Sunday 4 June 2017

Animal Tracking and Inquiry in Science 9

For this Inquiry project our science 9 class took on a mini unit that focused on getting to know local wildlife. The goals were three-fold:

 1. To use an experiential and place-conscious approach to cover new curricular competencies.

2. To introduce students to real-world science through hands-on activities and exploration.

3. To interpret local wildlife from both Eurocentric and Indigenous perspectives.

 The topic for this unit was Animal Tracking and the premise was simple… we go to our local park, look for animal signs and document what we find.  To an outdoor enthusiast and naturalist this sounds fun and straight-forward.  However, most of the students in our class had never been to the park, had no idea what animals lived in our area and had never heard of animal tracking before.  Needless to say we had some legwork ahead of us.
Our unit began with a lively classroom discussion and information session about the recent cougar cull in our town.  This introductory hook was a success because cougars are naturally fascinating and all of the students had heard about the exterminations.  More importantly all of the students had enough local knowledge to contribute to this conversation; essentially the playing field was level.  This conversation got the students wondering about our local park, Skaha Bluffs, and if it could support cougars and other apex predators.

 To learn more about the wildlife in the park we had to go there but we needed to hone our observation and tracking skills first. 

 Through classroom activities and museum programming we studied bones, scat, tracks and artifacts of local animals.  These classes engaged different students and allowed for a lot of story-telling and sharing of personal experiences.  It also uncovered the artistic skills of many students whose drawings and attention to fine details were celebrated.  The saying, “when you change the rules you change the winners” was very apparent during these classes.

Our final field experience to Skaha Bluffs provided students with the opportunity to learn from community experts in an adventuresome walkabout.  We partnered with biologist and museum assistant Chandra Wong and local knowledge keeper from the En’owkin Centre, Dustin Louis.  Both
of these leaders shared their knowledge and understanding of the land and helped the students with their tracking projects.  Some exciting aspects of this field experience were setting up animal cameras to collect field data and partnering with our school’s photography and film class.  The photography class ‘tracked’ and documented our group through the experience and provided many of the photos featured in this post. 

Some important (and positive) numbers to consider:

Nearly 50% of the students attending this field trip had never been to the park before.

2 students visited the park again the weekend after our field trip to share it with their siblings.

100% of the students did not see a cougar while in the park however, based on our data we concluded that this park could be part of a cougar’s territory. 

Contributed by Allison Dietrich