Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Case for Wildlife Education in Ohio's New Science Standards

Are you freaking out yet about the new Science standards! It's getting close to the beginning of the school year and our phones are beginning to ring. Teachers are starting to shake off the summer haze and beginning to look at what they're going to have to teach this coming school year.  While some districts have already begun to implement the new standards, some are beginning this year and it's creating a bit of a panic for many.  Soils in 6th grade?!!!  I've never taught this concept in 4th grade before!
Uh Oh!

We're here to help! We have a lot of great resources to share, most are free, and all are engaging and hands-on.  We'll focus mostly on Life Science, so here are just a few ideas to share:

Project WILD/Aquatic WILD--This supplemental curriculum is mentioned throughout the Model Curriculum as a great resource for helping to develop those project-based learning experiences that you'll be seeing more of in the new curriculum.  These K-12 activities can serve as a basis for helping students understand a concept before embarking on the development of their project.   A couple of examples include:
  • 3rd Grade Life Science Content Statement: Offspring resemble their parents and each other.
    • Aquatic Project WILD has an activity called Are You Me? that has the students try to determine which young/immature animal should be paired with which adult animal of the same species.  (this activity can also be used to discuss metamorphosis and life cycles, also in 3rd grade)  Once the students understand that young and adult animals have similar characteristics, a project can be conducted to help observe this in real life. Some examples include:
      • The installation of a frog pond on the school property to observe the life cycle and stages of frogs.
      • The installation of a butterfly garden on the school property to observe the life cycle of butterflies.
      • Starting an aquarium in your classroom to observe fish, amphibians and other aquatic wildlife.
      • Logging on to a website for observing wildlife such as Ohio's Falcon Cam project to observe the growth and development of wildlife and making predictions about what adaptations the young will develop that will help them survive.
  • 7th Grade Life Science Content Statement: In any particular biome, the number, growth and survival of organisms and populations depend on biotic and abiotic factors.
    • Project WILD has an activity called Oh Deer!  that has students simulate the increases and decreases in the population of a deer herd. The effects of such factors as hunting, disease, loss or gain of habitat, and weather can be simulated during the activity to help students understand how and why populations of animals fluctuate within a given time frame.  Once this concept is understood, students can then go on to project such as:
      • Researching Ohio endangered species and their management and what factors play or have played a role in their population status. 
      • Researching and designing a management plan for a local deer population.
      • Participating in a citizen science project such as Project Feeder Watch to help contribute data to determine fluctuations in bird populations.
  • High School Biology---Ecosystems and Carrying Capacity
    • Project WILD has an activity called Carrying Capacity where students simulate a herd of animals in search of food.  As the students move through the time period, they must acquire enough food for their herd to survive.  The introduction of predators, habitat and seasonal changes, and other limiting factors can be simulated as well.  Follow up projects can include:
      • Conducting an experiment on the school grounds to determine what kinds of animals are found there and what makes the habitat ideal.  Then, hypothesize what changes could be made to the habitat that might increase the carrying capacity for a particular species.  Make those changes and determine the results.
      • Researching an Ohio animal species by looking at historical population data and determining the causes for a population change, if any.
So how do you get your hands on the Project WILD curriculum? You'll need to attend a workshop to get the materials.  Workshops are found online and most are free!  We can also come to you! If you have enough interest in your school district (minimum of 12 participants), give us a call at 1-800-WILDLIFE and we'll work with you to set a date for an in-service training.

WILD School Sites--This program helps schools create wildlife habitat on their school grounds, and then use those habitat improvement projects in their curriculum.  I've already shared a couple of examples of how the school grounds could be used in the examples above.  We have several ways that we can help your school:
  • Consultations: Our staff can pay a visit to your site, walk the property with you, and help you determine good locations for projects such as prairies, butterfly gardens, bird feeding station, ponds, rain gardens, and more.  We'll bring a wealth of resources to share with your staff, including sources of funding, resource materials, and more.
  • Professional Development Workshops: We can provide training to the entire staff or a select group of teachers, your choice.  The workshop can be as long as you'd like it to be, although we recommend a full day.  Workshop content includes activities to help you plan your site, how to utilize what you already have, design elements and suggestions for new features, grant information, and resources for your lesson planning.
  • Grants: We distribute 40 grants each school year for $500 each to schools that have gone through Project WILD, Aquatic WILD, Science and Civics, or Growing Up WILD.  Other requirements include the inclusion of students in the development process as much as possible, at least 50% of funds must go to "on-the-ground" habitat improvement, and you must demonstrate how the habitat improvement projects will be incorporated into the school curriculum.  Grant applications are accepted between September 1st and May 31st each year.
  • Certification: Once your school property is in a state of active use, you can fill out the Application for Certification to become one of over 130 Certified WILD School Sites across the state.  Just submit an application, we'll come out and inspect the site, and then return at a convenient date to conduct a formal dedication of your site.  This dedication can be as large of a ceremony as you'd like.  It's a wonderful PR opportunity for your district and to help showcase all the hard work and outstanding things you're doing at your school.
Field Guides and Other Resources--If you don't know a frog from a toad, or a warbler from a sparrow, we have the materials for you! You can check out our field guides online, then feel free to order classroom sets for you to use year after year with your students.

We are always adding materials to this website, but if there is something that we have that's not online, you can order hard copies as well through our Education Materials brochure.  Just download the brochure, fill it out and email a copy to outdoor.education@dnr.state.oh.us  and we'll send your materials as soon as possible.  Please allow at least three weeks for delivery.

You can also check out our web-based resources on our PearlTree at http://www.pearltrees.com/ohwildeducation  There are lots of links to our materials as well as other resource agencies and programs.

We hope this has given you some exciting and fresh ideas for your lessons as you move into your new school year.  And, as always, if you're stumped or if you want to brainstorm ideas with us, feel free to give us a call!  You can contact your regional education specialist in your appropriate Wildlife District, or you can call the main office and ask for the Wildlife Education Coordinator.

Enjoy the last weeks of summer and have an even better school year! And, get your kids outside and enjoy the outdoors! You'll all appreciate it!