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The Neighborhood

Florida is a state rich in wildlife species, but even much smaller areas, like our own neighborhoods, are more richly populated than we usually imagine. Using a map of your school district as a base, divide the area up into sections. These should be neighborhood-sized chunks that students can safely walk in an hour or so. Break the students up into groups of 4-6 members and assign a group to each area; if possible the groups should live in or near the areas to which they are assigned. When possible each group should have some park or open space as part of their area.

CLICK HERE TO SEE ANIMAL WEBCAMS

After school or on a weekend each student should walk through his or her area. They should do this alone or in pairs, but not the whole group together. As they walk each student should make a list of the animals that they see. If they have field guides they may use them to identify bird, insect and mammal species as they explore.

After all the students have made their lists, they should compile a group list. If possible they should note the times when animals were observed and if there are species that they could not identify, field guides and web sites should be used to help them make as accurate identifications as possible… “big black bird” is not an adequate identification.

When all the groups have compiled their lists the class should come together and make a list of all the species observed in the school district.

-A Class map can be made with markers denoting where certain species were observed.
-Were certain species observed at specific times?
-Were some species seen more frequently in some neighborhoods than in others?
-What animals were seen in greatest numbers (domestics cats and dogs don’t count)?
-What animals were seen in least numbers?

Discuss if students saw just the ‘big’ or obvious animals? Where insects observed? Were other invertebrates observed?

When a list of local species have been compiled the class might want to discuss what makes it possible for certain animals to live side by side with humans. Are there places in the neighborhoods for animals to live? What are the food sources for these species?
How do we feel about sharing our immediate environment with other animals? How would we feel if these animals weren’t here?

Objective: an enhanced awareness of the animal diversity in students’ immediate surroundings, development of observational skills

The Neighbors

Using the same area designations as in the previous activity, have each student pick an area and a single species known to be regularly observed in that area. Each student should be given, or should make, a map of their area/neighborhood. Over a two-week period each student should try and observe their chosen species for 2-3 hours, in 20-30 minute increments. The observers should vary their observation times. During each observation period students should take notes on the species they are observing. They should note if the animals are feeding, sleeping, playing, interacting with one another etc. As they observe they should mark their maps with the locations where their subjects were seen.

At the end of the study period have the students report on their observations. The report should include conclusions about when the animals are most active, whether they are more social or solitary, whether they have dens or nests in the observation area, where and what they eat. Are they dependent in any way on their human neighbors?

At the conclusion of the activity the class may wish to make an almanac of the local species.

Objective: an enhanced awareness of the animal diversity in students’ immediate surroundings, development of observational skills



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