TIME HAS COME FOR ECOLOGICAL PROJECTS IN SCHOOL
September 19, 2010
spider and describe its web. Identify a bird and the type of tree it is
in. Find and identify a plant with a flower, fruit, berry, or nut on it.
These instructions are part of an exercise for schoolchildren, and the
only website that should be involved is the location of the arachnid's
trap. Schools should begin having children in K through 12 spend some
children are spending too much time indoors. An ecology scavenger hunt
will get them outside and offer myriad learning opportunities. Televisions
and computers, the primary culprits in keeping children inside, can be
valuable sources of information. But the living world is outside. And
children should be encouraged to spend as much time as possible in that
vibrant place, where chances for interactive play abound.
scavenger hunt can be designed for completion during the school day or
be used as a homework assignment. Students might spend time in their own
backyard, a municipal park, or the local woods. The target items should
be tailored for the particular class, and rules should specify whether
students can collaborate. Students might work in pairs on the first assignment.
is to locate each item on the list. An added assignment for third-graders
and above is to read something about the plant or animal once it's been
found. This might entail a trip to the library or the bookstore; whether
to allow Internet searches would be up to the teacher. After the research
has been completed, students might write a meaningful statement about
each scavenger hunt item they were able to find. Or they could be given
the option of bringing in an item and asking questions about it that the
class would answer collectively. For example, do all plants have seeds?
What is the difference between flowers, fruits, berries, and nuts?
Put a beetle,
an earthworm, and a butterfly on the scavenger hunt list for the youngest
students. They should also be able to find a heart-shaped leaf or one
that has points on it. A visit to the school yard to see what is--and
is not--on the scavenger hunt list is a good idea. If possible, take the
class on a field trip to an environment different from the school's. Scavenger
hunts can be conducted at any time of year; just be sure the items listed
are seasonally appropriate.
students, the hunt should involve greater challenges, such as finding
a plant with a distinctive smell. Many leaves produce an odor when they
are crushed. Some smell like perfume; others are less agreeable. Any student
should be able to learn to recognize a hickory or pecan tree from the
smell of the leaf.
and many insects produce protective odors. Each smell probably functions
to ward off some predator that might otherwise make a meal of the animal.
One of the red-banded millipedes is a delightful find because these animals
smell like maraschino cherries or almonds. The hydrogen cyanide produced
to create the odor is deadly to some animals that might otherwise eat
them. So smelling them is okay, but do not taste.
the scavenger hunt successfully, students have to accomplish three tasks
in connection with various living things: finding, reading, and writing.
Reading and writing are part of the learning process all students are
familiar with. Going outdoors to find the item about which to read and
write will be an adventure for most of them. My suggestions for an ecology
scavenger hunt are only intended as examples. Teachers should make up
their own list based on geographical location, season, age and learning
ability of students, and so on. Or they might have the students make up
might discover that not all formal learning takes place in the classroom
and increase their knowledge of their own corner of the world. If nothing
else, the exercise will get children outdoors--a place everyone ought
to become more familiar with.
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