What Happened to Robin
Using actual wildlife injury data from a local wildlife rescue center, students learn what animal species have been injured and the causes of injury. Students use spreadsheet software to sort, organize, and evaluate their findings for recommendations to reduce human-caused injury to wildlife. Students prepare and present a summary of their findings and recommendations to the local Audubon Society, The Humane Society, neighborhood associations, and other interested groups. At the end of each public presentation, students gather public reaction to the data and collect ideas on how to reduce injury to wildlife. These recommendations are compiled into a newsletter and wiki for dissemination to a wider audience.
- Essential Question
How can I help protect urban wildlife?
- Unit Questions
How can we reduce the impact of modern society on urban wildlife?
How can statistics help us understand a problem?
What are some problems for wild animals that live in urban areas?
- Content Questions
What birds live in our community?
What are the greatest risks to these birds?
View how a variety of student-centered assessments are used in the What Happened to Robin? Unit Plan. These assessments help students and teachers set goals; monitor student progress; provide feedback; assess thinking, processes, performances, and products; and reflect on learning throughout the learning cycle.
Contact a local Audubon Society* center to arrange a field trip to the center and to inquire about working together to develop a service project for the center. In the sample project, students sorted, organized, and analyzed five years worth of data on bird injury. This was a much needed service that the staff at the Wildlife Care Center did not have time to do.
Have students prepare science journals to take notes, make observations, and reflect on questions and discussions throughout the unit.
Introduction to Birds
- Introduce the topic of birds to students by asking them to list the names of birds that are familiar to them. Provide time to learn about the birds in your area. This can be done over a period of time as students study local birds and learn how to identify them. Purchase local field guides to help with identification (available at local centers of the National Audubon Society*).
- Plan a birding outing to foster students’ interest in birds and to develop their birding skills. Help students learn how to identify birds. Identification tips are available at birding.com*. The Web site also has tips for planning a bird watching outing.
- On the birding outing and over the course of the project, have students keep track of the birds that they identify. Bird checklists for the United States are available from the Audubon Society or online at the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center*. After the designated time, have students graph their own data and compare with a partner. As an option, compile the class data. Discuss findings.
Urban Wildlife Issues
- Ask students what they think are some urban wildlife issues. Ask the Unit Questions, What are some problems for wild animals that live in urban areas? and How can we reduce the impact of modern society on urban wildlife? Record responses on chart paper that has the tapping prior knowledge questions and hold a class discussion.
- Choose a local wildlife research project as a case study. For example, students in Portland, Oregon read about Portland’s effort to make a home for its growing Peregrine Falcon* population. This can be done in small groups, with each small group becoming an “expert team” on one case and sharing their knowledge with the other groups.
- Next, pose the Essential Question, How can I help protect urban wildlife? and have students reflect individually in their journals. Allow students to share their thoughts in pairs. Ask for volunteers to share with the whole class.
- Discuss predator and prey relationships. Have students make predictions about what causes injuries to birds. Again, instruct students to become keen observers by noticing if/when birds become injured and how it happens. Have students keep a record in their journals.
- Plan a visit to a Wildlife Care Center. Check with your local Audubon Society* to locate a Wildlife Care Center in your area if available.
- Present an overview of the project to the class with a descriptive brochure.
- A field trip to a wildlife center should include a tour of the center to learn about its operations, explanations and discussion about wildlife injury, and hopefully, a visit with the birds there. The staff should explain the project that the students will be assisting them with and stress the importance of the students’ work. Provide students with a handout to take to the center to collect information during their visit. Collect injury records from the center to bring back to school. Upon returning to school, have students reflect on their experience, what made an impact on them, what they learned, and any new questions they have by recording their thoughts in their science journals.
- Begin the next day by sharing journal entries and discussing any questions that arose from the field trip experience.
- Students are now prepared to investigate the Unit Question, How can statistics help us understand a problem? To begin, provide students with a copy of the wildlife injury spreadsheet directions. Use this document to help students learn how to use spreadsheet software to enter data and create graphs, charts, and tables if they have not used spreadsheet software before.
