An Ethology Sojourn

Jeffrey Weld


This activity lasts about two weeks, and is conducted in the Spring in Iowa- where migratory brids and dormant insects can be found plentifully. It entails the following goals and objectives:
  • Students identify behavioral characteristics of a particular species
  • Students carry out an independent field study.
  • Students generate a comprehensive portfolio for presenting the results of their research to peers.

    A. students should have prior exposure to the general concepts in ethology:
  • innate and learned behaviors
  • Social interaction...agonistic and mating behaviors
  • behavioral rhythms
  • pheromones and other communicative techniques
  • insight and imprinting

  • DAY 1:

    Students meet in a natural area near the high school, (in our case, it's a heavily wooded, meandering creek south of the high school). Along on the walk we take nature guides and binoculars. Students are invited to identify as many animals as possible within the class period, and record behaviors observed, and causes (stimuli) for what they observe.

    DAY 2 AND ON

    Based upon data gathered yesterday, students identify a particular species they wish to know more about. In groups, they strategize,organize and delegate to meet the following criteria as we discuss it:
    1. Thorough observations on a daily basis must be carried out, and a log of such kept.

    2. A graphic (map) must be generated that details the territory and travels of the chosen species (to insect won' t require a map of entire creek).

    3. A field Guide entry must be prepared- including a 300 word discription that adheres to dimensions specified. Additionally, a picture must be made.

    4. Behavioral Background research on the animal of choice must be carried out
    5. migratory patterns
    6. developmental stages and timing
    7. competitors
    8. communicative calls
    9. nesting, evasion, diet, etc., etc.!


    Available to students throughout the 10 day investigation are: Field guides, additional binoculars, animal encyclopedias, CD Rom (infotrac), library for small groups, poster board, overhead, video camera, and miscellaneous materials for assembling a presentation.


    At the end of two weeks of study, student groups submit logs, and present findings of behavioral study- complete with mapped territories, background research, observed behaviors, and any other- in a variety of formats- lecture w/aids, video, role playing, etc.


    A rubric is presented to students at the outset: detailing four categories: Conduct, Outdoor observations quality, research depth and breadth, written work quality

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