Naturalist Observatory
activity exercisesuggested grade levels:7- 8

view Idaho achievement standards for this lesson

For this project, students would choose a site that is easily accessible from their home and observe it over a 12-week period. The students will observe the site once a week, keeping a journal of their observations. The data would include the following: day and time, temperature, weather conditions (including cloud formations), 5-minute species count, and any changes since the last observation. Species can be observed by sight, call, tracks, scat, or other sign left by species (hair, feathers). The initial observation would include a comprehensive description of the site, including the size of the area observed and vegetation. Students will be encouraged to bring in species or pictures for help in identification using the Digital Atlas. To use a key, match your species with the choices given, at each choice select the one that has the same characteristics as your species. Pay close attention to detail. If done carefully, your species should lead you to its home page where you can identify it and learn how it lives. The students can also compare their site with sites being studied by other students.

1. Students will develop keen observational skills.
2. Students will compile, organize, and compare data.
3. Students will identify species of wildlife using the Digital Atlas.
4. Students will complete a report on one species using the Digital Atlas and their observations as resources.

I. Introduction to Project
         a. Instructor will explain requirements and what students are expected to do (this can be adapted by  instructor).
         b. Introduction to the Digital Atlas of Idaho. Teachers should demonstrate how to use it and navigate around the sections. Give special attention to the biology and climatology sections.

II. Start Project
         a. Weekly checks on observations. Teachers should check student's notebooks periodically to make sure they are doing their observations.
         b. Keep track of species observed.

III. Species Report
         a. Teachers should give class time to work on report and use the Digital Atlas in class.
         b. Presentations to class on each student's observations.

IV. Species Distribution
         a. As a class, begin to compile a species list for your area from the many student observations.
         b. Draw maps showing sites and number of species observed.

Questions for discussion:
         1. What are the major differences between the different sites observed?  
         2. What were the reasons for the differences in species observed at different sites?
         3. How does the changing weather or other environmental conditions change the species observed at the site?
         4. Did your prediction and observation skills improve during the project?
         5. Were you surprised at any of your observations?

Related Lesson Topics:
Biology: Biology Topics

Lesson plan by Valerie Quesnell, 2001
Idaho Achievement Standards (as of 7/2001) met by completing this activity: