Category Archives: Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information

Here’s the October Edition of the Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival!

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Welcome to the October 31, 2012 edition of the Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival!

I delayed publishing for a few days, as I know many of my readers have been struggling with weather-related issues, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the Superstorm that followed. I pray that all are safe and sound and back to full power soon, if not today.

Thank you for participating in the October Edition of the Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival!

 

Changing Seasons

Kim Bennett presents Signs of Autumn: Our Trip to the Orchard posted at A Child’s Garden, saying, “We took the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful autumn day and pick some tasty apples, in the process! We could have filed this under “Fruits and Seeds,” too.”

 

Fruits and Seeds

The Bennett family then follows up with Two Easy Apple Experiments posted on Squidoo, saying, “This lens was an extension of our apple orchard field trip (see “A Child’s Garden”), and was fun to do for some “kitchen counter science.””

 

Potpourri

freelee presents “Be a Backyard Scientist” posted at 52 Days to Explore, saying, “Botany, biology and other sciences in the back yard with simple items you may have.”

That concludes this edition. Thank you to all participants! Each submission earns a free copy of “Autumn Leaves: A Plant Study,” a 23-page science journaling e-Book for studying fall leaves.

Submit your blog article to the November edition of Simple Science Strategies using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.


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Cause and Effect: Using a Multi-Flow Map in a Science Center

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Why Study Cause and Effect?

Scientific investigation and experimentation is all about connecting things. In  order for students to connect two events, or a treatment and its effects, students have to understand that things stay the same, unless acted upon by something else, and that things have the ability to change the behavior of other things.

science strategies cause and effect flow map

Understanding cause and effect is central to scientific thinking and exploration. Photo Credit: Alastros Oistros, 2005, via Creative Commons

Understanding cause and effect is a complex skill, involving many subskills:

  • Direct observation of objects and their attributes
  • Observation of objects through the use of simple tests and tools
  • Connection of two events
  • Making predictions based on facts, observations and past experiences
  • Evaluation of the probability and possibility of past and future events, based on observations, the body of scientific knowledge and past experiences
  • Understanding and communication of scientific ideas in words, diagrams and writing
  • Understanding causality and correlation

In short, the understanding of cause and effect, and communication about it, is at the heart of scientific experimentation and investigation.

Tools for Communication Cause and Effect

David Hyerle has established a system of eight Thinking Maps to organize thinking around distinct cognitive processes. One of these maps, the Multi-Flow Map, is specifically created, by the learner, to demonstrate cause-and-effect relationships. (Please click on the link, below, for resources prepared by Wappinger Central School District, in Fishkill, New York, for teaching about the Multi-Flow Map and using it with students:

The Multi-Flow Map

The Multi-Flow Map: useful for demonstrating an understanding of cause and effect relationships.

Using a Multi-Flow Map in the Classroom

This month, we have been using some typical October events to teach questioning:

  • the formation of fruits and seeds from flowers
  • fall color development
  • bird migration
  • changes in the weather

Here are some ways that you could use a multi-flow map in a science center, to provide independent practice in showing cause and effect. Provide the object identified, blank observations sheets and the directions for making a multi-flow map (see the link, above). Leave “cue cards” with the words “What happened here?” and “What will happen next?” Provide a basket for completed work, or create a class bulletin board for students to combine all their thinking into a classroom display (use different colored cards for causes, the event, and effects, and connect with string — leave a stapler at the bulletin board to facilitate student independence).

Fruit and Seed formation

  • an apple with a poke in the side
  • a cut or bitten apple that has begun to discolor
  • an apple with a bruise or rotten spot
  • a photograph of a chipmunk with full cheek pouches
  • a photograph of a blue jay with an acorn in its beak

Fall color formation

  • a branchlet with leaves in different stages of color development
  • a skeletonized leaf
  • a leaf with scorched leaf margins
  • a leaf with sooty mold, powdery mildew, or leaf spot
  • a leaf with insect galls

Bird migration

  • a photograph of geese in V-formation
  • a photograph of blackbirds congregating near a feeder
  • a photograph of vultures climbing a thermal
  • a photograph of goldfinches or other bird in transition plumage

Weather changes

  • a photograph of flooding after Hurricane Sandy
  • a photograph of a tree on downed power lines
  • a photograph of houses collapsed on a beach after a hurricane
  • a photograph of a person chopping wood
  • a photograph of wood smoke coming from a chimney
  • a photograph of  a pile of student jackets on the playground

A Note About Centers

Whenever possible, use real objects, and any relevant tools, instead of photographs or pictures. When photographs or pictures are used, make them relevant to the students. For example, after our experiences with Hurricane Sandy,  I would photograph downed trees or flooding in my town, or the school’s flooded playground, instead of another location. Always use whatever has the most meaning to your students.

science strategies cause and effect flow map

Use available, familiar items whenever designing independent learning centers. Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2011

 

 

 

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Question-Answer Relationships in Science

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What are QARs?

