What Is the Meaning of a Feather?

This morning, I took my dog on our daily one-mile loop around the neighborhood. We usually go right before sunrise, when the day isn’t too hot yet, and the air isn’t quite as heavy with humidity. On these walks, I keep an eye out for treasures like new flowers in bloom or a bird I’ve never seen before. Today, I found a feather.

This feather is black, and it’s the largest one I’ve ever found. Of course I brought it home and added it to my collection. Then I started thinking about all of the things we can learn from one simple feather.

If I was going to teach a lesson about feathers, we would look at pictures of birds and try to figure out which bird the feather came from.

We would wave a feather up and down to feel the air pressure and begin to understand how flight works. This could transition into learning about the history of airplanes.

Continuing with the history theme, there have been plenty of uses for feathers. Quill pens and feather pillows are the first to come to mind, but feathers also have spiritual and cultural value to certain people groups.

The decline of birds due to hunting to keep up with the fashion of wearing feathers gives insight into attitudes that were prevalent for almost three hundred years. Conservationists intervened and worked to change the law to protect birds.

Then there are poems about feathers, one of the most well-known being Emily Dickinson’s “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers.”

We would measure the lengths and widths of feathers and make various types of graphs from the data.

Of course there are also art projects, such as quilling, making ink prints, and drawing with a quill pen.

Imagine the possibilities when you begin to explore a topic with your child.

Nature, physics…

History, fashion, conservation, law…

Language arts, math, and the arts…

All of this from one feather.

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