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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Field Trips Without the Paperwork: Animal Webcams

Who doesn't love a field trip?  Students and teachers alike love getting out of the classroom to learn.

 (Disclaimer: The above is a general statement. You may encounter unfavorable conditions such as getting up at 4 am for an out of town trip, chaperones...who, well, need a chaperone, children who have 8-10 different medications you have to administer, etc...)

Phew, now that is out of the way, let's talk about how to have a "field trip" without filling out paperwork, sweating over permission forms, or keeping up with students in public.  Shocked?  I know!  Who wouldn't love being able to give their students real world experience and observations without leaving your school, and in some cases your own classroom?

Truth is, many resources out there are completely under-utilized by teachers.  But why?

Well, there isn't much time to look for them. Planning, grading, answering emails, analyzing data, dealing with social issues in class, and trying to keep your personal life (and house) together is a daunting task.  Also, with the ever increasing emphasis on standardized testing and scores, observing the real world isn't high on the priority list.  Why?  Because it isn't on a test.

There are many great resources out there, and I hope to continue to bring those to you on this blog so you don't have to go looking for hours to find them.  Today I want to start with observing animals.  In many grades the standards call for understanding animal adaptations, whether physical vs. behavioral or inherited vs. learned.  Sure, showing real pictures to your students is a great start, but why not go a step further?  Going to your local zoo is a great field trip that you can use to help students observe and understand adaptations, but what if you don't have a zoo?  How can your students get the experience of seeing animals in action?  The answer....webcams!

The great thing about webcams is that your students can observe animals over the period of hours, days, weeks, whatever suits your lessons.  A visit to the zoo is great, but the problem is that all too often a lot of animals are lying around not doing much.  Why?  Well, when you play a day trip to the zoo, you're usually visiting in the middle of the day so you can get students back to school before dismissal.  This means you are observing animals during the warmest part of the day, when they normally are resting.

One of my favorite sites for webcams is the Cornell Lab Bird Cams site.  I have been watching the Great Horned Owls with my husband.  We kept checking it because the chicks were ready to leave the nest, and even when they left, there was still cool behavior to observe.  Mom/Dad kept bringing food (small rodents, snakes, etc...) back to the nest and calling for the fledglings.  You could see her/him call in each direction until the sound of a chick's call came back.  Then, they would fly off with the meal, like a delivery service!  This site has play back, so your students can not only watch live, but go back to see what they missed and there are "highlights" for each of the types of bird cams.  There are several cams up right now, so be sure to check it out!

Another amazing site is HD on Tap!  There is everything from whales to elephants and hippos in Africa!  This site actually helps power several of the Cornell cams, and have many options for you to choose from.  Be sure to cruise their selections in case you want students to observe different types of animals.  The only unfortunate part about this site (if students are individually looking at cams) is that there are comments sometimes under the videos.  I haven't seen any "un-school-like" words or comments yet, but I'm not sure how filtered they are!

The Aquarium of the Pacific has great cams including sea horses, tropical reefs, penguins, sharks, jellyfish, and other types of fish.  The lighting is pretty good, and although it is not a wild habitat, students can still observe adaptations and behaviors.

I just clicked the "Tau Game Lodge" video from Wild Earth TV and saw a huge group of elephants walking past!  It was a live cam, and although darkness had already fallen in South Africa, night vision is our friend.

I hope that these animal cams have given you some ideas about how to incorporate these into your classroom.  Even watching these as a class on your Promethean Board/Smart Board/projector will be an event they will love.  It may just be the first thing that comes out of their mouth when they get in the car!

Use this Animal Observations: Webcam Observation Sheets freebie to have your students record their observations!

Stay tuned on more ideas to have a "field trip" inside your classroom!  Who needs all those permission forms anyway?  Did Miss Frizzle use them?  I doubt it!


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