Has this happened to you, as a teacher?

Student B (age 9, 12 or 18… it doesn’t matter) sits with a scientific editorial, and an essay assignment. The prompt asks him, “Does the author believe that nuclear power is a benefit to society, or a danger? Use evidence from the editorial to answer your question.” At the end of class, the student turns in a blank paper: “I don’t know what to write — it didn’t say.” Sigh.

Researchers developed the concept of QARs, or Question-Answer Relationships, to help students understand that there is a relationship between the type of question asked, and the place the student goes to find the information to answer the question. By quickly determining the type of question, the student is better able to figure out how to answer the question.

Types of Questions

Reading response questions fall into four categories, based on where the reader must go to find the answer:

  1. “Right There” Questions
  2. “Search and Find Out” Questions
  3. “Author and Me” Questions
  4. “On My Own” Questions

If students can learn to identify the hallmarks of each type of question, then they can more quickly determine what they have to do in order to craft the appropriate response. Here is a general overview of the categories of questions:

Right There Questions

  • assess literal comprehension: there is little need to think beyond the text in order to answer
  • the answer is readily identifiable directly in the text (e.g., a definition, a specific fact, a quote)
  • tend to be lower Bloom’s levels (because the reader merely has to identify or locate the answer)
  • are text dependent: the reader cannot answer the question without reading the text
  • may include the words, “according to the text”
  • may include the question words, “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” or “how.”
  • may contain words in bold print
  • Example: “What is an igneous rock?

(c) gregw66, 2011 via Creative Commons

Search and find out questions

  • assess literal comprehension
  • the answer is identifiable in the text, but the reader must read through a more extended portion of the text to find all the parts (e.g., several reasons, multiple steps)
  • involve more summary and extrapolation, so are higher than “Right There” questions, but still lower level questions
  • are text dependent
  • may also include the words, “according to the text” and the question words “who-what-where-when-how”
  • Example: “What are the three major kinds of rocks? Explain how each is formed.

(c) gregw66 (2011), Jonathan Wilkens and Ken Lund (2010) via Creative Commons

Author and me questions

  • assess inferential comprehension
  • are text-dependent (the reader must have read the text in order to answer), but cannot be answered with the text, alone
  • involve interpretation and reflection, so are higher order
  • may include the words, “why,” “in your opinion,” “you,” or “use evidence from the text to explain your thinking.”
  • Example: “Find five rocks outside. Use the table on page 5 to classify them as igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary, and explain what characteristics helped you decide.”

(c) 2008, Gwen and James Anderson via Creative Commons

On my own questions

  • are not text-dependent: the reader does not have to have read the text at all to answer the question
  • involve connections to personal experiences
  • can vary in Bloom’s level, depending on the question
  • may include the words, “you/your,” “think of a time,” “when have you,” or “have you ever.”
  • Example: “List ten things in your school or schoolyard that are made from rock.”

(c) Kim M. Bennett, 2011

The Reading Lady has an excellent overview of QARs in .pdf form. It’s thirteen pages long, and includes planning sheets for teachers to plan different levels of questions for a lesson, or to classify the kinds of questions at the end of the chapter (so you can add others that are lacking). It also includes organizers for students to classify or create their own questions for each level — a very powerful task for student learning.

QARs in Science

The above examples show how QARs can be used to help students make sense of science texts. The Tantasqua School District (Massachusetts) has developed examples of how QARs can be used in other content areas – very useful for supporting literacy across content areas.

But can we use the same levels of thinking in non-text-based tasks? What would that look like?

