The Great Backyard Bird Hunt.

In case I haven’t mentioned how much fun unschooling Max has become, let me rave about it right here right now. Case in point: The Great Backyard Bird Hunt from February 16th-19th is a “textbook” example of how we learn about and explore our world (which, by the way, should be the purpose of education). Here is the official description:

What mid-winter activity is fun, easy, free, and helps bird conservation? What can parents and teachers do with children that connects them to a whole new world of natural wonders? This February, the tenth annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, will give everyone a chance to discover the birds in their neighborhood and “Count for the Record.”

During February 16–19, 2007, people of all ages, from beginners to experts, are invited to join this event which spans all of the United States and Canada. Participants can take part wherever they are – at home, in schoolyards, at local parks or wildlife refuges. Observers simply count the highest number of each species they see during an outing or a sitting, and enter their tally on the Great Backyard Bird Count web site at www.birdsource.org/gbbc.

Visitors to the web site can also compare their sightings with results from other participants, as checklists pour in from throughout the U.S. and Canada. Together, these counts offer a real-time snapshot of the numbers and kinds of birds that people are finding, from Boreal Chickadees in Alaska to Anhingas in Florida.

“The Great Backyard Bird Count is a community celebration of birds, birding, and nature,” said Janis Dickinson, director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “We often fail to notice how rich our surroundings are, but counting birds, even for just 15 minutes, is not only educational—it can provide a lasting source of enjoyment, turning a daily walk into a treasure hunt.”

“We are encouraging people to go outside and count birds for the first time this year,” said Paul Green, Audubon’s director of Citizen Science. “By submitting their counts online, birdwatchers can quickly see how the dots they put on the map form new patterns that tell new stories about the birds that share the world in which we live, including our own backyards and parks.”

Instead of grades, Max and I will win a prize if our bird count results or photos are truly noteworthy. In the meantime, we will learn about ecology and the wonderful world of nature by venturing outdoors and noting the birds we observe in our homemade, handy-dandy Nature Journal. We will make and use tools, like binoculars, suited to the enterprise. We will also learn how to identify different types of birds based on comparison of photos and descriptions. But the greatest reward is the opportunity to participate in a national event that educates us firsthand about the wildlife in our area.