Taking an Animal Census Grades 3-8
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
- Unit Plan:
Students will understand the competitive, interdependent, cyclic nature of living things in an environment.
- Conduct an animal census in a designated research area over a six-month period to determine what types of species are present, in what numbers, and what they are eating
- Analyze collected data in order to form a hypothesis concerning how to attract certain threatened or endangered species, for example the red-cockaded woodpecker, to the research area.
- Endangered Ecosystems Activities
- Knee high rubber boots
- Digital Cameras
- GPS devices
- Data collection worksheets
- Surgical gloves
- Surgical masks
Set Up and Prepare
- Have the students simply observe a research area, and come back to the class with descriptions of the animals and plants they saw there.
- Encourage students to ask questions about the area, its plants, and animals.
- Tell students that for the next six months they will be conducting field research and analysis just like the scientist from National Geographic so that we can answer all of their questions.
- Tell them that our main goal will be to find out exactly what types of species there are in the research area, in what numbers, and what the animals are eating.
- Explain that once we know this information, we will be able to form a plan for encouraging more habitation from threatened or endangered species.
Teach students to use a GPS in order to "mark" the locations of animal sightings, and key food sources as waypoints. Use the waypoints to create focaling locations and transects. Have students help to generate a daily schedule for data collection, alternating assignments of focaling and walking transects. Explain that when walking a transect, students are to always walk in the same direction, recording any animal sightings as they go. Explain that students who are focaling must sit quietly and record all animal activity. Explain the importance of collecting animal scat in order to analyze what the animal has been eating. Explain the importance of safety procedures such as wearing surgical gloves, and sealing the scat into zip lock bags. Tell students that they are to write the GPS location that the scat was found at, and the date that it was found on the zip lock bag with a permanent marker. Biweekly students will use calculators to compile and analyze their data. Encourage students to look for patterns.
After six months of data collection and analysis, ask students to form a hypothesis concerning a method for attracting threatened and endangered animals to our research area. Put the plan into effect, and continue to collect data. Publish your research findings on an Internet web site. The web site should include photographs of students doing fieldwork, graphs, charts, maps, a description of the project, hypothesis, and conclusion.
Supporting All Learners
This project aids students in meeting national standards in several curriculum areas.
Reading Language Arts
International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
- Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- Students use spoken, written, and visual language for learning, persuasion, and exchange of information.
- Students conduct research by gathering, evaluating, and synthesizing data from a variety of sources, and then communicate their discoveries to different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- Students use a variety of technological and informational resources (i.e. libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and communicate knowledge.
- Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.
- Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems.
National Research Council of the National Academy of Science
Science as Inquiry:
- Understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge
- Understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry
- Understanding of the scientific enterprise
- Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
- The characteristics of organisms
- Life cycles of organisms
- Organisms and environments
- Structure and function in living systems
- Regulation and behavior
- Populations and ecosystems
- Diversity and adaptations of organisms
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives:
- Characteristics and changes in populations
- Changes in environments
- Science and technology in local challenges
- Populations, resources, and environments
- Natural hazards
- Risks and benefits
National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
- Global Connections (Students study global connections and interdependence)
- Science, Technology, and Society (The study of relationships among science, technology, and society)
- People, Places, and Environment (The study of people, places, and environments)
- Ideals, Principles, and Practices (The study of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic)
Technology Foundation Standards for Students:
- Use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity
- Use technology tools to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences
- Use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences
- Use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources
- Use technology tools to process data and report results
Students could also conduct an animal census in their own back yards. Data sheets and biweekly data analysis could be turned in as homework grades or for extra credit. Students could enlist their parents help in creating an optimum habitat in their yard for threatened or endangered species.
Students could write reports on the animals they have observed, or descriptive narratives on the species of animal that they would become if they were given that opportunity for one day. Students could write letters to researchers studying animals in our research area, or researchers doing animal census research.
Students will be assessed weekly on their level of participation and involvement in the project. Teachers will assess students' daily data collection sheets for accuracy, legibility, and thoroughness. Data analysis will be graded for accurate arithmetic, and validity or "sensibleness" of their conclusions.