Let’s go back to the original levels, and what they stand for:

  1. Level 1 (Right There): just reporting the proper information
  2. Level 2 (Search and Find Out): the information is there, but you have to work to get it
  3. Level 3 (Author & Me): you process the information based on your own thought and experiences
  4. Level 4 (On My Own): only your experiences are needed

Here is a suggestion for encouraging these four levels of thinking, even when text is not used. This is helpful thinking, for working with struggling readers who are not struggling thinkers, for making grade-level content accessible to students with disabilities, for making input comprehensible to students who are second language learners, and for ensuring overall rigor of thinking for all students.

Level 1 (Right There) questions

  • Involve direct observation using the five senses

Some data can be directly observed, using the 5 senses. (c)  lara604, 2011 via Creative Commons

Level 2 (Search and find out) questions

  • Involve indirect observation
  • Involve using text resources, simple tests and simple tools to gather additional data not directly observable
  • Involve knowing that some data cannot be directly observed

Simple tools and tests can be used to gather more information. (c) 2012, Kim M. Bennett

Level 3 (Author & Me) Questions

  • Involve extending beyond the observations to possible causes and effects
  • Involve applying prior learning and knowledge to new observations
  • Involve prediction based on knowledge and present data

Level 4 (On My Own) questions

  • Involve generalizing to the real world
  • Involve establishing relevancy and real-life connection

Comparing the new with the known, the student generalizes to similar observations and experiences. (c) Alastros Oistros, 2005 via Creative Commons

Fostering Thinking…

To help organize students’ thinking at these four levels, I created a simple reporting sheet that can be used with many types of science tasks, from experiments, to outdoor observations, to science centers. I also made a companion sheet for using QARs with text-based tasks, in science or any other content area. Click on the image to download a copy.

QARs for Science: an Organizer for Download

QARs: an Organizer for Download

For More Information…

For more information on strategies to help foster literacy in science, see 50 Instructional Routines to Develop Content Literacy. From some of the best-known authors in the field comes a book that provides all middle and high school teachers with practical information about improving students’ reading, writing, and oral language development. Every teacher needs to use instructional routines that allow students to engage in all of these literacy processes. Classroom examples from science, social studies, English, math, visual and performing arts, and core electives ensure that all middle and high school teachers can effectively integrate literacy instruction into their lesson delivery. Click on the link (above) or the image (below) for ordering information.

50 Instructional Routines to Develop Content Literacy, $27.60 from Barnes & Noble.

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The October Simple Science Strategies Newsletter is Ready!

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Download the October Newsletter today!

As promised, here is the next edition of the Simple Science Strategies Newsletter for 2012.

In this edition, we explore Stability and Change through nature studies of fruit and seed development, migration, fall color change and the arrival of autumn weather. In the process, we will learn more about the role of questioning in scientific thinking, and learn ways to help students explore cause and effect. Right click on the text or photo link, below, and save on your computer wherever you choose. Print out or view online (note: the document contains hyperlinks to important resources).

October 2012 Edition of

The Simple Science Strategies Newsletter

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From Apple Flower to Apple Fruit

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On Stability and Change: The Apple

This month, we are studying the concepts of stability and change. The first of our nature-based studies involves a favorite autumn topic in New England: apples.

science strategies apple tree flower botany

The apple: a great opportunity for year-round botany study. (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012.

Apples present an excellent opportunity to study stability and change, in both spring and fall, where we can study the transformation of the bare tree to one with leaves, the emergence of leaves and flowers from buds, the growth of apple fruits from the spent blossoms, the gradual ripening of the fruit, and the ultimate dropping of fruits and leaves as the fall winds down to winter.

This is also a nice opportunity to begin to talk about the structures of flowers and fruits, using the familiar, and accessible, apple, even during the winter months. Use the Apple a Day” notebooking pages, for these, and other, activities.

science strategies apple tree flower botany

An Apple a Day” – September Botany Journaling, 2012
20 pages, $1.95

 

A Year of Studies, by Season

An apple tree, all year round

Using the “Adopt-a-Plant” strategy, choose an apple tree (or, if you do not live near one, a crabapple tree will do), and observe it very early in the spring, before the leaves emerge (March or so, here in New England). Sketch the tree, or one branch on the tree in one frame, and provide a narrative to accompany each drawing. Add additional pages, as necessary. Here are some questions you might use as prompts for sketching and writing:

Winter (March)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. This frame and lines journaling page is useful for multiple sketches over time, or multiple views.

