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Have Animals Been Here? (PCEC)

TopicOutdoor Skills - Identification
Outdoor Skills - Reading the Woods
Summary
Participants will go outside on a scavenger hunt to look for any type of wildlife activity. This is an easy way to become acquainted with an area to be studied.
Grade Level4 and up
Recommended SettingIndoor or outdoor classroom
LocationPotlatch Conservation Education Center at Cook’s Lake, Casscoe
Contact
Education Program Coordinator, 870-241-3373
DurationOne to two hours
Suggested Number of Participants20 - 25
Special Conditions
One adult supervisor per 10 students; outdoor activities, weather
permitting.
Objectives
  • Participants will become acquainted with their area to be studied.
  • Participants will see evidence of wildlife in their area to be studied.
Key Terms*

Adaptation

Camouflage

Diurnal

Exoskeleton

Inference

Nocturnal

Observation

Scat

Wildlife

Materials

Clipboards

Field guides

Jars with lids

Magnifying glasses

Paper sacks

Pencils and paper

Background

Wildlife includes all animals not domesticated and come in many forms and colors. Since many animals are nocturnal, participants may see only evidence of their presence. This evidence can sometimes be observed or may be heard if the animal is well-camouflaged during the daytime.

Procedure
  1. Show examples of things that could be found around the center that would indicate the types of wildlife there. Talk with them about signs of wildlife, where to look for things and how to be safe when looking. (Avoid lifting boulders and logs with hands, don’t stick hands into areas that are dark, know what poison ivy and stinging nettle look like.)
  2. Introduce them to listening for sounds of wildlife. Remind them of the diverse population of animals living in the different types of habitats at the education center.
  3. Animals and insects use camouflage for protection and for acquiring food. To help participants become more familiar with looking for camouflaged animals or insects, have participants help with an “experiment.”
    • Pass a container filled with M&Ms and candy corn. Each participant is to quickly pick out the first two M&Ms that catch their attention and lay it on the table in front of them. They must then keep their hands in their laps. (This is to prevent them from playing with the candy.)
    • Once participants have picked their M & Ms, make a chart showing how many of each color was chosen. Usually, there will be fewer yellow and orange M&Ms chosen. Ask the participants why. (They are camouflaged with the candy corn.)
    • Discuss how animals and insects use camouflage to protect themselves or get food.
  4. Divide the participants into groups of two to five. Provide them with a list of the assigned items and a pencil and paper.
  5. Establish the area to be investigated, and give them a map of it. Have an adult group leader verify that each item recorded in the journal has been actually observed.
  6. Establish how long participants will have to make their observation. Remind them to keep track of what they find and where they find it by recording it in their journals and/or on their maps.
  7. After the hunt, ask them to share what they have found with the group.
  8. Have them name at least three things they saw, heard or smelled that indicated wildlife.
  9. Ask them what other forms of life they observed which were not on their list.
Modifications
  • Unnatural trail:
    • Place 15 or so man-made items (clothing, salt shaker, broom, toys, boots, etc.) that do not belong along a trail shortly before the hike. The objects can be placed on the ground, on rocks, in tree holes or hung on branches, using both sides of the trail. They should not be completely hidden nor completely obvious and no more than 15 feet off the trail. See how many of these they can spot.
    • Gather the group just before the hike and discuss briefly the differences between man-made and natural things. Explain that they are playing nature detectives, looking for things that don’t belong on the trail. Remind the participants to go slowly, looking on both sides of the trail and to look high and low.
    • After the hike, discuss which objects were hard to find. Use them to introduce the concept of camouflage and animals that depend on it.
    • Give participants the following list of observations and have them infer what happened. (Others may be added as needed.)
      • There is water on the floor beside the aquarium.
      • The dog is barking.
      • You smell smoke.
      • The class hamster bites you.
    • For younger participants, Nature Bingo is suggested. See participant information sheet.
Review
(Have participants sit in a circle so they can see what the others have found.)
  • Name three things you saw, heard or smelled which showed that wildlife lives in this area.
  • What is the difference in finding animal evidence and in making actual animal sightings?
  • Which happened mre often and why? (Animals are hiding, nocturnal, very small.)
Related Documents
Glossary

Adaptation – a natural alteration in the structure or function of an organism which helps it to survive and multiply in its environment

Camouflage – colors, tones, patterns, shapes or behavior an organism uses to blend in with its surroundings: also concealment that alters or obscures the appearance; also protective coloration, a common animal defense

Diurnal – active by day (as opposed to nocturnal)

Exoskeleton – an external skeleton that supports and protects an animal's body, in contrast to the internal skeleton in a human, for example

Inference – deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true

Nocturnal – active at night (as opposed to diurnal)

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

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