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Watchable Wildlife (JHARVNC)

TopicOutdoor Skills - Watching Wildlife
This program includes an introduction to using binoculars as well as basic signs of wildlife, followed by a guided hike.
Grade Level2 - 12
Recommended SettingClassroom, then outdoor hike (dress for the weather)
LocationJanet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, Fort Smith
Education Program Coordinator, 479-452-3993
Duration45 minutes
Suggested Number of Participants30
Special Conditions
Outdoor portion weather permitting, appropriate dress
  • Learn how to use binoculars
  • Increase awareness of wildlife
  • See the diversity of animal life at the nature center
Key Terms*











Bird guides

Classroom set of binoculars

  • How to use
    • Focusing
      • Adjust width of binocular barrels
      • Find nonmoving object and focus with both eyes
      • Fine focus
    • Finding the critter

Signs of Wildlife

  • Scat
  • Animal tracks
    • Commonly seen tracks and locations
    • Tracks show animal behavior
  • Markings
  • Nests




  1. Assemble participants in classroom, multipurpose room or on deck. Introduce basics of observing wildlife in the outdoors. 
  2. Hand out binoculars and show how to use. Hand out identification guides if using.
  3. Lead hike. Encourage participants to focus on wildlife sighted (usually birds) and to observe other signs.
  4. Wrap up hike reviewing sightings. What species were seen, or what evidence of them was discovered? (Make a list.) Where were they seen?  Where else might they see wildlife?
  • If weather limits outside hike, observe animals in wildlife watching area with identification guides. Have participants identify all animals.
  • Take a hike around another natural area or school yard with binoculars if possible. How does the wildlife compare to that seen at the nature center? Is it different? Why?
  • The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has a program called Wings Over Arkansas where anyone can request a packet and fill out a bird list of species they have sighted. Depending upon the number of birds, participants receive a certificate and a pin and can advance to the next level for a new certificate and pin.
  • Were you surprised by how many different animals you saw at the nature center?  What were your expectations?
  • What factors affect the diversity and total number of animals present in an area? How could the nature center increase the total number or diversity of the animals present there?
  • What is carrying capacity? How does it affect the number of animals present? What can increase it or decrease it?
  • Animals are active in different times of the day. What determines this? (Teacher hint:  predator/prey is nocturnal or diurnal, temperature, etc.) Generally, when is the best time to observe animals in the wild?  What about times of the year? (Think about migratory birds.)

Binoculars – two identical telescopes mounted side by side and aligned to point accurately in the same direction, allowing the viewer to use both eyes (binocular vision) when viewing distant objects; also known as field glasses

Bird – any warm-blooded vertebrate of the class Aves, having a body covered with feathers, forelimbs modified into wings, scaly legs, a beak and no teeth, and bearing young in a hard-shelled egg
Diversity – in biology, the number of species in a given area

Habitat – an arrangement of food, water, shelter or cover, and space suitable to animals’ needs

Hiking – an outdoor activity which consists of walking in natural environments, often on hiking trails

Observation – act of seeing or fixing the mind upon anything; the act of making and recording a measurement
Scat – an animal’s fecal droppings, especially a wild animal

Track – a footprint of wildlife

Wildlife – animals that are not tamed or domesticated including insects, spiders, birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians and mammals