Oct 15

Have you ever marveled at the different sizes and shapes of bird beaks or wondered just how an octopus suction pad really works? Each of these specialized adaptations in wildlife embodies a principle in engineering. Examples of engineering in nature can be found all around us whether it’s the structure of a seed pod that allows it to fly or float great distances, or the way that light filters through the leaves of a tree on a sunny day.

We are excited to announce a new learning project available to educators this fall in collaboration with Iridescent, a science education nonprofit that links science professionals with under privileged youth through its innovative learning platform, the Curiosity Machine. In this three week program called the Engineering in Nature Challenge, students ages 11-14 can learn up to five different engineering concepts all from the natural world and test their skills through invention:



Learn how a bird beak is a simple machine.





Discover flight and gliding adaptations of seed pods.




Explore reflection and incidence angles through light reflection in trees.




Test aerodynamics knowledge and skills by building a gliding bird.




Engineer an octopus suction pad while discovering air pressure, vacuum and suction forces.


Teachers can choose to do any combination of activities from the list above and each activity features films from the ARKive collection that demonstrate the engineering concepts in action.

There are two aspects to this project that make it unique from any other learning experience. First, teachers will be offered continuous support from ARKive and Iridescent team members through weekly Google Hangouts including kick-off and culmination hangouts. The team will be available to introduce you to Iridescent and the Curiosity Machine platform, troubleshoot any questions from the classroom,  and recommend additional wildlife imagery from ARKive. Second, each student will be paired up with a scientist working in the field that will offer advice and helpful feedback on the student’s work and these aren’t just any scientists! The mentors for the Engineering in Nature Challenge are practicing science at distinguished institutions such as Harvard, Stanford and more.

Iridescent pic

Child participating in an Engineering in Nature Challenge by building a gliding bird

The Engineering in Nature Challenge is a learning experience unlike any other inspiring students to explore engineering principles while developing a greater connection to nature all with the one-on-one support of exceptional real world scientists.

If you are interested in learning more about the Engineering in Nature Challenge, sign up for a sneak peek by clicking the link below.

Sneak Peek Sign Up!

You will be one of the first educators to receive the Engineering in Nature Challenge info before it goes live on the ARKive site on October 24. We look forward to sharing this learning experience with you!

Liana Vitali, ARKive Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

Jul 23

As a Primary Teacher in the Kimberley I have utilised ARKive’s resources over several years as the content is engaging and relevant to the knowledge base of my students; 77% of whom are Aboriginal from many different language groups across the Kimberley; an area three times the size of the UK.

I thought I would share a couple of examples of how I have used ARKive education resources and how they have worked for me and my students.

Keys and classification

Identification keys – sharks and raysWith the implementation of The Australian Curriculum I have found ARKive’s classification resources specifically meet the Year 7 Biological Science content descriptor ACSSU111 which states “There are differences within and between groups of organisms; classification helps organise this diversity” (ACARA).

My students particularly enjoy the ‘Sharks and Rays Identification’ activities as our community is located on the edge of a crocodile infested tidal mangrove habitat and most students engage in recreational fishing and hunting activities. Students of all abilities are able to navigate the identification keys easily and the accompanying presentations on shark and ray identification and classification resources make the lesson preparation seamless. The other activities provided engage students over a series of lessons and I normally conclude the unit by getting my students out of the classroom with a visit to a Munkayarra Wetland. During the visit students use an identification key similar to the ARKive keys to identify macro invertebrates they collected.

Students using classification keys at Munkayarra Wetland © Barbara Sing

Students using classification keys at Munkayarra Wetlands

Human Impacts on the Environment

Human Impacts on the Environment education resourcesAlthough my students have some idea of the impact of plastic in the marine environment the ‘Human Impacts on the Environment’ resource was certainly an eye opener for many of them. The module explores the different ways humans can have negative impacts on the environment and endangered species. I recommend it highly as a resource for Sustainability, Science as a Human Endeavour and also Chemical Science.

Spreading the word

I easily keep up to date with new resources through the ARKive facebook page and share the resources with other teachers and environmental groups.

Thanks for providing a growing useable resource for teachers globally!

