Class Activity - Engage Students Locally & Online with a Wildlife Survey

The goals of this class activity are to educate students about their surrounding environment, introduce them to basic scientific techniques (biology/research/collaboration) and stimulate further exploration of the environment around them....and have fun doing it!

Below is a sample class project webpage, all class sightings are displayed online along with any project goals and details. Educators can register for a free account and advanced users can manage projects with multiple contributing members using a group account.

Class Survey Overview - 4 steps (Plan, Survey, Identify, Document)

Project Scope: Based on your students abilities and local resources determine what, where and how they should survey.

  1. Plan Which Wildlife to Survey:

    P9: Local wildlife that is easy to identify. Common creatures that migrate and hibernate in the local school area, such as the apprearance of a common migrating bird and hibernating insect (beetle/butterfly/spider) etc.

    Highschool/Undergrads: Survey species that are harder to find and identify. Research local wildlife/environmental issues (ie. endangered species, development concerns/habitat loss) concerns. Project coordinators/educators are encouraged to focus students on a few species as the difficulty of accurate wildlife identification is often severly underestimated, you can also compare data year over year if you focus on the same species.

    Educators can provide lessons about the life cycles of these creatures and unique features before the survey. Educators can compare first and last sightings dates each year to teach subjects of migration, hibernation and climate change (phenology).

  2. Survey:

    P9: Educators are encouraged to take students on wildlife surveys which can be the local school grounds (field, small pond, wetland) and local parks. You will be surprised how many species exist on a typical school grounds !

    Highschool/Undergrads: Educators can do group surveys of local parks or students can operate independantly and record wildlife sightings from their own local habitats and places they visit.

    Participants survey an area for designated wildlife specified in the Project Scope and then record sightings on paper (or online with their smartphones) and/or with an accompanying photo for later online submission.

  3. Identify:

    Ideally accurate identification will happen during the survey and include photos for verification and confirmation. When in doubt or as part of a class activity students can review digital pictures or plant samples in the classroom or as homework independently for the Highschool/Undergrad level with self directed online research.

  4. Document:

    Confirmed and identified sightings are then submitted to wildlifesightings.net with one easy to use online form by the project coordinator/educator or for more advanced users through a group account with multiple users submitting data. The data is then automatically organized and presented to the public in our citizen science community database.

    Photographing what you survey makes for more enjoyable reporting online (but is not required) as you can submit the photo along with the sighting details for later viewing. This also aids tremendously in the study and identification process which can be very challenging. Fortunately digital cameras are very common and smartphones are getting better. There are a few websites with many active users helping people identify what they see, all you need to do is provide a photo, these sites often provide a great deal of educational resources on the specific creature as well (ie. whatsthatbug.com).

Educators are encouraged to participate in the Spring, when wildlife comes out of hibernation and is migrating (or vice versa for the Fall). Surveys at these times identify patterns in behavioir determined by changing environmental factors such as global warming. Teachers can do surveys annually for each new class and results can be compared to prior class surveys.

Sample Class Webpage (users can embed sightings in their own webpage too)