- After the data is entered, students can make graphs, charts, and tables to show an analysis of the results. Encourage students to focus on creating meaningful visual representations of the data that can be used to interpret the data and to educate others about injury to wildlife rather than become too focused on the appearance of the graphs, charts, and tables. Meet with students individually to answer questions and monitor progress.
- With results in hand, students are ready to prepare slideshow presentations that share their results and educate others about causes and prevention of wildlife injury. Hand out the presentation checklist and presentation rubric, review expectations, and answer any questions. The presentations can be done in small groups with each student preparing a few slides. Each student should use the presentation checklist to guide their progress and record feedback they receive from their peers after they practice their presentations.
- As a class, select audiences for small groups to present the data, educate others about injury to wildlife, and discuss ways to prevent injuries. This might include other students, The Humane Society, neighborhood associations, and other interested groups.
- Instruct students to develop and practice speeches for presentation to the center and to other audiences. Have students use the peer feedback form to assess their presentations, make modifications, and prepare properly. Each presenter should acquire feedback from at least one peer on the slides they present and on the presentation as a whole.
- Have students create a newsletter. Review the newsletter checklist with students and ask them to use it to help guide their work. Students can come up with article ideas related to their project work. Articles can be combined into a single newsletter, which can be handed out at public meetings and left at reception areas of local veterinary offices.
- After presenting the data to different groups, students should get public reaction to the data and ask for input on how to reduce wildlife injuries. Explain that students should then relate findings to their hypotheses and write a report informing the Wildlife Care Center about the major causes of injuries to urban wildlife as well as the public’s reaction and suggestions.
- Finally, have students educate a broader audience by creating a wiki* with recommendations for community action. They can also write press releases for the local newspaper.
Revisit the Essential Question
To complete the unit, have students reflect on the Essential Question, How can I help protect urban wildlife? again in their journals. Encourage students to look back at their initial responses and reflect on the direction the unit took them. Have them consider how the information and experiences they had have affected their initial thinking. Encourage discussion among class members to elaborate, share, and expand on their thinking.
- Experience reading graphs and working with percentages
- Knowledge of bird anatomy
- Basic computer skills
Much of this work can be done at a variety of academic levels. As needed, partner students for computer work with technically skilled students.
Special Needs Students
- Provide an alternate activity, such as:
Have the student develop a small book of bird case studies in which the student studies five species, includes a drawing or photo from the Web or a digital camera, and information about biology and habitat. Have the student evaluate and describe the status of the birds locally using the data provided by the Audubon Wildlife Care Center.
- Require the student to write a scientific article on the results to be published in a scientific journal, coauthored with the director of the Wildlife Care Center
- Have the student study science vocabulary and practice oral presentations with an ELL assistant during supplemental instruction outside of class
- Pair the student with another student during project work when the language load indicates this, and have the student complete visual parts of the project independently (such as spreadsheets, graphs, and illustrations)
- Shorten oral speaking activities or allow extra practice time
- Have the student prepare materials in the student’s first language to educate others about wildlife injury.
Ginny Rosenberg Stern participated in the Intel® Teach Program, which resulted in this idea for a classroom project. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here. Stern's classroom was featured in An Innovation Odyssey, a collection of stories of technology in the classroom, Story 278: Bird's Eye View.
At a Glance
- Grade Level: 6–8
- Subjects: Biology, Data Analysis
- Topics: Ecology, Birds, Wildlife Diversity
- Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Analysis, Evaluation, Investigation
- Key Learnings: Data Organization, Representation and Analysis, Effects of Humans on the Ecosystem, Predator/Prey Relationships, Community Education and Outreach
- Time Needed: 3 weeks (may be spread out over a longer period of time)
This unit is aligned to Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.
- Populations and ecosystems; Diversity and adaptations of organisms
- 5.LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics; MS.LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics; MS.LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity