A learning activity by Tom J. McConnell, Ball State University.
Many scientists who study wildlife spend time observing the behavior of the animals they study. Observations are one of the types of data that helps researchers learn how animals survive in their habitats. In this activity, you can practice by observing the same species we write about in our books using live webcams! You can try this with several different kinds of animals.
Watching animals can be very interesting. You may have watched animals in your yard, on a camping trip, or at a zoo or aquarium. Scientists also watch animals, often as part of their research. Some scientist are investigation questions that can be answered by watching animals and see if they notice patterns in their behavior. Scientific observations also require a record-taking system to make it easier to compare observations over time. You may notice in our books scientists recording information in journal books or on data sheets. These are important tools for a researcher. Many of the scientists in the Conservation Tales books use these types of observations. Most of them spend many weeks in the field looking for animals in the wild, then observing them and taking notes.
In this activity, you can learn to observe animals like a scientist! And you don't have to leave home or the classroom to do it! You can watch animals on live webcams, and record observations from your desk. Some scientists do this as well!
Many of the webcams you can view are at zoos, although a few are located in wild spaces and wildlife preserves. If you're ready to try your hand at collected scientific data, download some instructions and an observation data sheet template! Then pick a species you'd like to watch, and start taking some notes! After some practice, you can ask your own research questions or try observing different species!
Activity Download - Data Table Templates
Download these printable instructions to help you pick a data table format and start observing animals on the life webcams!
Wildlife Watch - Downloadable Lesson & templates
Links to Live Animal Webcams
For the Teacher
Grade Level: 3-10
Time expected: 1-3 hours
Connections to Nature of Science
Scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence.