Getting’ WILD at the Zoo!
Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
by Joanne Michael
I am a big animal lover and have been ever since I was a little girl growing up in Seattle. My father was an ornithologist by hobby and I grew up with neighbors knocking at our door, stunned bird in a box after flying into a window. As an adult, I worked as a ZooCamp Instructor at the Los Angeles Zoo for a summer and during school breaks, and then went through the Docent Program, graduating in spring, 2012. To say I enjoy being around animals is an understatement!
Since becoming a docent, my eyes have been opened to how much science can be taught in the zoo that is beyond the obvious. As a docent, I lead student groups of anywhere between four and ten kids (and hopefully a parent chaperone or two) around the zoo, teaching them information about what they are studying in class, what they had covered earlier in the year, or introducing concepts for them to get excited about when they return to their classroom. Even though docents must go through a year of structured classes and exams, and continue to do yearly review tests, a lot of the information that I teach the kids can be easily learned by any classroom teacher when not in a classroom or traditional campus setting.
For example, before going on your next field trip, see if your zoo has a docent program that can escort your students around the park. Most locations have some form of this, and the docents truly love to educate kids – that is why they are there! Slightly older students, e.g. 3rd grade and higher, seem to get the most out of the experience but obviously any student enjoys a personalized tour. If a docent-led tour is unavailable, make yourself and your chaperones mini docents! Although at first glance some of the following activities may seem young, trust me- I have done this with high school students, and they all love it!
If you’re leading your own group, prepare by grabbing a bag – paper lunch sacks, grocery bags, anything that is relatively small will work. In the bag put a quarter, a piece of sandpaper (ideally 50-grit), and a piece of leather. If your students see a marsupial (e.g. koala, kangaroo, possum, sugar glider, etc.), show the kids the quarter. Marsupials begin life even smaller than the diameter of the quarter, but they wiggle themselves into a pouch on the mother where they will continue to grow until they are large enough to survive. In the pouch is a teat for the baby to receive milk, and the milk actually changes as the baby matures. The baby can be in the pouch for many weeks before a zoo employee will discover it is there! Ask the students to consider how that could be a benefit to the animal? Could it be a disadvantage?
Almost all zoos have felines – animals such as jaguars, tigers, lions, and servals. Spend a minute watching the cats walk around their environment. If possible, take a look at the food that the cats are eating, or see if you can find bones. Ask the students to think about what cats (like their cats at home) eat? They only eat meat, and for this reason we call them carnivores. If cats only eat meat, how do they get it off of the bone? Show them the sandpaper and allow them to feel it, even GENTLY slide it against the back of their hand. Tell the students that cats have tongues that are super rough like this sandpaper, and so they actually will lick the meat right off of the bone!
When the students see a reptile such as a turtle, crocodile, alligator, or snake, ask them if they know that these animals lay eggs. Some may know, but most probably won’t be aware. Tell them that these animals lay their eggs in holes, and ask why would they do that? Is that a good idea, or bad idea? Tell the students that in addition to the holes, these reptiles’ eggs are much more leathery than the eggs we have in our refrigerator, and show them the piece of leather. Would this protect the animal completely? Why is this a good idea? When could it be a disadvantage for the animal?
Out in an open field and studying birds? If you have room, get a long (3 feet or so) piece of nylon rope, and fray one of the ends. Hold the rope by the middle, and swing the non-frayed end over your head in a circle. It should make a whirring noise. Switch ends, and swing the frayed end. It shouldn’t make any noise – why is that? The ends of the rope break up the airflow around the rope, so it doesn’t make the whistle noise. Similarly, if one person jumped into the middle of a deep puddle- there would be a big wave all the way out. If a whole bunch of people jumped into the same big puddle at the same time, there wouldn’t be a single wave out- there would be lots and lots of smaller waves. For birds of prey (falcons, eagles, ospreys), the edges of their wings are frayed like the rope, and so when they fly, it makes almost no noise. Most other birds don’t have this adaptation – how come?
In closing, by doing very short, two-minute demonstrations at the zoo, your students will get a much more memorable experience. Not only will they begin seeing the animals through new eyes, but will start to make connections between different species of animals, giving you a better foundation when you return to your school classroom.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…