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

Apr 16

We are moving right along with our fantastic guest bloggers this week in honor of Environmental Education (EE) Week in the USA. EE Week is hosted by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), an orgnisation dedicated to connecting people to the environment through education. In honor of this year’s theme of ‘Taking Technology Outdoors’, we’ve invited teachers, parents and environmental educators to share how they’ve used ARKive to connects kids to nature.

Today, we meet Hannah who is going to share how she and her son, D, explored their local natural enviornment using ARKive.

Adding technology and nature learning to toddler play time

As a mother of a non-stop three year old, I am always looking for simple but interesting lessons to incorporate into our play. A friend recently told me about ARKive. I decided to poke around the site and, as anyone with children knows, it wasn’t long before I had company. Together, using some of ARKive’s search options, my son D and I went through each of the six animal groups. Keeping it three-year-old-simple I explained the six animal groups. Mammals drink milk, birds have feathers, fish swim, reptiles have scales… and the other two (invertebrates and amphibians) are a little confusing even to me! There are so many photos on ARKive, we spent a full afternoon exploring.

The following day, armed with six species photos I printed from ARKive, we headed outside for our morning adventure. My goal was to talk about the similarities and differences of the six animal groups and compare the ARKive photos to living things in our own little neighborhood. Would you believe that just 10 feet from our front door we stumbled onto a perfect teachable moment- the circle of life? There, next to a large electrical box, a stunning hawk pecked at a mound of feathers. “He’s eating feathers” D exclaimed. “Yes, yes, he is. Where do you think those feathers came from?” I asked. We talked about big birds eating smaller birds, some birds eating mice and fish, and even smaller birds eating insects and seeds. We compared the hawk to the emperor penguin photo I had printed.

Photo of emperor penguin on ARKive

D practiced spotting similarities between a local hawk and an emperor penguin.

They both had feathers (and so did the poor little bird that met his demise.) These birds also had beaks and large claws, and the penguin had webbed feet for swimming. Unlike our usual haphazard exploring, with this exercise we moved through the neighborhood with direction and intent. We noticed dog footprints in the mud and compared the type of feet and number of legs to our ARKive photos. Later, seeing a squirrel sparked a conversation about camouflage. Three of our photographed animals, the Darwin’s frog, the coconut crab, and the Figi banded iguana, were clearly using camouflage just like the squirrel.

D discovers wildlife in less than 10 feet from his front door!

D discovers wildlife in less than 10 feet from his front door!

D loved looking through the photos online, learning about animal groups, and picking out his favorite animals. Blending ARKive with an adventure in our own backyard was even better. Though I believe open play is of the utmost importance, this loosely structured activity led us through some new discussions. Today’s adventure helped to establish a sense of appreciation for new creatures and I’m hopeful it heartened his respect for the environment, near and far.

Hannah, Stay-At-Home Super Mom

Apr 15

ARKive is partnering with the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) to celebrate EE Week – the nation’s largest celebration of environmental education. We’ve invited some top-notch guest bloggers to share their story of exploring the natural world outside with ARKive in support of this year’s EE Week theme, ‘Taking Technology Outdoors’. Kicking off the week is Sarena, an environmental educator and mother of an adorable little girl, who shares how she has used ARKive to discover new-to-you species in their local ecosystem. Let’s see what outdoor adventures Sarena and her daughter experienced with ARKive!

Species Discovery through my kid’s eyes

Hello blogosphere! Before I delve into the fantasticness that is the ARKive activity, let me introduce myself. I am not a blogger; this is my first foray into this realm. But I am an environmental educator as my ‘regular job’ with a background in biology and zoology, as well as a mom who shares my love and appreciation for the natural world with my nearly nine year old daughter on a daily basis. This is an important point to remember when it comes to the activity we chose to experience.

IMAG1735 (2).jpgjThe kid and I decided to try out the Species Discovery activity. I think it’s fantastic to go explore, see what you see, and then decide what it is based on the behaviors, appearances, diet, and so forth (there’s the biologist in me!). Problem becomes when you, the parent, realize finding a place to go, to which you’ve never been, in the limited amount of free time in your currently busy (ok, let’s face it, currently busy? When is that never true?) schedule is exceptionally difficult. (Score one for the environmental educator exploratory parent! And yet, not helpful in this instance. Cue disappointed game show sounds.) I wracked my brain and was delighted to have a light bulb moment. There is a riparian habitat preserve to which the kid has never been. As we drove the discussion in the car was excited chatter about the goals of our exploration. She was prepared with her camera and anticipated getting pictures and video. We arrived, brought along our umbrellas to block the toasty sun (and prevent our pale wintery skin from gaining a particularly unhealthy pink glow), grabbed the camera and water, and began the adventure.

Capturing photos and video was easy. Spotting animals and plants we’d never seen…not so much. Luckily there were some birds neither she nor I knew. Our time came to a close and we hopped back into the car, where she spent the ride revisiting the experience and carefully analyzing the best pictures and finalizing her decision. Over the next week and a half we continued to discuss the time we spent at the preserve and the activity goals. One evening we brought her younger cousin with us to an arts event. In the car I giggled to myself while pretending to not listen to the exchange happening in the back seat. The kid authoritatively showed the pictures and video to her cousin, while explaining that she was going to give that bird a scientific name and describe all about it since she’d never seen this bird before our adventure. He responded with a frustrating “oh I’ve seen that. I know what that is.” The kid was unimpressed when his response to her query of the name of the bird was “I don’t know!” and remained confident in her choice.

After homework one evening we had some minutes to spare and sat down to complete the other part of the project. The kid was curious about what a scientific name was and I caught myself beginning to describe Linnaeus taxonomy and that scientific names are in Latin. Blank stare. