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The Critter Camera – All Scavengers Invited

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The Critter Cam was setup by a group of middle-school age students during a Swamp Exploration-Wild About Wildlife program. The trail camera was positioned over the remains of a recently harvested and butchered white-tailed deer to catch the mix of scavengers that might take advantage of an easy winter treat and forest feast.

Within the first few days and nights the camera captured coyote, fox, red tail hawk, vulture, crow, red bellied woodpecker, blue jay and deer.

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Orienteering to Vernal Pools in Allamuchy State Park – NJ

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As part of Iz Turley’s Hardwoodsman challenge, I went out to practice my map & compass navigation skills. My destination was a few wetland habitats within Allamuchy State Park. The wetlands on the map appeared to be perfect locations  for vernal pools and the diversity of species that call them home.

Along the way I found Spring Peepers, Wood Frogs, Spotted Salamanders, Eastern Newts, Fairy Shrimp, Pileated Woodpecker, Wood ducks and much much more including a BEAR SKULL!!!

 

David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula.  He specializes in making nature accessible to people and wildlife.  You can follow him at www.natureintoaction.com

Wild About Wildlife – Inquiry Games

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Engage youth and adults alike in an exploration of Furs, Scat, Tracks and Skulls to test their wildlife wisdom. Recently, I was asked to present to a group of scouts about wildlife and thought what better way for them to interact within the required indoor setting than to allow for hands-on inquiry based exploration of wildlife bio-facts. After a brief introduction explaining a little history of Ernest Thompson Seton and his love of wildlife that led him to pioneer the Boy Scouting of America program we were off into groups. Each group went around in the rotation before completing the circuit.

Station 1: Match the Skulls
Match the animal pictures with the skulls.  Clues or guiding questions may be given to help scouts uncover each skulls identity. Some skulls I have found while others have been given to me by hunters or wildlife professional and some are bone clones. Extension activities are numerous with skulls and allow students much closer and more meaningful examination.  (If you see students wiggling the teeth let them know the tooth fairy will know they are not their teeth!)

Station 2: Match the Scat
Match the scat picture with the animal picture.  Look closely to find clues in what the animal may have eaten (Tell the students they are scratch and sniff!). You can purchase a Scats of North America Collection or Repli-Scat from Acorn Naturalists.

Station 3. Match the Fur
Match the furs, feathers, scales and shells with the animal pictures.  You can find fur scraps from Joyce’s Antler Art or other taxidermy type businesses to be used for educational purposes. Faux fur is also available and would make for a fun fur matching zoo game for early learners. Feathers are tricky business, check with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for information.

Station 4A. Match the Tracks
Examine tracks closely to try to identify their creator. Provide questions and clues to participants to help them uncover the traits and detail and determine answers as they narrow down their ideas. Can also be done with matching animal picture cards.

Station 4B. Make & Take Animal Track Craft
Provide one clay ball to each participant to flatten on a plate. They choose an animal track to press into the clay and leave an impression (or use a plaster track to press in). You may add a hole in the clay so that when it air dries it can be hung like a necklace or an ornament.

Finally, Wildlife Jeopardy.  Pick a category and a number and have your chosen Alex Trebec read the question.  If you answer it correctly you hold on to the point value that is attached with velcro covering the answer found in picture form.  The winning player or team has the most points at the end of the game.

*More Wildlife Station Options/Ideas*
-Age deer by jaw bone display/demonstration: Let participants place the jaw bones in order showing 6 months, 1.5 years, 2.5 years, 3.5 years and beyond. Explain how biologists are able to accurately determine age after they have used their own scientific processing to make an order.

Mystery Items displayed on a Bio-Fact Touch Table.

Animal Sound Quiz: Sounds are played one at a time to be identified on an answer sheet as they are heard. I like to add foot steps in between each sound as if participants are on a hike and stop to listen. Check out Lang Elliot for excellent wildlife sound recordings.

David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula.  He enjoys making nature more accessible to people and wildlife.  You can follow him at www.natureintoaction.com

Crafting Plaster Pond Pals

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Using field guides, tinfoil and plaster wrap we constructed pond creatures as part of a one-day Frog Pond Science Camp with students in 1st – 3rd grades. We discussed the diversity of creatures that make up the frog pond ecosystem and after reviewing field guides and resource materials campers planned and began work on their own creature. Among their choices were a turtle, snake, salamander, siren, alligator and water boatman.

David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula.  He specializes in making nature accessible to people and wildlife.  You can follow him at www.natureintoaction.com

Forest Skulls

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Walk the landscape long enough and your sure to come across some interesting findings. Chief among them are the white washed sun bleached skulls of animals.

While I try to leave some items behind for the next person or animal to discover I have over the years collected a few skulls to share with students, scouts and campers as part of a hands-on Wild About Wildlife program. Some have also been gifted and traded to me over the years including a cat, beaver and opossum skull. Some like the fox above were left behind by a trapper at the edge of a wildlife management area.

Butterfly Tent Safari 2013

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For the last week I’ve been working with staff and volunteers at the Essex County Environmental Center in Roseland, New Jersey to host a Butterfly Tent Safari event.  The aim is to educate guests about butterfly conservation through wonderment that leads to active conservation and enhancement of our own backyard, schoolyard and community habitats where butterflies may reside. To learn bout hosting your own butterfly tent safari or bugfest event check out “Buzz Into Action, The Insect Curriculum For Grades K-4“.

Below are a few photographs of the program to share with you all and video.

David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula.  He specializes in making nature accessible to people and wildlife.  You can follow him at www.natureintoaction.com

Frog Pond Science, Hop Into Action!

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If I had it my way, exploring a frog pond ecosystem would be mandatory for all students.  The observations and interaction with frogs, dragonflies, cattails, lily pads and so much more make for an incredible learning opportunity every child should experience.  One of the most popular classes that I offer is Frog Pond Science.  For more information, check out the Amphibian Encounter lesson in Hop Into Action, The Amphibian Curriculum For Grades K-4.

Record your findings at a frog pond for the Citizen Science program FrogWatch USA.   The program helps you to learn about the wetlands in your community and conserve amphibians by reporting the calls of local frogs and toads that you hear.

David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula.  He specializes in making nature accessible to people and wildlife.  You can follow him at www.natureintoaction.com

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