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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Trail Camera Curriculum

It's time for an update of Dawn Tanner's school trail camera project I wrote about a few months ago.

Dawn's teaching aid has now been published. 

"Taking Action Opportunities -- connecting kids to wildlife with trail cameras" is a 74 page 12-lesson guide with a DVD.  

It is designed to "help teachers use trail cameras in schoolyards and protected areas to connect students to habitat loss and landscape fragmentation issues and empower environmentally responsible behavior."  

The target classes are elementary and middle schools. 

This is a step-by-step guide for teachers, who also receive a USB drive with the files they need for the lessons, and camera trap photo from three protected areas.

It starts with the simple fun stuff -- learning how to scout and identify animal sign, and then how to set trail cameras in school yards. 

The students then make predictions about which species of mammals will be found in the school yard.

When the photos start to roll in they identify the species and compare their findings with their predictions. 

Compiling data comes next, and that leads to the use of spreadsheets to graph the results. 

Thus they gain an understanding of activity cycles, species differences in the duration of feeding bouts, etc. 

In the classroom they also study dietary adaptations by examining skulls of camera trapped species. 
Camera trap findings are related to habitat. 

The kids learn to use Google Earth to compare satellite imagery of their school yard with protected areas in the state and abroad.

The DVD introduces the teachers and students to three Minnesota scientists who use camera traps to study wildlife -- Ron Moen who studies Canada lynx in Minnesota, Dave Smith who studies tigers in Asia, and Hadas Kushnir who studies lion-human conflict in Tanzania.  
Appendices supplement how-to information found throughout the manual, and include a student opinion survey.

Now, what I want to know is how come this wasn't going on when I was a kid?


For more information contact Dawn Tanner by email:  tann0042@umn.edu. 



randomtruth said...

That is cool! But what I wanna know is when are the herbies gonna get some love! Why is it always about the lions, tigers and lynxes... :)

Camera Trap Codger said...

I think we have Animal Planet and other programs of that ilk to blame. I've always maintained that the best measure of one's zoological sophistication is appreciation of commonplace (e.g., squirrels, deer and other herbies), bizarre (parasites like bot flies and guinea worms) and weird (star-nosed moles). I'm afraid I am showing my mamma-centricity.

Owlman said...

Great idea especially in times when kids have lost interest in nature and the outdoors.

Carol said...

Science, math, biology..all can be used with this setup.
When I was a kid our class went camping for a whole week. Every bit of the day was educational..even when we didn't realize it.


Camera Trap Codger said...

Experiential learning makes it fun.

David said...

Hello Chris,

Can you point me to the document Dawn has put together? I can't find that publication on the Web. I'm very interested in leveraging what she has done.


David Neils

Anonymous said...

You have great blog and this post is good!
best regards, Greg

Anonymous said...

Great post. I've been taking my kids (Kindergarden and 3rd grade) out through the town conservation land to post trail cams for about a year now. I keep showing them signs of animal life to find out what is there and try to guess what is on the pics. I guess, everything this classroom aide is all about. I think this is great!