Friday, October 2, 2009

Cool Digs! (9/24/09-9/30/09)

A group of fifth graders anxiously await the Habitat and Dwelling Steward Program Station at 2009 Oswego County Conservation Field Days. Salmon River Steward Liz Wolff describes the activity to the students. Photo by Mary Penney, Steward Coordinator, New York Sea Grant.

Thursday, September 29, Salmon River Steward Liz Wolff took part in Conservation Field Days at Selkirk Shores State Park. Conservation Field Days lets kids learn about conservation and environmental science through hands on demonstrations and activities. Oswego County Soil & Water Conservation District did an excellent job coordinating the event as always! The Steward Program has been participating for a number of years, and looks forward to Conservation Field Days each fall.

The theme for the Steward Program this year was "Animal Habitats and Dwellings." Liz created a display board depicting local animal habitats along the shores of riparian and Eastern Lake Ontario. She briefly asked the students to explain the terms "habitat" and "dwelling" and then broke each group of about 20 students into smaller teams. Each team then picked a card with a list of animal characteristics on it. Once the team solved the clues and identified the correct animal, they were given a picture of their animal and a box of materials to create the animal’s dwelling.

"Team Hornet" glues strips of newspaper onto their balloon like a swarm of busy bees. They are building a representation of a hornets' nest. Photo by Mary Penney, Steward Coordinator, New York Sea Grant.

For example, one card described the attributes of a hornet. The hornet box contained a balloon, piece of string, newspaper cut into strips and a glue stick. Once students blew up the balloon, then others glued strips of newspaper around it to represents the "papery" look of a hornets' nest. While the students were working, Liz explained that hornets actually chew up tree bark which mixes with their saliva to create the paper-like appearance of the hive. Once the kids were finished creating their habitats or dwellings, Liz presented them with a photo of the animal in its respective dwelling.

The creation of a great blue heron nest. Photo by Mary Penney, Steward Coordinator, New York Sea Grant.

Each team presented what they learned about their animal (why it creates a certain type of home for itself) and the structure they created. One girl was so excited about the hornets nest that her team built that she walked by us at the end of the day and said, "Thank you for letting me build a hornets' nest today!" Some students in the last group of the day built a great blue heron’s nest out of large sticks. The nest was so huge that students could actually sit inside it. The other kids in that class were amazed by the nest and commented that "it is really cool and looks just like a real Heron’s nest!"

"Team Squirrel's" interpretation of what a drey, or squirrel's nest looks like. Photo by Mary Penney, Steward Coordinator, New York Sea Grant.

Other animals the students could select were the beaver, yellow perch, pileated woodpecker and gray squirrel. After the children presented their animals and dwellings they were asked to show the class which habitat type around Eastern Lake Ontario their animal would live in. The groups chose from habitat types including aquatic, beach, dune, backdune/forest or wetland. Within the displays, tiny cutouts of the animals were hidden and the kids were excited to see that their animal had been hiding in front of their eyes all along! Overall the activity was a huge success and the kids loved that it was truly a hands-on experience. Hopefully the Animal Habitat and Dwelling activity can be used to educate students in the future!

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