  1. Sketch a bud on a twig. How are the buds protected in the winter? Carefully dissect a bud. What do you see inside?
  2. As the bud opens, what parts of the bud remain? What happens to the other parts? Why do you think this happens?
  3. Notice the markings and scars near the buds. What do you think cause them? Explain.
  4. Count the number of nodes from the tip of a branch to the trunk. How old is the branch? Explain how you figured this out.

Spring (May)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. Botanical drawings and content vocabulary for journaling, word study, vocabulary building, or penmanship.

  1. Sketch an opening bud. What parts do you see first, the flowers or the leaves? Do they come out at the same time? Do all buds produce leaves and flowers? Describe what you see.
  2. Draw an opening apple blossom. Label these parts: stem, stipules, calyx, sepals.
  3. Sketch an open apple blossom. How many petals do you see? Draw the calyx behind the petals. What shape is the apple blossom? Color your drawing. Are the petals the same color on the inside as the outside? Why do buds and the blossoms appear different colors?
  4. Draw an open apple blossom. Label these parts: petals, stamens, filament, anther, pistil, stigma.
  5. Have an adult help you cut open the base of the apple blossom. What do you see inside? What do you think these become? Use what you know about apples to help you answer.
  6. Carefully sketch the arrangement of the new leaves as they grow around the blossom. What color are they? Do they stay this color?

Summer (June)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. Diagrams with labels, or boxes for labeling. Pages with and without word banks as a scaffold for labeling.

  1. Sketch a twig or blossom after the petals fall. What parts remain? What parts are missing? Why do you think some parts fall off? What part do you think becomes the apple fruit that you eat? What becomes the seeds?
  2. Use a piece of colorful tape to mark one twig with developing apples. Return to sketch one developing apple, once a week. Identify any parts of the original blossom that remain.
  3. How many apples grow from one winter bud? How many leaves? Draw a branch and show the arrangement of apples and leaves.
  4. Does the apple branch keep on growing? What part grows after the fruit forms?

Fall (September)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. Woodcuts from botanical texts: useful for rendering accurate colors when observing.

  1. Sketch three apples of different varieties, making sure to render the shape accurately. Describe the differences and similarities in these areas: shape, stem, color.
  2. Observe a ripe apple on a tree. Notice the color. Is it the same color everywhere? Develop a hypothesis about the role of air temperature and sunlight in the development of apple fruit color.
  3. Carefully draw and color one apple. Is it the same color everywhere? Are they spots or streaks? Is it the same color on both sides?
  4. Draw a ripe apple (outside and inside views). Identify the flower parts that created the structures you see.
  5. Use words to describe the texture of the apple skin. What function does the skin serve? (See Experiment 1)
  6. Cut up apples of five varieties. Create a data table to compare and rate them from 1-5 based on these factors: color (1=greenest skin, 5=reddest skin), texture (1=coarsest pulp, 5=finest pulp); crispness (1=crispiest, 5=softest), juiciness (1=juiciest, 5=driest), taste (1=most sour, 5=sweetest), aroma (1=no aroma, 5=strongest aroma).
  7. Cut apples of several varieties from stem to flower end. Draw and compare the core area.

Winter (December)

science strategies apple flower botany

Sample page. A variety of lined pages, in both regular rule and primary rule, for copywork, handwriting practice, observations or thematic writing.

  1. Gather an apple, a pear, a peach, a plum and a cherry. Carefully cut each in half, starting at the stem end. Sketch what you see. What is the same about all these fruits? What is different?
  2. Cut an apple from end to end, along the core. Sketch what you see. Note the core line. Can you connect the stem to the flower end through the core? Why?
  3. Cut another apple across the core. Sketch what you see in this view. Identify the flower parts that formed what you see. Draw the seed cells. Can you see faint dots between the cells? What do you think these are? How many seeds do you find in each cell (carpel)?
  4. List all the apple varieties you know. Use other resources to find more names. Sort them by use, color, country of origin.

Want a Report Cover or Fun Word Wall?

science strategies apple flower botany

Download it here

Two Experiments

These experiments are adapted from The Handbook of Nature Study (Anna Botsford Comstock), where you can get many other ideas for prompts for botany journaling or classroom discussion, as well as great background information for you, the teacher.

science strategies apple flower botany

Handbook of Nature Study, $23.67, Barnes & Noble (click on image for ordering information).

Experiment 1. The role of the apple peel

Take three apples of similar size, shape, and soundness. Peel one. Place the peeled apple on a desk or shelf. Place one of the unpeeled apples so that it is touching the peeled apple. Place the remaining unpeeled apple on the other side of the peeled apple, but at a distance, so it does not touch.

