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The Hawk in the Nest

Originally appears in the Winter 2009-2010 issue

Playing Circle games is a traditional way for people to have fun together.  Here’s a version of “The Farmer in the Dell” that can help children up to age seven or eight – or perhaps older – learn about food chains within a given habitat.  On one level, this is a classic singing, skipping and choosing game.  On another level, it builds students’ understanding of how energy is transferred through various creatures within a community.

Here are the basics:  Let everyone know that this game is similar to “The Farmer in the Dell.”  The melody of the song is identical – it’s just that the words are different.  The point is to create realistic food chains and have fun learning in a group.

Hawk: Top carnivore

To begin, everyone joins hands and forms a large circle.  The circle represents the interconnecting trees and other inhabitants of a forest ecosystem.  One person is selected to be the “Hawk.”  The hawk is, of course, a top carnivore in numerous food webs in North America.  Since Broad-Winged Hawks, with their short, highly maneuverable wings, are especially well-suited for life in New England forests (where my classes play this game), I usually designate this species as our starting player.  By calling students’ attention to the existence of different types of hawks in their region, I hope to stimulate their awareness of biodiversity.

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Edith Pucci Couchman teaches art and environmental science for Beaver Brook Association in Hollis, NH and at Maple Dene Elementary School in Pepperell, MA.