North Carolina Project WILD Activities and Reflection

North Carolina Project WILD Activities and Reflection

I had no idea what was in store for me when I enrolled for the Project WILD workshop. I soon found out that it was a fun, productive way to spend two evenings! I had no idea what to expect before attending the Project WILD workshop, but I had so much fun. I would highly recommend this program to anyone interested in learning more about nature and wildlife. Project WILD is especially geared towards K-12 educators. The instructors presented us with so many enjoyable, educational, hands-on activities to use with students inside or outside of the classroom.

One added perk was that we were each given a free curriculum/activity guide, which includes over 150 great ideas to incorporate nature and wildlife into any elementary classroom curriculum. All of the activities we participated in at the workshop are described in depth in the curriculum guide. The interdisciplinary activities use wildlife as a tool for teaching subjects such as Math, Science, English, Art, Physical Education, and History. Each activity is correlated to the North Carolina's competency-based curriculum, so I am sure it will be an extremely useful resource when planning lessons. In addition, all of the activities can be adjusted by the teacher to meet the educational needs of children of any grade level, even if an activity was originally intended for a certain age group.

Day 1: April 19, 2005 4:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Tour of the Control Room Simulator
Before the workshop began, we had a unique opportunity to visit the “Control Room Simulator” used for training nuclear power plant employees. The head engineer in charge of the entire plant explained to us that the control room simulator looks identical to the nuclear plant’s actual control room. Nuclear engineers-in-training learn how to diagnose and respond to power failures, black-outs, and other accidents, emergencies, and malfunctions. They do this by monitoring and adjusting the numerous buttons, knobs, and dials on the control boards.

Introduction to Project WILD
Our instructors, Tanya Poole and Lindsay Green, led us through four activities on the first day of the workshop. The instructors emphasized that by using bit of creativity, all of the activities they showed us could be modified for any grade level. Project WILD encouraged participants to be actively engaged in the hands-on activities. This was beneficial for me, in that it helped me retain the information I collected and promoted a better overall understanding of the material. Some activities involved group decision-making skills, art, math, and/or physical fitness.

Activity #1: “What’s Wild?”
The class split into small groups of 4-6 people. The instructors gave each group a different set of pictures and/or plastic figures of various animals. The task of each group was to group the animals into three distinct groups. Some of the ways students in the groups classified animals included:
mammals / insects/ birds / fish / reptiles / amphibians / etc.
carnivores / omnivores / herbivores
animals with (2, 4, 6, 8, etc.) legs
animals that swim/walk/fly
poisonous animals
aquatic animals
endangered species
slimy / fuzzy/ icky animals
“game” animals (animals that are hunted by man)
local animals
animals that lay eggs
animals that slither
animals with scaly skin

Our next task was to group the animals into two distinct groups. This proved to be much easier than the first task. Some of the different groupings were as follows:
animals with legs / animals with no legs
egg-layers / animals that don’t lay eggs
invertebrates / vertebrates
animals with wings / animals without wings
mammals / non-mammals
animals that fly / animals that do not fly
warm-blooded animals / cold-blooded animals
animals with tails / animals without tails

The instructors emphasized that when using this activity with younger students, it is important to include both 2-dimensional models of animals (i.e. photographs), as well as 3-dimensional models (i.e. plastic figures). The reason for this is that younger children greatly benefit from concrete, manipulative examples, especially if they do not yet have the personal knowledge or direct experience with certain animals.
This science activity could easily be incorporated into math, since it involves sorting and classifying by color, shape, size, and other attributes. In addition, students could graph the results as another math-related project.

Activity #2: “Quick Frozen Critters”
This highly enjoyable activity incorporated physical movement into a science lesson about the predator/prey relationships, animal adaptations, and the food chain. The instructors began by providing background information and asking questions about how animals attempt to survive in the wild.

A few students volunteered to portray the “predators,” while the rest of the class portrayed “opossums.” Each predator’s goal was to capture (tag) three opossums. Each “opossum’s” goal was to obtain three pieces of food (poker chips) without being “eaten” by a predator. If a predator tagged an opossum, the opossum was “dead.” If a predator did not capture three opossums, he “died” of starvation. We took turns pretending to be both predator and prey. After each round, the instructors asked us comprehension questions to invite discussion about what we learned about predator/prey relationships.

Activity #3: “Adaptation Artistry”
The curriculum guide indicates that this activity is intended for grade levels 5-8, but it could easily be modified for younger students as well. The instructors told us to split up into groups. Each group’s task was to brainstorm and think of a unique, fictitious animal to illustrate, while considering the following criteria:
Where the animal lives
The animal’s scientific name
The animal’s common name
What the animal eats
How the animal moves around
Whether the animal is male or female
What adaptations the animal possesses that helps it survive

We were simply given markers and large sheets of paper to create our invented animals. However, one way to modify and enhance this activity would be to provide additional art materials that would allow for more 3-dimensional creations. Such materials may include clay, play-dough, papier maché materials, construction paper, and glue.

Each group presented their fictitious animals to the entire class, and their finished creations were put on display. This activity helps promote a scientific understanding of animal adaptations, while also encouraging group decision-making and creativity.

Activity #4: “Oh, Deer!”
Despite the fact that this entertaining activity was originally intended for grade levels 5-8, “Oh Deer!” could be easily adapted for kids of all ages. In addition, the name of the game could be changed according to the animals that are being studied at a given time. (For instance, if a class is currently studying zebras, the name of the game could be changed to “Oh, Zebra!”)

This is an extremely physically active game! “Oh, Deer!” teaches students that predators play an important role in our ecosystem by helping control animal populations. The rules of the game are simple to learn, and students will begin to understand key terms, such as “habitat,” “predator,” “prey,” “population,” and “ecosystem.”

