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Weekly Challenge # 53 Community Habitats Journals

November 23, 2014

cottontail tracks

Through our weekly #EnviroEd chats each Wednesday night on Twitter and through previous challenges in this blog, I have often said that one of the most sincere and clear ways to accurately define a student’s comprehension of a subject or to assess it is via journals.

As we get into the colder winter months in North America I’d like to challenge you to bring students outdoors more often and begin to discuss and reflect upon what makes up habitat and what wild creatures are present in those areas.

Winter is a wonderfully visual manipulative for an environmental education practitioner.

A newly fallen snow offers permission to view the world as an open and inviting SMART board just waiting for stories to tell through animal tracks after all. These tracks, a little like this challenge are a visual way of presenting your students own journey of discovery … follow along and see where it can lead.

Create Venn diagrams of which creatures seem to prefer each of these different habitats; fence lines, conifers, open fields or mature hardwoods. After a major snow fall, or when the winds are blowing hard do students see a change in behaviours? When do deer start to yard in the conifers where perhaps the snow depth is not as deep? Do Chickadees stop visiting the classroom birderfeeders when the winds blow to a certain extent? Do the squirrels move their drays (nests) from the edge of the tree to the centre as more and more snow builds up? Do the four components of habitat, food, water, shelter and space change at all during your study time for certain animals?

I have had great success with year long outdoor journalling.

I know there are readers of this blog who do not share the same weather patterns as I do, but encourage you to create the same community habitat journals. Monsoon season, day light cycles, or even “rush hour” can all have a visual and obvious impact upon animals and plants in our own backyard.

The truly important piece to this inquiry is to let the students discover, question and hypothesize themselves.

By constant immersion into the world of the wildlife within our own backyard AND by encouraging reflection upon it we can learn so much more than what the textbook and curriculum can tell us. I recognize this is a longer term challenge perhaps, but it does not take a lot of time … a half hour once a week perhaps.

Student journaling, with photos, sketches, mapping, graphs and more can truly lead students to their own “environmental epiphanies”.

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