Butterfly Poems before getting hungry and going on a hunt–a short hike– for food (flowers, seeds) and then returning to have a fruit feeding frenzy where we had a group snack of fresh fruits.

butterfly 9We finished by making butterfly feeders out of our plastic snack plates, punching holes and then adding string to create a hanger.  Butterflies love jelly-which you can put on the feeders and hang up at home to watch and observe butterflies in your own yards and gardens.

Supplies List:
Beach towels, Construction paper, Tape, Crepe paper, Scissors, Pipe cleaners, Colored straws, Paper bags (for collection of seeds and flowers during migration), Cut fruit, String, Plastic Plates, Hole Punch



The Natural Start Alliance Highlights Our Family Nature Club “Nature Nuts” as Their Spotlight of the Month

The Natural Start Alliance which is the North American Association for Environmental Education’s early childhood education group is highlighting our family nature club “Nature Nuts” as it’s Spotlight member this month.  We are so excited to share the story of our family nature club with the world!  We hope this story can inspire others to start their own family nature club, as we know how imperative it is we provide time for our children to play outside in nature.  Please check out the article about Nature Nuts!

lucy beach

“Painting A River That Connects Us Through the Seasons”:

A lesson in seeing color in Nature’s seasons, and painting with an analogous color scheme.

-Janimarie Lester DeRose


Painting the Summer Scene

I introduced the lesson by showing the children images of nature in the different seasons, focusing on the different colors present. They pointed out which color was dominant by squinting their eyes to look at the image. I then mixed the color wheel from the primary colors red, yellow, and blue, and we introduced the analogous colors…red/orange, red/purple, yellow/green, yellow/orange, blue/purple, blue/green.

We had nine preschool age children, but you could do this project with as little as four.

When you are ready to paint:

First, make sure to number the back of the canvases and place students names on the back.


Preparing the Canvases

Using Acrylics, paint your “river” connecting all the primed canvases, including wrapping over the edges of the canvas.

Let dry and apply a second coat for durability. (I like to keep the river graphically simple, with only one color to tie all the students work together in a cohesive manner.)

Assign each student a season and analogous color scheme for example:

Canvas one: Winter/ Blue and Purple paint

Canvas two: Spring/ Yellow and Green paint

Canvas Three: Summer/ Red and Purple paint

Canvas Four: Fall/ Orange and Yellow paint

Note: The reason to strictly stick with analogous colors is that many young painters mix the paints so much that they muddy the colors. Using analogous colors prevents the completely brown canvas! It’s also a great new vocab word and way to review the color wheel.


Painting with Analogous Colors

You will need to let all the students canvases dry and then touch up the blue river threading through the canvases.

Display as a complete collaborative piece. I like to have each student sign their canvas where it is visible to the viewer.

DSC04347 (2)

Finished product

Later in the year, you could add collage images of the flora and fauna found in the local watershed. This would help stretch resources as canvases can be pricey!

Finding and Creating the ABC’s in Nature


Nature ABC”s

This lesson was created for my daughters’ Nature Preschool Class.  I wanted to introduce the alphabet in a way that connected the child’s body and many of their senses with nature.

DSC03916 (2)

Truly “C”ing the Letters in Nature

First, I gave each child a foil letter that they carried with them and referenced to help them create the letter correctly.  Then the children looked for specific letters in the natural world around them.  After observing, we asked them to physically form the letter with natural materials of their choice.


“Making Letters Following the Template”

We photographed each letter, and later we printed out the alphabet and the children cut and pasted them into a book.  These books can be used to practice writing the letters or collaging images that start with the same letter.  We also printed a large copy and posted it on the wall of the classroom!  This could be a great Family Nature Club Activity for a multi-age group focused on early childhood up through around 7 years old.


Finding a “Y”!

Lesson Created and Written by: Janimarie Lester DeRose