Barbara Sing Derby District High School (K-12), West Kimberley, Western Australia

Apr 19

We’ve had a fantastic week of guest bloggers on ARKive from day care educators to stay-at-home moms who have highlighted the different ways they have used ARKive in support of this year’s Environmental Education Week theme of ‘Taking Technology Outdoors’. Our final guest blog has been written by Perky, an elementary school principal in northern Idaho who used tablet PC’s to engage her students with the local natural world this month … once it was warm enough to venture outside!

iPads, ARKive and Food Chain Learning All Outside Under the Sun

What fun we have with ARKive at our small rural school in northern Idaho! Who could imagine students who live only 60 miles from Canada would be able to create and learn about vital food chains in countries such as Africa, Costa Rica, or Asia? Well, the kids found it easy because of the fantastic work the ARKive people have produced. During our winters of mountains of snow, our students initially learned how to use the resources of ARKive by developing a food web of their choice using the app called StoryBuddy; we worked inside for this project.  Each student partnership made a small electronic book complete with facts and photos of animals involved in a food chain. The results were professional and the kids adored the project because of how easy it was to get the information and pictures they needed.

Students exploring ARKive outside using tablet PC's

Perky’s students have a blast exploring ARKive outside using tablet PC’s

ARKive's Temperate Rainforest of the Pacific Northwest educational resourceNow that the sun is shining and the grass is slowly turning green, we were invited to use some of the resources on ARKive again involving the use of a camera. Believe it or not, my small school of 166 students received 90 + iPads from an anonymous donor last fall! So, we now have easily accessible cameras. I chose the Temperate Rainforest Lesson to get them outside. We started by eating our lunch while digging a little deeper into the website. The students were amazed at all the other resources we found to use. While snacking on potato chips, we went through the PowerPoint. The discussion was lively and informative as we went through the slides.

Student completing worksheet from the Temperate Rainforests of the Pacific Northwest

One of Perky’s students completing a worksheet activity from the Temperate Rainforests of the Pacific Northwest ARKive lesson

Once we finished them, we were off and excited to head outside. Armed with the provided worksheets on clipboards and their iPads, the kids dove right into the work. Their first mission was to record all the living and nonliving components along one stretch of our fence. Luckily, in fourth grade they learned the necessary characteristics for something to be considered alive. As they worked along, they started snapping pictures of these components. These will be used to create a food chain of their choosing for organisms in our area which just happen to be very similar to the organisms living in a temperate rainforest: bears, moose, deer, coyotes, elk.

Brown bear photo on ARKive

Perky’s students learned about species that live in the Pacific Northwest USA such as brown bears.

Tomorrow, we will use the Doceri app, their photos and ARKive’s resources to build their food chains. Thank you, ARKive. The kids literally loved it.

Perky, Elementary School Principal, Idaho, USA

Apr 18

Next on our fantastic list of guest bloggers for our celebration of Environmental Education Week on ARKive is Laura from Pennsylvania who, in the spirit of the ‘Taking Technology Outdoors’ theme, spent an afternoon with her son Mason exploring nature just outside their home using ARKive. Keep reading to see how they encountered nature both prehistoric and modern on their adventure!

Prehistory meets the present in one afternoon spent outdoors with ARKive

When I found out about the ‘Taking Technology Outdoors’ EE Week theme and ARKive partnership, I immediately wanted to participate. Not only with my sons ‘Generation Z’ status in mind but moreso because I wanted to prove to myself that technology and nature can mix and that we do not have to become transformed by the ways of technology, forgetting about the world that exists around us. Instead, we can combine the two, each leading their own vital role.

IMG_2552My son Mason is a very energetic and enthusiastic 5 year old. However, we are reaching the point in his life where he is becoming more aware of technology and electronics and less interested in appreciating nature and the environment. When I grew up, my days were spent in the woods, climbing rocks and catching salamanders. Coming home filthy was our trophy for a successful day outdoors. A lot has changed since then.

As we headed outside, the first thing we noticed was a stray cat. I pulled up ARKive on my phone and clicked the Top 50 Mammals link. We flipped through the pictures and came across the caracal. Mason immediately commented on the similarities of size and color regarding this cat and the caracal.

Photo of caracal on ARKive

Mason recognized similar features between a local stray kitty and a caracal.

We then went to a local park and searched the historic (and safe!) Pennsylvania coals mine lands hoping to find a fossil. To our disbelief, we were successful! This time, I pulled up the Top 50 Plants and Algae link from ARKive and we looked at the various different pictures. Mason decided that the plant resembling our fossil the most was Picramnia bullata. It was so neat to think that we had the tools to help us research what we found right there with us while we were in the outdoors. As we flipped through Mason also pointed out that the tall grass around us resembled the picture of animated oat as well.

