Activity: Observation and Natural History
When your students encounter wildlife, the opportunity for observation may be brief. This activity will help your students take advantage of the situation, offering a structure for deliberate observation and getting the observations to paper as fast as possible. When you find an animal in the field, there is no way to know how long you will be able to observe it. It helps to have an plan to allow you and your students to get the most out of what you see. This activity is a template for action: Begin by having students verbalize their observations as they get out journals, then briefly prompt students to use words, pictures, and numbers to record what they observe. If the animal sticks around and students are still engaged, offer different suggestions to focus their journaling without interrupting the group. When the animal leaves, debrief by sharing questions. The level of detail that students remember about the animal encounter will be much higher than if they had not used their journals or verbalized their observations. Having an approach for animal encounters in your “back pocket” allows you to be flexible and to respond to the environment. You can also weave this activity into a learning experience, use it as an opportunity to jump into further research about the animal, or make connections to science concepts.