Authors: Esperanza Stancioff1, Medea Steinman1, Beth Bisson2, and Abraham J. Miller-Rushing3
1University of Maine Cooperative Extension
2Maine Sea Grant
3National Park Service, Acadia National Park and Schoodic Education and Research Center
Grade level: 6-12
Themes: Phenology, climate change
Activity type: Field observation, online data inquiry, evidence-based thinking, and supporting claims with evidence
Setting: Classroom or outdoors
Students record observations and collect data about birds visiting feeder(s) outside their school. They compare their records with historical records from local birding experts and online citizen science data sources to determine whether the timing of bird activity has shifted in their community. They learn to make use of library and Internet-based citizen science resources to conduct research about the patterns of bird species activity in their area and how those may have shifted in response to changes in the timing of phenological events. Students also interact with local experts and conduct informal interviews.
Students are encouraged to infer meaning from the comparisons (e.g., with respect to climate change), engage in speculation, and learn to articulate and support claims and conclusions. Students’ findings can be used as a basis for classroom discussion focused on exploring lines of inquiry and making meaning out of their observations. Students may also share what they learn by giving presentations at school or in their community.
A1 Unifying Themes – Systems
3-5. Students explain interactions between parts that make up whole man-made and natural things.
6-8. Students describe and apply principles of systems in man-made things, natural things, and processes.
9-Diploma. Students apply an understanding of systems to explain and analyze man-made and natural phenomena.
A3 Unifying Themes – Constancy and Change
3-5 a. Recognize patterns of change including steady, repetitive, irregular, or apparently unpredictable change.
6-8. Students describe how patterns of change vary in physical, biological, and technological systems.
B1 Skills and Traits of Scientific Inquiry
3-5 a. Pose investigable questions and seek answers from reliable sources of scientific information and from their own investigations.
6-8. Students plan, conduct, analyze data from, and communicate results of investigations, including simple experiments.
C1 The Scientific and Technological Enterprise – Understandings of Inquiry
3-5 a. Describe how scientists answer questions by developing explanations based on observations, evidence, and knowledge of the natural world.
9-diploma. Students describe key aspects of scientific investigations: that they are guided by scientific principles and knowledge, that they are performed to test ideas, and that they are communicated and defended publicly.
E1 The Living Environment – Biodiversity
3-5. Students compare living things based on their behaviors, external features, and environmental needs.
6-8. Students differentiate among organisms based on biological characteristics and identify patterns of similarity.
E2 The Living Environment – Ecosystems
3-5. Students describe ways organisms depend upon, interact within, and change the living and non-living environment as well as ways the environment affects organisms.
6-8. Students examine how the characteristics of the physical, non-living (abiotic) environment, the types and behaviors of living (biotic) organisms, and the flow of matter and energy affect organisms and the ecosystem of which they are part.
Expectations and Misconceptions: It’s important to mention to students that they probably will not find changes in the timing of all events. They may not find changes in the timing of any events. The goal is to know which have changed, which haven’t, and why.
Guard against the notion that, “If I see changes in timing, that’s climate change. If I don’t see them, then the climate is not changing.” Remind them that the climate is changing, that some things are impacted more than others, and that things are impacted differently.
Encourage students to record other thoughts, observations, drawings in the other pages of their notebooks concerning bird activity, behavior and timing.
Reflection: Ask participants to describe their investigation and reflect on what worked well and what they could do differently next time. Ask them to talk about any changes that have occurred in the timing of bird activity. Can they speculate about possible climate-related causes for these changes? How much can they infer and what other evidence/information would they need to make any claims about climate change causes? Specific questions that may help prompt the discussion include:
Formative assessment: Ask student groups to give weekly updates at the beginning of class about their inquiry, including all aspects (feeder watching, species noted, search for experts, reviewing online databases). Ask them to comment about any problems or questions they’ve encountered. Do they feel the information they’re collecting will help then to draw conclusions about their original claims or predictions. Notice where they might benefit from your coaching about thinking about their observations, questions for experts, or in how to find appropriate data and make sense of it?
If they turned up interesting findings, offer guidance in preparing a presentation to a local nature center, library or in another public setting. Have the students build on the exercise by searching records or asking experts about species that used to appear locally and no longer do, or species that were not seen in the area until recently. What inferences or conclusions can they draw about these changes and how can they support their claims?
Signs of the Seasons (http://umaine.edu/signs-of-the-seasons)
USA National Phenology Network (http://www.usanpn.org)
There are countless field guides in book form. Peterson’s, National Geographic or Sibley’s guides are all good. For online sources try:
USGS Patuxent Bird ID Info Center (http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/framlst.html)
Bird Watcher’s Digest (http://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/bwdsite/learn/identification/index.php)
Finding bird experts in your community:
Maine Audubon Centers and Chapters (http://maineaudubon.org/find-us/)
Online data about bird observations (nation-wide):
e-Bird (http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about )
Project Feederwatch (http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/)
Great Backyard Birdcount (http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/whycount.html)
USGS North American Bird Phenology Program (http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bpp/#)
For assistance contact:
Esperanza Stancioff, Climate Change Educator
University of Maine Cooperative Extension/Maine Sea Grant
207.832.0343; 1.800.244.2104 (in Maine); firstname.lastname@example.org
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