Just in time for back-to-school: New distance learning resources are available on Wide Open School.
It's a cool program to implement in your classroom, even if you don't follow the WildLab's curriculum exactly. They've provided a formal lesson plan as well as more casual ideas on how to teach kids about conservation; both are solid resources that you can build upon for your own students. Students love to spend time outside during school; even though bird-watching is a quiet, contemplative activity, they'll be happy to spend time in nature while also learning.Continue reading Show less
The WildLab is a website that connects kids to nature and introduces them to conservation through bird-watching. Designed as a curriculm for New York state classrooms in 2009, it takes kids outside to watch the skies for birds, asking them to note their appearance and then input their data into the WildLab app. You can view your sightings on the website by logging in with your username and password. You will be taken to your profile page, where your personal sightings are listed.
You can log sightings from your iPhone and then watch as the website populates with the information you've added. Recent sightings scroll across the top of the screen.
It's a really neat idea that seems to have stalled a bit, judging from the infrequent updates, but there's enough going on here for your classes to have a few fun-filled days of exploring nature. You can use the original lesson plan created for New York-based students and tweak it for your own classroom; the program originally provided binoculars and iPhones to participating classrooms. They may still be able to do so; they ask that you contact them for details.
The scrolling data bar that shows recent bird sightings is fun; kids will appreciate the kooky bird names like the Blue-Black Grassquit and Manx Shearwater. Lots of urban students don't get the chance to do this kind of bird-watching very often; it seems that one of WildLab's priorities is helping such students get out into the woods, and they've created a solid program for making that happen. Although it's tricky to follow their program exactly if you don't have iPhones or iPads for each student, you can easily tweak the curriculum. The app is much better designed than the website and has more options; it would be nice if they added to the site so that it offered more features.
Key Standards Supported
Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
Use evidence to construct an explanation for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing.
Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes and the types of plants and animals that live there may change.
Create or revise a simulation to test a solution to mitigate adverse impacts of human activity on biodiversity.
Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.
Gather and synthesize information about the technologies that have changed the way humans influence the inheritance of desired traits in organisms.
Earth and Human Activity
Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
Construct an argument that some animals form groups that help members survive.
Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
Use mathematical and/or computational representations to support explanations of factors that affect carrying capacity of ecosystems at different scales.
Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.
Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
Evaluate the evidence for the role of group behavior on individual and species’ chances to survive and reproduce.
Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.
From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.
Use argument based on empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support an explanation for how characteristic animal behaviors and specialized plant structures affect the probability of successful reproduction of animals and plants respectively.
Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.
Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment.