Citizen Science in the Classroom: Project NestWatch

By March 24th, 2014 at 11:01 am | Comment

 

Nest watch home page

Project Nest Watch is a great citizen science project, through Cornell University, for your classroom. (Photo: NestWatch website)

Using Cornell Ornithology Lab’s Project NestWatch to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards

Grades:

K-12th

Description:

Project NestWatch is hosted through Cornell University’s Ornithology lab located in Sapsucker Woods, Ithaca, New York. When you look for it on the SciStarter website or online remember that the project’s name is one word not two. It is a national project, open to those in urban and rural environments, that asks participants to monitor nesting birds. For the most part this is a spring or summer activity, though for eagles and other early nesters observation may start as early as February. Cornell researchers are interested in the reproductive biology of birds, nesting start times, numbers of eggs laid, hatching, mortality rates, and fledging. This data helps researchers collect information that might clarify the effects of climate change, urbanization, habitat loss, invasive species, and changing population dynamics. You, or your class, will be asked to learn and observe the proper protocols for nest watching, register a user name and password online, pass a short nest watching quiz, and enter data every 3-4 days during the nesting season.

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Computer with internet access and printer.
  • Access to locations with possible bird nests, cavities, nest boxes, or trees.
  • Binoculars, at least one pair.
  • Field guide(s) [see “Teaching Resources” below]
  • Optional: Nest boxes or nest box with camera (Information provided below if you’re interested in purchasing or making these)

Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:

  • Project NestWatch is a national project and it can be conducted in urban or rural environments across North America.
  • This project is ideal for elementary through middle school students and requires very little investment of time.
  • The website provides extensive training resources, data sheets, and access to data from previous years.
  • Students gain a sense of “ownership” over their natural community as they make observations and follow the life cycle of the birds.
  • This project can be conducted over a period of years, following the same bird or birds in the observation area.

Teaching Materials:

Cornell provides a nest watching code of conduct, nest watching protocols and guidelines, video tutorials on data entry, extensive training materials on identifying nests and eggs, content about nest box construction and monitoring, bird life cycle information, information about invasive species, and commonly encountered questions or problems. Cornell’s website also has great access to information such as eBird, many different bird cams you can log into to watch nesting birds (along with curriculum), and even a “Celebrate Urban Birds” project. They have free kits and resources through their Bird Sleuth K-12 program. You can find nest box construction plans and information on the main website of the Nest Watch project. There are a variety of wired and wireless cameras online, as well as boxes with built in cameras. If this is something you’re interested in it’s worth a quick bit of research online. They run from $50 to $150, but they can be used again and again and make a great addition to any classroom. There are a few resources that I would suggest to help with using this project in the classroom.

screen shot nest watch 2

With project NestWatch you can upload sightings of any species of bird, but there are some that are of keen importance to researchers. (Photo: NestWatch website)

Online Safety for Children

For this project the teacher will need to create an online account for the class. Students do not need an account or to give information. You will need to provide your location and some basic information. If you are working with high school students you may want to consider having them sign up for their own accounts either for NestWatch or eBird so that they can access and enter data from anywhere. They will need parental permission and possibly assistance.

Common Core and Next Gen. Standards Met:

Kindergarden:

Next. Gen. Science: K-LS1-1 Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals need to survive. K-ESS3-1 Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants and animals and the places they live. ).

For both of these standards teachers may use the reading resources suggested in the “Teaching Materials” of this post to help guide a discussion about the things birds need to live and survive and the places they live. Students may make a model of their local ecosystem, labeling the “food, water, and shelter” that is necessary for their NestWatch study bird.

K-ESS3-3 Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air and/or other living things in the local environment.

Students should suggest ideas, though drawing or discussion, about the resources that birds need to survive, build a nest, and rear young. They may then discuss reducing human impacts on either their particular study nest or on nesting birds in general.

Common Core: Literacy: RI.K.1 With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text. W.K.1 Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell the reader the topic or name of a book they are writing about. W.K.7 Participate in a shared research and writing project.

Teachers may use the resources suggested in the “Teaching Materials” section above, and have students read and answer questions about the texts. By participating in the NestWatch research project, students will have to learn the correct procedures for nest watching (to prevent endangering the birds) which may inspire drawings or writing assignments about how and why they are observing the birds, safety precautions, and what they should be looking for.

Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively. MP.4 Model with Mathematics. K.MD.A.2. Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common, to see which object has “more of/less of” the attribute and describe the difference.

By participating in NestWatch students can quantify the observation period of nesting, weather patterns, rain collection, eggs laid, hatching success, and fledging of the birds. If there are multiple nests, then students may compare these measurable attributes between the nests.

First Grade:

Next. Gen. Science: 1-LS3-1 Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents.

Teachers may use the resources suggested in the “Teaching Materials” section above to encourage discussion about the life cycle of birds, what young birds look like, and how they are different than the parents. In their first year(s) of life most juvenile birds retain coloring that makes them look like a female. This coloring protects them from aggression and competition by adult males. Teachers could use this adaptation as a discussion point.

Common Core: Literacy: RI.1.1 Ask and answer key details in a text. RI.1.2 Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text. W.1.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects.

Teachers may use the resources suggested in the “Teaching Materials” section above, and have students read and answer questions about the texts. By participating in the NestWatch research project students will also have to learn the correct procedures for nest watching (to prevent endangering the birds) which may also inspire writing assignments about how and why they are observing the birds and what they should be looking for. Assessment may be conducted by having the students take the “NestWatch” observer quiz (testing their knowledge of the procedures) to become certified to continue with the project.

Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively. MP.5 Use appropriate tools strategically.

By participating in NestWatch students can quantify the observation period of nesting, weather patterns, rain collection, eggs laid, hatching success, and fledging of the birds. These numbers can then be entered into the data sheets. If there are multiple nests then students may compare measurable attributes between the nests. Data is also available for download from the NestWatch site.  Teachers can download data targeting particular species’ nesting attempts and success, clutch size, average suvivorship, etc. by state or region. This data can be as much or little as you need and can be used for graphing and analysis in the classroom.

oriole nest watch

During NestWatch students can observe birds building nests, laying eggs, hatching, and growing baby birds all for science! (Photo: Nest Watch and Dave Wendelken)

 

Second Grade:

Next. Gen. Science: 2-LS4-1 Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.

Teachers may have students compare their nest’s study site to other areas; and have them catalogue the biotic and abiotic resources in those places for comparison.

K-2-ETS1-2 Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a problem.

Teachers may have the students draw the bird(s) they are observing for the NestWatch project, and their nest(s). Students should discuss why the nest is shaped like it is, how it is formed, where it is hidden and built, and why the parents used the materials they chose for construction. This discussion may also include bird anatomy and adaptations for flight, finding food, and rearing young. Having students try to build a nest out of sticks and mud (outside) is also an interesting activity around architecture and design.

Common Core: Literacy: W.2.6 Recall information from experience or gather information from the provided sources to answer a question. SL.2.5 Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories or recounts of experiences.

Students may recall information from texts (see the “Teaching Materials” section above), or their own experiences with the NestWatch project, to answer a hypothesis or question about bird nesting, hatching, and life cycles. Teachers may have them create a multimedia display of their observations.

Math: 2.MD.D.10 Draw a picture graph and a bar graph to represent a data set with up to four categories. Solve simple put-together, take-apart, and compare problems using information presented in the bar graph.

By participating in NestWatch students may quantify the observation period of nesting, weather patterns, rain collection, eggs laid, hatching success, and fledging of the birds over one year or many years.  If there are multiple nests, then students may compare measurable attributes between the nests. Data is also available for download from the NestWatch site.  Teachers can download data targeting particular species’ nesting attempts, average clutch size, numbers of hatched and unhatched eggs, numbers of hatchlings, the number and averages of fledglings and nestlings all by state or region.  NestWatch also offers calculations of reproductive success and raw nesting attempt data. This data can be as much or little as you need and can be used for graphing and analysis in the classroom.  Data from eBird may also be useful for larger scale data analysis, or even more specific regional data analysis, of information collected about specific species other than nesting.

Third Grade:

Next. Gen. Science: 3-LS4-3 Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

Teachers may have students compare their nest’s study site to other areas, and have them catalog the biotic and abiotic resources present as well as all the organisms. The students may then make a hypothesis about nesting location choices and why specific species may or may not be present.

3-LS4-4 Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes and the types of plants and animals that live there may change.

Students should compare their NestWatch observation nest(s) and then discuss why the birds live there and what would happen to the flora and fauna if the area became more or less developed. They should then offer either a drawn, written, or verbal solution that would mitigate these effects. The entire class should discuss solutions. This standard may also be approached as a “Green School” activity or assessment of how eco-friendly their school is for birds and wildlife, and then offering possible solutions.

3.LS1-1 Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.

Teachers may use the reading materials in the “Teaching Resources” section above to help students develop models of the life cycle of birds. This may be compared to the life cycles of other organisms such as mammals, or with creatures that have complete and incomplete metamorphosis such as frogs and dragonflies.

Common Core: Literacy:  W.3.9 Recall information from experience or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories. SL.3.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

Teachers may use the resources suggested in the “Teaching Materials” section above, and have students read and answer questions about the texts. By participating in the NestWatch research project, students will also have to learn the correct procedures for nest watching, to prevent endangering the birds, which may also inspire writing assignments and presentations about how and why they are observing the birds, what they should be looking for, and/or present their data and findings. Assessment may be conducted by having the students take the “NestWatch” observer quiz (testing their knowledge of the procedures) to become certified to continue with the project.

Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively. MP.4 Model with mathematics. MP.5 Use appropriate tools strategically. 3.MD.B.3 Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories.

By participating in NestWatch students may quantify the observation period of nesting, weather patterns, rain collection, eggs laid, hatching success, and fledging of the birds over one year or many years.  If there are multiple nests then students may compare measurable attributes between the nests. Data is also available for download from the NestWatch site.  Teachers can download data targeting particular species’ nesting attempts, average clutch size, numbers of hatched and unhatched eggs, numbers of hatchlings, the number and averages of fledglings and nestlings all by state or region.  NestWatch also offers calculations of reproductive success and raw nesting attempt data.This data can be as much or little as you need and can be used for graphing and analysis in the classroom.  Data from eBird may also be useful for larger scale data analysis, or even more specific regional data analysis, of information collected about specific species other than nesting.

Fourth Grade:

Next. Gen. Science: 4-ESS2-2 Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features.

Teachers may use the maps from NestWatchs’ “Map Room” to compare nesting by species and time of year.NestWatch also provides nesting season animations, for over 30 species, that show the nesting establishment of nests through the previous nesting season of the year(s). Instructors may have students take this data and information and then compare topography, temperature, and location of the nesting sites and when nesting begins. They may then hypothesize how geography and other factors influence nesting distribution and time of year.

Common Core: Literacy:  W.4.8. Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources. W.4.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Teachers may use the resources suggested in the “Teaching Materials” section above, and have students read and answer questions about the texts relating to the research project. Students may then take notes and list their sources relating to the project. Teachers may also have students research the particular nesting species that they are watching for the project and then report on what they find related to data analysis from their site or the data that the instructor downloads from the NestWatch website for analysis of nesting information for that species.

Math: MP.4 Model with mathematics.

By participating in NestWatch students may quantify the observation period of nesting, weather patterns, rain collection, eggs laid, hatching success, and fledging of the birds over one year or many years.  If there are multiple nests then students may compare measurable attributes between the nests. Data is also available for download from the NestWatch site.  Teachers can download data targeting particular species’ nesting attempts, average clutch size, numbers of hatched and unhatched eggs, numbers of hatchlings, the number and averages of fledglings and nestlings all by state or region.  NestWatch also offers calculations of reproductive success and raw nesting attempt data.This data can be as much or little as you need and can be used for graphing and analysis in the classroom.  Data from eBird may also be useful for larger scale data analysis, or even more specific regional data analysis, of information collected about specific species other than nesting.

Fifth Grade:

Next. Gen. Science: 5-LS2-1 Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.

Teachers may assign students to draw or model the food web from their study site(s). They may then draw the flow of matter and energy from producers to consumers.

Common Core: Literacy:  RI.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text. RI.5.9 Integrate information from several texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information. SL.5.5 Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.

Teachers may use the resources suggested in the “Teaching Materials” section above, and have students read and answer questions about the texts relating to the research project. Students may then take notes and list their sources relating to the project. Teachers may also have students research the particular nesting species that they are watching for the project and then report on what they find related to data analysis from their site or the data that the instructor downloads from the NestWatch website for analysis of nesting information for that species.

Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitative. MP.4 Model with mathematics. MP.5 Use appropriate tools strategically.

By participating in NestWatch students may quantify the observation period of nesting, weather patterns, rain collection, eggs laid, hatching success, and fledging of the birds over one year or many years.  If there are multiple nests then students may compare measurable attributes between the nests. Data is also available for download from the NestWatch site.  Teachers can download data targeting particular species’ nesting attempts, average clutch size, numbers of hatched and unhatched eggs, numbers of hatchlings, the number and averages of fledglings and nestlings all by state or region.  NestWatch also offers calculations of reproductive success and raw nesting attempt data.This data can be as much or little as you need and can be used for graphing and analysis in the classroom.  Data from eBird may also be useful for larger scale data analysis, or even more specific regional data analysis, of information collected about specific species other than nesting.

Nest watch mapping room

Project NestWatch offers a special “Maproom” that allows students and teachers to visualize nesting patterns for specific species of birds. (Photo: NestWatch website)

Middle School:

Next. Gen. Science: MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

Teachers may have students conduct an ecological survey of biotic and abiotic factors in their local NestWatch ecosystem and a more urbanized or developed ecosystem (or less developed). Students should also inventory all the living organisms in the ecosystems. They may then construct an argument, based on their observations, that physical changes to an ecosystem affect populations. This may also be conducted by having students analyze the flow of energy through the ecosystem by having students classify producers, primary, secondary, and tertiary consumers in the ecosystems and relating these to the species of bird studied and its places in this “food-web”.

MS-LS2-2 Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.

Teachers may assign students to analyze data from the NestWatch website, relating to a specific species of bird found nesting across North America. Students may hypothesize about pattern prediction relating to temperature, geographic region, topography or other factors that may affect nesting time of year, eggs laid per clutch, hatching success, fledgling mortality etc. Data from eBird may also be useful for larger scale data analysis, or even more specific regional data analysis, of information collected about specific species.

Common Core: Literacy:  WHST.6-8.2 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

Teachers may have students research the particular nesting species that they are watching for the project and then report on what they find related to data analysis from their site or the data that the instructor downloads from the NestWatch website for that species.  Please see the NGSS standards above for ideas about downloading different types of data. Math: MP.4 Model with mathematics.

6SP.B.5 Summarize numerical data sets in relation to their context.

By participating in NestWatch students may quantify the observation period of nesting, weather patterns, rain collection, eggs laid, hatching success, and fledging of the birds over one year or many years.  If there are multiple nests, then students may compare measurable attributes between the nests. Data is also available for download from the NestWatch site.  Teachers can download data targeting particular species’ nesting attempts, average clutch size, numbers of hatched and unhatched eggs, numbers of hatchlings, the number and averages of fledglings and nestlings all by state or region.  NestWatch also offers calculations of reproductive success and raw nesting attempt data. This data can be as much or little as you need and can be used for graphing and analysis in the classroom.  Data from eBird may also be useful for larger scale data analysis, or even more specific regional data analysis, of information collected about specific species other than nesting.

Savannah_Sparrow,_Passerculus_sandwichensis,_nestling_baby_bird_in_nest_with_2_eggs_AB_Canada

An example of a Savannah sparrow nest. (Photo: Wiki Commons)

High School:

Next. Gen. Science: Common Core: HS-LS2-2 Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.

Teachers may have students conduct an ecological survey of biotic and abiotic factors in their local NestWatch ecosystem and a more urbanized or developed ecosystem (or less developed). Students should also inventory all the living organisms in the ecosystems. They may then construct an argument, based on their observations, that physical changes to an ecosystem affect populations and biodiversity. This may also be conducted by having students analyze the flow of energy through the ecosystem by having students classify producers, primary, secondary, and tertiary consumers in the ecosystems and relating these to the species of bird studied and its places in this “food-web”. NestWatch project-wide data may also be downloaded to help support student explanations and analysis. Teachers and students can download data targeting particular species’ nesting attempts, average clutch size, numbers of hatched and unhatched eggs, numbers of hatchlings, the number and averages of fledglings and nestlings all by state or region.  NestWatch also offers calculations of reproductive success and raw nesting attempt data. This data can be as much or little as you need and can be used for graphing and analysis in the classroom.  Data from eBird may also be useful for larger scale data analysis, or even more specific regional data analysis, of information collected about specific species other than nesting.

HS-LS2-7 Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.

In tandem with the requirement mentioned above (HS-LS2-2) students may offer solutions for bioremediation of specific ecosystems and their associated populations.

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