Seasonal Phenology Focus Study–Spring

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    Kristin Joivell

    In this after school study, 62 students with 10 parent and faculty volunteers gathered together in May 2018. After learning about animals that emerge from hibernation or return from migrations in spring through a short training presentation, students rotated through 4 stations led by community science partners.  Because we have a river on our school campus–the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River–presenters mainly focused on animals that live in and around the river.

    At one of the four stations, Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center presented information about reptiles and showed students live snakes and turtles that they might see emerging for spring on our school campus.  Representative Jacob Vaughn explained the difference between ectothermic and endothermic animals as the students connected these definitions to themselves and to the reptiles being shown.

    At another of the four stations, the Pennsylvania Amphibian and Reptile Survey group presented information about amphibians and showed students live frogs, toads, and salamanders that they might see emerging for spring on our school campus.  Representative Travis Russell explained the life cycle of each amphibian that was displayed.  Students used proper safe handling protocol when touching the amphibians by wearing gloves to protect the amphibians from infection spread.

    At another of the four stations the Huntingdon County Conservation District presented information about macroinvertebrates and guided students through the process of collecting samples from the river on our school campus.  Representatives Stacia-Fe Gillen and Celina Seftas helped the students in using nets to temporarily capture macroinvertebrates, identify them using guides, and release them back into the river.  Students learned about the hidden world under the surface of the river–some students had never heard of macroinvertebrates before!

    At another of the four stations, the State College Bird Club presented information about birds and helped students to use binoculars borrowed from the Juniata Valley Audubon Society to spot birds on the school campus.  Representatives Joe Gyekis, Deb Grove, and Greg Grove helped students to learn how to use binoculars properly for bird watching–some students had never used binoculars before!  Since there is a forest, field, and many grassy yard areas on our school campus in addition to the river area, students were able to see a large variety of bird species.


    After enjoying a snack of goldfish crackers, students studied posters of animals that live in and around the rivers in Pennsylvania.  Then students created river animal art using acrylic paint on cement boards which were donated by Jim Garthe, president of the Standing Stone Trail Club.

    I was excited to see the students create realistic, accurate representations of animals that live in and around the river in their artwork.

    During this event, by seeing animals brought in by community science partners and viewing animals that they found on site, student developed an awareness of animals that are emerging on our school campus for spring. Additionally, students were able to expand their knowledge of these animals through the four stations and the creation of artwork.  By creating an awareness of phenology, I hope to be able to encourage careful observation as students notice other seasonal changes as they explore outside.

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