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"My Side of the Mountain" - Making Falcon Hoods

Each year, my husband's science students always read My Side of the Mountain. The main character in the book is Sam Gribley, a boy in his early teens. For a year, Sam lives in the woods of the Catskill Mountains. One day Sam spies a peregrine falcon pursuing its prey. Sam determines he wants a falcon as a hunting bird; so, he goes to the nearby town of Delhi to learn about falconry (hunting small game by using a trained bird of prey) by searching books at the local library. For several days, he camps near a cliff hoping to find the location of a peregrine falcon nest. While the mother bird attacks him, Sam steals a female chick from the nest. He names the bird Frightful, and it becomes one of Sam's closest companions.

If you are acquainted with falconry, you know that peregrine falcons will wear a hood to keep them calm and to make certain they are alert for the falconer. The falcons are also trained to go into hunting mode once the hood is removed. A good falcon hood does not bother the falcon. If it fits well, it does not damage the bird’s feathers or hamper its breathing. Under no circumstances does the hood come in contact with the falcon’s eyes. Out of all the falconer's aids the hood is the most important piece of equipment. In the book, Sam makes jesses (leg straps), leashes and a hood out of deer skin for Frightful. If Sam could construct a falcon hood, then maybe my husband's students could as well.

Using the Internet, (Hood Patterns) my husband found several hood patterns. (Most hoods are custom made by hand and can cost $150 or more!) We purchased faux leather from the fabric store as well as special needles and thread. The students practiced sewing on scraps of the material before cutting out their own patterns and sewing them together. Below is a summary of the process in pictures.

What makes every hood unique is that each falconer decorates the hood in an extraordinary way. They may use elaborate feathers, pieces of colored leather, ornaments, etc. Sometimes, they are even hand painted, dyed, or uniquely tooled. Here is what a few of the handmade hoods looked like after the students decorated and embellished them. 

Overall, this was a successful book assignment which was not only creative and imaginative, but it gave the artistic students a chance to shine. As a result, you might want to try this project in your classroom as well. So I wish you good luck, good reading, and good hood making. 


If this is a book your students read, you might like the following resource. It is ten page bundle that includes two different crossword puzzles that highlight 17 different birds and 18 different plants which appear in the book and two separate word search puzzles about the survival materials used by the main character, Sam. 

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Socrates Lantern said...

My students, 6th grade just loved this book. What a great idea to make falcon hoods. Thanks so much for sharing.

Victoria Leon said...

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher read “My Side of the Mountain” to us. I would have loved to have created a falcon hood!