Minnehaha Academy Blog

Bringing Science to Life Outdoors at Minnehaha Academy

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Jan 4, 2019
If you drive by Minnehaha's Lower & Middle School along West River Parkway, you may see Middle School students, a notebook in one hand, binoculars in the other hand, looking up into the trees.
The nearby Mississippi River is a major migratory flyway, and the large tree canopy on our campus is the perfect home for many birds. Our faculty take full advantage of our setting in the natural world to bring classroom lessons to life.

Middle School Scientists:

When Middle School students go bird watching, they are doing science on a couple different levels, according to Middle School teacher Katie Humason.

Aid Cornell Lab of Ornithology
"Our students are participating in a Citizen Science program sponsored by Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Cornell maintains a world-wide database of bird observations (called eBird), where citizen scientists around the world report the birds they are seeing.  Ornithologists at Cornell then are able to use all of that bird data for their research."  

Conduct Original Research
"Our students are all doing their own research about the birds they see. Some of our students are wondering which type of seed (or type of suet) the birds will prefer, others want to find out how temperature or cloud cover impact the number of birds they see, still others are trying to find out which type of feeder the birds prefer."

What Do Students Learn?

"My goals with our bird study are to give the students a chance to do authentic scientific inquiry, and to increase their awareness of the natural world," said Middle School teacher Katie Humason. 
"So often, in Middle School, the inquiry activities available have predictable outcomes, and many students know what "should" happen before they start. When they do their research about the birds, for a very short time (until they share with the rest of us), they are the only ones who know the answer to their original question - that's cool."
"As for increasing their awareness of the natural world - I have parents come back years later and tell me how their kids still notice and identify the birds they see. At least one former student has decided to become a professional ornithologist."
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Topics: Middle School, STEM

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