Seasonal Phenology Focus Study–Winter

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    Kristin Joivell

    In this after school study, 72 students with 14 parent and faculty volunteers gathered together in January 2018. After learning about animal tracks and signs identification through a short training presentation, students worked in small groups led by parent and faculty volunteers to collect data about animal tracks and signs in the natural areas on our school campus.


    After a short discussion about their findings, students rotated through 4 stations expanding on animal activity in winter.

    At one of the four stations, the students learned from a PA Game Commission Officer about animal color change and fur thickness during winter.  The PA Game Commission Officer shared real furs and taxidermy mounts with the students so that they could look and touch to make observations.

    At another of the four stations, students created animal track art with stampers on flags after learning about how scientists can use animal tracks to make inferences about something that has occurred.  Students were also able to play an animal track matching game to see if they could infer which animal makes which track.


    At another of the four stations, students made an animal track snack with bread, animal track presses, and jelly.  Then they got to eat their “track snack.”  Students also were able to examine rubber casts of animal tracks to see what the tracks might look like on the ground and what the animals’ feet that left those tracks might look like.


    At another of the four stations, students learned how to identify animals with skulls, furs, track models, and scat models from a Safari Club International Hands On Wildlife Kit.  By making connections between all of these components of an animal, students were able to make informed decisions about their inferences using each component included in the kit.  Then students shared their reasoning with their group while other students confirmed or refuted their decisions.

    During this event, by collecting data about the animal tracks and signs, student developed an awareness of animals that are active on our school campus in winter. Additionally, students were able to expand their knowledge of these animals through the four stations.  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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