Which one would you predict would rot first? Which one would you predict would rot next? Where would the rot start? Why do you think this?

Develop a hypothesis to explain your thinking. Explain what you think the role  the skin serves in the life cycle of the apple tree.

Observe the apples for rot over the next several days. Evaluate your hypothesis.

science strategies apple flower botany

(c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012

Experiment 2: More on the role of the apple peel

Take the rotten apple from the first experiment. Use a safety pin or a needle to prick the flesh of the rotten fruit, then use the juice-covered pin to prick a healthy fruit. Go back and forth, pricking the rotten fruit once, then pricking the good fruit, making your initials in the good fruit. Put the inoculated apple on a desk or table. Throw away the rotten fruit or compost it.

Develop a hypothesis about where rot will begin on the inoculated fruit.

Observe the inoculated fruit over the next several days. Note where rot begins. Explain why you think this is so. Also relate your findings to how apples should be handled at the orchard, in shipping, and in the grocery store, to ensure long shelf life.

science strategies apple flower botany

See “Favorite Photo Friday” for more about this photo! (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012

Share Your Work!

Make sure that you share your October apple work on the Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival. Entries are due on October 26, for posting by November 1.

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The September 2012 Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival is Here!

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Observation — the focus for September 2012

Welcome to the September 30, 2012 edition of Simple Science Strategies!


Blog Carnival archive - simple science strategies

Mushrooms and Lichens

Hot off the press! We demonstrate how some fungi disperse their spores in Puffballs! posted at A Child’s Garden. We didn’t intend to study puffballs, but here they showed up, overnight, at the edge of our driveway. So (of course) we had to stop our course and spend time with them!

We also included Make Room for Mushrooms posted at A Child’s Garden. This was originally posted in 2011, but submitted to this year’s blog carnival, because we learned so much, that we wanted to share it again.

 

Ant Colonies

Our ant studies are repeats from last fall, because we liked the way we conducted (and reported) our nature study, and didn’t want to tweak it! September Study 3: Ants,Termites and Ant Lions posted at A Child’s Garden includes lots of links and suggestions for carrying out ant studies (perfect for fall).

Because the “One Small Square” strategy was covered in this month’s Simple Science Strategies newsletter and posts, we shared a past study of Citronella ants using the strategy. In Citronella Ants Go Marching, posted at A Child’s Garden. We used the “One Small Square” strategy as we explored under the rock and brick edging of our flower bed, and discovered a species of ant that we hadn’t known about before. Fun!

 

Bird Feeding

As part of our Exploring Creation Through Zoology studies, we have conducted many experiments and investigations right in our own backyard. In What Color Attracts More Birds? – A Lesson on Fractions, posted at A Child’s Garden. We connected science and grade-level work on fractions as one learning task to accompany our study of birds and their feeding preferences.

 

Wildflowers and Seeds

In our favorite fall study, we present September Wildflowers in Connecticut – Our Sock Walk. posted at A Child’s Garden. We wanted to share the wildflowers we saw on our sock walk, plus the (not-so-great) results of our follow-up investigation (where we planted our socks), so we put the photos together in a mini-field guide.

As a result of our hike, we learned a lot about how plants disperse their seeds. In our Squidoo lens, Seeds Get Around, posted at A Child’s Garden, we share a botany study that was a spin-off from our wildflower and seed work, and show what we learned about seed dispersal mechanisms.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Simple Science Strategies using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.


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Project FeederWatch: A Great Program for Homeschoolers, Teachers and Other Bird Lovers

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Feeder watching teaches students how to identify birds, observe their feeding and social habits, and begin to take simple data. Photo Credit (c) 2011 Kim M. Bennett.

Why Volunteer to Collect Data?

For the past 20 years, my family has participated in many “citizen science” programs. Research projects that use volunteer data collectors are extremely beneficial, for several reasons:

  1. You are collecting real data for a real (BIG) research project, giving the task a real-world purpose;
  2. The “lessons” are already done for you, and the projects usually have a wealth of resources to help you plan other studies;
  3. The set up of the project reinforces important research skills in the volunteer participants;
  4. Because so many people participate, the body of scientific knowledge is greatly expanded;
  5. The small fee you pay to participate (it’s very small) supports further research — a great opportunity to teach kids about responsible giving.