Our class was divided into two groups: the deer and the habitat. Students portraying deer acted as prey. During each round of the game, each deer tried to obtain three essential components of habitat: food, water, and shelter. The students portraying the habitat used hand signals to represent these essential needs. The “deer” quickly learned that if they fail to meet these needs, they died. Later in the game, the instructors added another element to the game by assigning certain people to represent “mountain lions,” or predators.

We played fifteen rounds of this game at the workshop, which took about 30 minutes. After each round, our instructors recorded the numbers of people portraying deer, mountain lions, and habitat. When we went back to the classroom, we graphed the results and discussed the findings.

Day 2: April 20, 2005 4:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Activity #5: “Owl Pellets”
The Project WILD instructors paired us up with partners to dissect an unidentified object. The only information they gave us about the object was that it was produced by an owl. I had never done this kind of dissection before attending Project WILD, so I was genuinely surprised when I learned that the object was an owl pellet! I learned what owl pellets are, and why owls regurgitate after eating prey. After the dissection, the instructors provided us with several resources for obtaining owl pellets for the classroom.

The book suggests that this activity should be used for grades 5-8. However, younger children’s interests could be sparked by watching an owl pellet dissection. In my K-2 classroom, I would perhaps divide the class into two groups. Then, I would allow the students from each group watch me and my teacher assistant dissect an owl pellet. Throughout the dissection, students would examine what is found inside the owl pellets and hypothesize what the object is. Through this activity, students would hopefully gain a better understanding of food chains, skeletal systems, and animal populations.

Activity #6: “Bearly Growing”
The curriculum guide suggests that this activity is appropriate for grade levels 5-8, but it can be easily adapted for younger children (especially the section called “Compare Yourself to a Black Bear”). First, the instructors provided us with a blank chart, and we were asked to fill in our guesses regarding the weight of male and female Black Bears throughout their lifespans. Afterwards, we were able to compare our guesses with the actual weights, as well as the average weight of humans.
Weight in Pounds
Males Bear’s weight
(My guesses) Bear’s actual weight Human’s weight
Birth 50 0.5 7
6 months 150 20 16
1 year 250 40 23
4 years 300 160 37
10 years 400 274 73
20 years 450 275 150

Females Bear’s weight
(My guesses) Bear’s actual weight Human’s weight
Birth 40 0.5 7
6 months 120 20 15
1 year 200 40 21
4 years 275 110 35
10 years 350 170 69
20 years 400 170 125

I discovered that I significantly overestimated the weights of Black Bears! After we compared our guesses to the actual weights of bears and humans, the instructors gave us background information about Black Bears. The lesson was supplemented by allowing students to touch two different types of bear fur.

Part of this activity includes a section called “Compare Yourself to a Black Bear.” During this part of the activity, we learned that biologists can determine the approximate weight of a Black Bear by measuring the girth of the bear’s chest. So, the instructors provided us with tape measure and conversion chart. We each measured the distance around our chests to discover how much we would weigh if we were Black Bears.

Activity #7: “How Many Bears Can Live in This Forest?”
The most memorable aspect of this physically active game is that it incorporates Math, while teaching scientific concepts of habitat. Each person pretended to be a bear that was searching for the most food in the habitat to survive. “Food” cards were scattered on the ground and labeled with different numerical values (i.e. Nuts-20, Berries-10, Insects-12, Meat-8, Plants-20). In this game, every bear competed with each other for food supplies, and all had to obtain a certain number of points in order to survive. After each round, everyone had to add up the total number of points to determine which bears survived. A simple way to adapt this game for the primary grades would be to change the amounts on each card to smaller numerical values.

Activity #8: “Animal Charades”
The objective of this game is to teach children the difference between wild and domesticated animals. The Project WILD curriculum guide suggests that this game is most appropriate for children in grades Kindergarten through 4th grade. During “Animal Charades,” students try to portray wild and domesticated animals, while the audience members try to guess what the animal is.

However, the game can be adapted to appeal to higher grade levels by using more complex clues for students to dramatize. During this workshop, we played a more advanced version of this game, called “Bat Charades.” This version seems to be more appropriate for upper-elementary grade levels. We first split into groups of 3-4 people. Then, the instructors gave each group a different myth about bats. Each group was asked to dramatize the myth for the entire group. The following are some of the myths that were dramatized:
All bats drink blood.
Bats are dirty.
Bats are blind.
Bats fly into your hair.
All bats carry rabies.

After the audience correctly guessed the “bat myth” that each group portrayed, one member of the group read a short paragraph explaining the truth about bats. This activity provides an opportunity for students to express themselves through simulation, and it is a unique approach to learning about wildlife.

Activity #9: “Habitat Lap Sit”
This is a quick, fun activity that involves some physical contact among the participants. “Habitat Lap Sit” teaches students how food, water, shelter, and an appropriate arrangement of space are all necessary for an animal population to survive. Animals will be affected if any of these components are missing, because these elements are all interrelated and interdependent to one another. The book suggests this activity for grade levels 5-8. However, children in the primary grades would also enjoy this activity, and it would give them a special way to learn about the necessary components of habitats.
We began by standing in a tight circle. Each person called out either “food,” “water,” “shelter,” or “space.” Next, each of us all turned towards the right and slowly sat down on the knees of the person behind us. The instructors then told us to imagine that in a hypothetical scenario. She explained that there was a drought, so the water supply was scarce. Therefore, most of the people who represented “water” were told to remove themselves from the circle. Once the water was removed from the “habitat,” the circle collapsed because its arrangement was so disrupted.

I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend this workshop. It was well worth the time! I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from Project WILD, and I took away many ideas and materials to use in my classroom. I sincerely look forward to attending many more of these workshops in the future, such as N.C. Aquatic and N.C. CATCH!