Wildlife is everywhere – on land, in soil, in water, and in the air. Wildlife scientists study wildlife to learn how they live and interact with the environment. These scientists may focus on one wildlife species or a group of species during their studies. They record observations made with their senses and other tools. Being a good observer is very important to any scientist.
Help your children become wildlife scientists!
Lead your students on a walk in the neighborhood around your school or building or a nearby park to look for wildlife. Tell your children that they are using their eyes and ears to watch and listen for any signs of animal life (animal movement, calls, tracks, tunnels, droppings, etc.). Help them record their observations in a nature journal – drawing pictures of the animals and the places where you found them.
- Where do you see wild animals?
- What are the animals doing?
- How do the animals react?
- What signs of animals do you see?
Encourage your children to pretend they are trying to observe wildlife in different habitats like wildlife scientists do.
- Crawl through a small cave to observe a bat
- Wade through a marsh to get closer to a beaver’s dam
- Hike through woods thick with trees and vines looking for a woodpecker
Talk a walk outside to practice listening for wildlife sounds. Stop often and have children close their eyes. Ask them to raise a finger when they hear a new sound.
- How many new sounds did you hear?
- Can you hear better with your eyes closed?
- Did you hear any sounds made by wildlife?
Field biologists often get down on their hands and knees to “mimic” the tracks they see to help identify the animal and understand what it was doing at that particular moment. Have your students imitate the movements of wildlife.
- Raccoon – students get on their hands and knees and move from one spot to another, investigating the path they take
- Deer – students gather as a group, each looking in a different direction; students walk away then run and jump
- Insect – pairs of students work together to move all the “legs” at the proper time
- Bobcat – students get on their hands and knees and slowly move one leg and arm at a time as they stay as close to the ground as possible
For this and other activities, crafts and snack ideas use Growing Up WILD’s ‘Wildlife is Everywhere’ on pages 24-25 of the guide.
- Iowa’s Wildlife – info from Iowa DNR
- KinderNature.org has a wide variety of activities, songs, games and crafts about wildlife.
- Looking for a resource to find your local natural areas? Try mycountyparks.com or iowadnr.gov/Places-to-Go
Take a hike at a local natural area to see wild animals and their tracks. Follow them down the trail to find out where they are going and what they are doing in their habitat. Your local naturalist is a wealth of information and may lead the exploration! Find staff (likely a naturalist) from your local Iowa county conservation board or search this Word Document, Guide to EE and Interpretive Services, compiled by the Iowa Association of Naturalists that includes camps, private nature centers, museums, and more!