Here are some programs that you can enroll in, to combine your own feeder studies with major studies.

Our Time with Project FeederWatch

My family has participated in Project FeederWatch for 20 years. We have learned so much by spending just a short time watching birds each week (of course, we watched them way more than the observation time, because we enjoyed the project so much!).

During our studies, we learned the following things:

  1. Tufted titmice will fight over leftover cooked broccoli that is left on a feeding table;
  2. The fur from your pet Shetland sheepdog’s doggy brush will disappear if you leave it under your bird feeder in the spring;
  3. Bluebirds will stay all year if you have berry suet (here in CT);
  4. Wild turkeys might run away (at first) when your neighbor’s cat jumps into the group, but the cat will be sorry he tried to eat turkey for dinner;
  5. Cooper’s Hawks will catch their lunch (birds) straight from the bird feeder;
  6. Goldfinches will land on you by the dozens and wait for you to fill the feeder after a snowstorm;
  7. And chickadees will sit nearby and scold you at the same time.
  8. A seed block under the feeder will attract grouse, pheasants and other large birds;
  9. Even birds that don’t eat seeds (hawks, phoebes, owls, e.g.) will be attracted to all the activity when you feed the ones that do;
  10. Once a year, about 300 grackles (with a few blackbirds and cowbirds) will descend on your yard, eat all the seed, then leave.

A great feeding station has several different types of feeders and several different types of food, to attract the greatest variety of feeder birds. Photo credit (c) 2012, Kim M. Bennett

About the Program

sponsor:

Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology
 

Data Collection Dates:

November through April
 

Area:

North America (United States and Canada)

Purpose:

According to the Project FeederWatch website:

The massive amounts of data collected by FeederWatchers across the continent help scientists understand

  • long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance
  • the timing and extent of winter irruptions of winter finches and other species.
  • expansions or contractions in the winter ranges of feeder birds
  • the kinds of foods and environmental factors that attract birds
  • how disease is spread among birds that visit feeders”

 

Fee:

$15 ($12 for Lab Members)

What you get:

Posters, data collection forms and/or a link for online submission, a newsletter and tons of great online tools, articles and other links about this and other birding programs at Cornell.

For more information:

See the Project FeederWatch home page. If you happen to be in the Ithaca, New York Area, please do make it a point to visit Sapsucker Woods, the home of the Cornell birding world. Cornell is my alma mater — it’s worth a visit if you’re in that part of New York.

Some migratory birds, like the bluebirds that we watched all winter, will stay up north during mild winters, if your feeding station has the right assortment of food available. Photo credit (c) 2012, Kim M. Bennett

Keeping it Simple

If you don’t want to jump in with both feet and join Project FeederWatch, you

can still conduct simpler feeder watching studies in your backyard or outside your classroom window.  All you need are a few items:

  • a good field guide (we use

    National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America) or a poster of common feeder birds of your area. Click the image at right for ordering information.

  • a pair of binoculars
  • a notebook

 

Spend about 15 minutes a day watching the birds. Decide how you will collect data. Here are some options:

  • Count the maximum number of birds of a particular species at the feeder at a given time (e.g., if you count three chickadees, mark 3; then, if one flies off and two others fly in, mark 4) – this gives you an idea of the overall number of the birds at your feeder, although you don’t know if it’s the same ones or different ones.
  • Count the number of visits to the feeder, no matter how many or few birds this represents — this gives you an idea of the interest in the food being offered, but doesn’t give you as much of an idea of the number of birds there.
  • Count the individual birds coming to the feeder — this is nearly impossible unless you know your individual birds by sign (unlikely), but would give the most accurate answer to the question, “How many birds are coming to my feeder?”
  • Count the number of different species coming to the feeder — this works nicely when you compare the diversity from week to week, especially as you head into migration times of the year.

See “Feeding Birds: An Experiment (Or Two…)” for a very simple study of feeder birds.

 

Stay Tuned…

Watch future posts on Simple Science Strategies for more information on other programs at Cornell, including their online Ornithology classes. NestWatch, Project Tanager, and many others. Also look for information on American Robin, a website dedicated to citizen science and the migration habits of the American Robin.

Tell us all about how you use bird feeding to hone your students’ observation skills. Don’t forget to post your link in the Simple Science Strategies September Blog Carnival by 9/28/2012.

 

 

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