Mason found a fossil while exploring outdoors with ARKive.

Using the Top 50 Plants & Algae list on ARKive, Mason and his mom decided it looked most like Picramnia.














We love using ARKive for the lessons, activities and free games on the website. Had I not visited the ARKive website and learned about the partnership with EE Week, I would not have thought about doing this with my son and we would not have shared such an interesting and educational experience. Not only were we able to enjoy the beauty of nature but we were able to immediately locate information on our phone via ARKive to back up what we found and get more information on it. This was a very valuable day for both my son and I as I learned new things as well. It is true that you’re never too old to learn something new. I could not think of a better way to learn than to experience that moment with my child, at the same time.

Laura, Nature-Exploring Mother of One

Apr 17

Today’s Environmental Education Week guest blogger is Nikki, a Day Care Educator who is always on the look-out for incorporating real science into her daily curriculum. When one of her student’s parents brought a little caterpillar to school one day, Nikki saw the opportunity to teach her students science, both indoors and out, with the help of technology and ARKive. Keep reading for the trials and tribulations of ‘Fuzzy’ the caterpillar.

Using ARKive indoors and out to connect local species with related species around the world

The last week in February, Michael’s mom found a caterpillar near the fireplace at home. She brought it into school and I thought this would be the perfect science project for 2 1/2 and 3 year olds. We put ‘Fuzzy’ into a soda bottle and poked holes in the top. We also added a few leaves in case he got hungry. Within 3 days, ‘Fuzzy’ went into a cocoon. We checked on him daily and after about 3 weeks we thought ‘Fuzzy’ went over the ‘Rainbow Bridge’.

It was a Tuesday morning, the end of March, and I noticed a leg beginning to come through the cocoon.  Within moments, I grabbed the seven children in my class at the time, and we watched as ‘Fuzzy’ emerged into the Get Set classroom. Another little boy, Anthony, and his mom walked in minutes before. We all watched in amazement. I immediately freaked out, wondering what was in the jar.  It didn’t have wings and resembled a bee. Lucy was just dropped off by her dad who is an entomologist at Penn State University.  I ran down the hall to question him about the creature in my jar. He told me it was an Isabella tiger moth. He said within about 10 minutes the blood flow would hit his wings and they would expand. I raced back to my classroom and we watched at ‘Fuzzy’ became like “the beautiful butterfly, just like in The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” My co-teacher, Anthony’s mom, seven children, and myself, watched this phenomenon.  We helped him out of the jar and onto the wall on our playground.  The children watched in awe as we took pictures and bid farewell to our friend.

Well, my conscience got the best of me. It was hovering around 20 degrees and I feared ‘Fuzzy’ would freeze to death. My director found a butterfly tent and we transported our furry friend back inside.  I spent a good part of that day researching Isabella tiger moths and their relatives. Looking on ARKive, I learned there are a handful of moths related to ‘Fuzzy’ from the stripy Jersey tiger moth to the European cinnabar moth. I could easily envision an activity with the younger kids asking them to point out which parts of ‘Fuzzy’ were the same or different to his cousins on ARKive.

Photo of Jersey tiger moth on ARKivePhoto of cinnabar moth on ARKive

Then, the kids looked at pictures with me on my iPad of Isabella tiger moths and asked very mindful questions about how to take care of ‘Fuzzy’. We learned that he had only a few days to find a mate. He also may or may not eat. If he did eat, he’d like the nectar of a flower.Well, it’s March, so we crushed up a sugar cube, mixed it with water, and sprayed it onto artificial flowers that were placed in his tent. Everyday, we took pictures of him and would talk to him about what we were learning in school.  He learned about traveling to space which included watching space shuttle launches and landings. He also learned about Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. Last Thursday, ‘Fuzzy’ peacefully drifted off. The children wondered where he would go now. We put him in a tissue and buried him in the ground so the worms would have some food too.  I explained the circle of life and told the kids, the next big worm we found, was probably ‘Fuzzy’. The kids are looking forward to the next big rain storm so the worms will come out and we can find ‘Fuzzy’.

In all of my years teaching, this was probably one of the coolest experiences with kids. We were able to watch every single aspect in the life cycle of at caterpillar and used ARKive to learn about species related to the one in our own classroom. Sure, we’ve read stories, but nothing will compare to the look on their faces, when witnessing the real thing. I’m looking forward to seeing what else we can find in our ‘backyard’.

Nikki, Day Care School Educator and Lover of Caterpillars


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