Connect, Explore, Engage - Bluebird Nestbox Data Collection using

Connect, Explore, Engage:
Bluebird Nestbox Data Collection using Siftr App


Students will research the life cycle, characteristics, and behavior of the Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis).  They will regularly monitor Eastern Bluebird nestboxes and collect data using the Siftr app and may choose to report the data to BRAW (Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin).  The data and observations can be used in various ongoing inquiry and research activities.

Grade Level:

11-12 grade Natural Resources

Lesson author(s):

Beth Hoagland

Instructional Materials Needed:

Various bird identification guides, which could include:
Stokes, Donald W., et al. Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region. Little, Brown, 2013.
Robbins, Chandler S., et al. A Guide to Field Identification Birds of North America. Golden Press, 1983.

“Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin.”,
and "Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin Information Packet"

Wisconsin Standards for English Language Arts Addressed for Grades 11-12: 

4. Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 11–12 texts and topics. 

7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem. 

Wisconsin Standards for Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Standards Addressed for Grades 11-12:

ELS.C1.C.h Investigate and analyze one’s own curiosities about patterns that emerge from outdoor exploration to develop new questions, draw conclusions, or formulate new ideas or solutions. Reflect and share how one’s perspectives influence personal curiosity, the pursuit of knowledge, and respect for others and the environment. 

ELS.EX2.B.h Compare and contrast the competitive, predatory, and mutually beneficial interactions between different species and ecosystems and evaluate the impacts of each on the system.

Evidence of Need:

Standards are listed above.

Evidence of Success:

Students will develop a research product based on data collected throughout the project.

The instructor may choose to evaluate student understanding throughout the project, for example, they may quiz students on their ability to identify birds and nests by sight.

Inquiry Experience 1 - "Natural history of the Eastern Bluebird"

Setting and Estimated Time:  
Classroom, 1-2 class periods

Learning Target:
Students will be able to describe the life cycle of the Eastern Bluebird (Sialis sialis) and its general behaviors and characteristics.  In order to properly monitor the nest boxes in future activities, students should specifically be able to do the following:
- name and identify possible cavity nesters other than the eastern bluebird, and recognize their nests
- describe the life cycle of the eastern bluebird
- describe favorable and unfavorable nesting conditions for the eastern bluebird
- recognize threats to eastern bluebirds near established nest boxes
- explain the guidelines for successful monitoring of nest boxes

Formative Assessment:
Students will contribute to a Google Slides presentation (or other shareable document) with information about their assigned topic.  In addition, each student will produce a peer assessment based on what they shared.

Students should use available bird identification guidebooks and the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin website ( to research the life cycle, physical characteristics, and behaviors of the Eastern Bluebird (Sialis sialis).  Copies should be made or obtained for each student of the "Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin Information Packet" (a link to the pdf is provided above).  The "packet" is a 20-page publication that contains pertinent information and instructions for monitoring bluebird nest boxes.

Depending on the number of students involved, the instructor will choose how to assign topics for each student to research and share.  The overall goal should be that all students achieve the learning targets listed above.  Students can be assigned to contribute to a shared Google Slides document which they will then share with oneanother.  In addition, each student should produce a slide containing assessment questions for peers.  For example, each student would write a true/false, multiple choice, fill in the blank, and short answer question based on their topic.  These assessment questions could include images of nest types or birds to be identified, or questions related to proper monitoring technique or bluebird natural history.

Inquiry Experience 2 - "Maintaining and monitoring eastern bluebird nestboxes"

Setting and Estimated Time:  
Outdoors, at the site of established bluebird nest boxes, time is dependent on the quantity of boxes and distances between them.

Learning Target:
Students will apply what they have learned about eastern bluebirds and other cavity nesters as they maintain, monitor, and collect data from bluebird nest boxes.  Students will use the Siftr app ( to record data which can later be reported to BRAW (Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin).  In addition or alternatively, they may record the data directly into data sheets provided by BRAW.

Formative Assessment:
Depending on the number of students involved, they should be assigned a particular number of nestboxes or a period of time during which they will monitor the nestboxes.  Students will utilize the Siftr app to record the data which they collect from observations of the nestboxes.

The nestboxes should already be built and installed according to specifications in the BRAW Information Packet.  It includes several different styles of bluebird nestboxes and instructions on how and where to mount them for the greatest success of attracting bluebirds.  Nest boxes should be labelled with a number or idenifying code.  If the number is written on the inside of the door, then photographs of the contents of the box will also include the identifying number.  This is helpful if the photo cannot be immediately upload to the Siftr app due to poor reception.

According to its website, Siftr is "a citizen science app that allows you to create projects for any topic, from biology and ecology to photography and language studies. Participants will use your project to go out into the field and collect data" (  An instructor wishing to use this lesson plan will need to build a "Siftr" project for his/her class to collect data specific to their nest boxes.  The Siftr project created by the author of this lesson is provided as an example:  It was designed with the intent to conveniently collect and organize data that will be  reported to BRAW.  The questions and pull-down menus correspond to the specific data points that must be compiled at the end of the season.  BRAW has not approved or endorsed this lesson plan in any way.

Students should be given an orientation to the use of the Siftr app, which can be accessed using a student or instructor's personal cellphone, digital notebook, or other mobile device in the field.  Alternatively, students can take photographs in the field and record data on a data sheet and then upload them later to Siftr from a computer.  Data sheets are available for download from BRAW, or you may choose to produce your own data sheet.  As students make observations and collect data, they will be applying what they learned in the previous lesson.

Inquiry Experience 3 - Data Analysis and Reporting

Setting and Estimated Time:  
Classroom; the time will depend on the inquiry activity.

Learning Target:
After a full or partial season of data has been collected, the instructor will facilitate an inquiry activity during which students analyze the data to identify trends or form hypothesese that can be pursued with additional research.  

Formative Assessment:
The students will use an inquiry process to identify a question that can be tested.  They will then utilize the data they collected to produce a research product, which could be in the form of a poster, research paper, slide presentation, or other item.

After a period of time having students make observations and collect data of bluebird nests, they should be directed to develop into a hypothesis that can be evaluated based on their data.  The instructor may use previous years' data to allow students to look at trends, or they may only have access to the current year's data.  In this case, it may be helpful for students to develop a hypothesis at the start of the monitoring season so they can direct their data collection in a specific direction.  The instructor should provide students with spreadsheets containing the data they wish for students to evaluate.  A spreadsheet can be downloaded from the particular Siftr project by selecting "Download CSV" from the "My Siftrs" list.

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