Journey of a Wood Thrush

Lesson plan, Grades 4-6, Adaptable for Grades 2 and 3

David Marr Wells Village School



Introduction: This lesson presents the relationship between two ecosystems (temperate mixed forest and tropical rain/cloud forest) by studying the migration of a wood thrush from the Green Mountains of Vermont to Monteverde, the "green mountains" of Costa Rica. It is especially effective if done during either the fall or spring bird migration.

Objectives: The students will

(1) use maps as geographic tools to measure distance and answer geographic questions,

(2) compare climatic conditions of two regions, considering their distance from the equator and the earth's position relative to the sun (seasons),

(3) compare two forest ecosystems, and

(4) discuss nature-society issues as they relate to the migration of wood thrushes.

Geographic Themes: Location, Place, Human-Environment Interaction

National Geography Standards: Number 1 (how to use maps), Number 7 (the physical processes that shape the patterns of the earth's surface), Number 8 (the characteristics and spatial distributions of ecosystems on the earth's surface), Number 14 (how human actions modify the physical environment), and Number 18 (how to apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future)

State Geography Standard: State standard number 6.7 .c (how to use maps, globes, and other geographical images), 6.9.3 (locate and describe ecosystems around the world), and 6.9.e (the interrelationships among the earth's ecosystems, and how change occurs through natural and human activities)

Time: 3-5 class periods


(1) a Peterson Bird Song cassette and a cassette player

(2) multiple copies of Flute's Journey by Lynne Cherry (1997, San Diego: Harcourt Brace and Company)

(3) world political wall map (preferably laminated) with either the Robinson projection or the Winkel Tripel projection (available from the National Geographic Society)

(4) outline maps of the Americas or the world, one per student

(5) maps of the Monteverde Reserve in Costa Rica from one of the Costa Rica reference books listed below in #8

(6) string, calculators, highlighters

(7) references on the temperate mixed forest ecosystem of the mid Green Mountains, including:

- The Nature of Vermont: Introduction and Guide to a New England Environment by Charles W. Johnson (1998, Hanover, NH: University Press of New England)

- Birds of the Green Mountain National Forest, free pamphlet from the national forest offices in Rutland, Middlebury , Manchester Center, and Rochester

- Backyard Bird Habitats: A Self-Guided Trail at Moosalamoo Campground, free pamphlet from the Green Mountain National Forest offices

(8) references on the tropical rain/cloud forest ecosystem in Costa Rica, including:

- Monteverde: Science and Scientists in a Costa Rican Cloud Forest by Sneed B. Collard ill (1997, New York: Franklin Watts, Inc.)

- Journey Through a Tropical Jungle by Adrian Forsyth (1988, New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers)

(9) optional Web sites with reference information:


(1) Introduction

    a. Listen to the wood thrush song

    b. Discuss the habitats, life history , and migration of wood thrushes

2) Introduce Flute's Journey by Lynne Cherry

    a. Read book (students will have already read this as part of their reading curriculum)

    b. Ask questions about the maps in Cherry's book:

        - What elements are missing?

        - What can you learn from these maps?

        - Is the migration route a straight line?

        - What route would a wood thrush from Vermont follow?

(3) Discussion: If we want to estimate the distance flown by a wood thrush from Vermont migrating to Monteverde, how could we do it, using geography tools in our room?

(4) Small group investigation. Have students work together to answer the following questions:

    a. Choose a name for your wood thrush.

    b. Determine the distance your wood thrush flies from Vermont to Monteverde.

    c. How far must it fly across the Gulf of Mexico? Does your estimate agree with the author's?

    d. List the countries and the U.S. states that Flute passes over. 

    e. Sketch with a highlighter an approximate route on your small outline map of the Americas or the world.

    f. What is the approximate latitude of Monteverde? Of the mid Green Mountains of Vermont?

    g. If time permits. use the additional resources on Monteverde and the Green Mountain National Forest IO find out some animal and plant species that are indigenous to each area. Make a chart listing your findings.

(5) Wrap-up discussion: How do you think human activity might impact on the life cycle of a wood thrush?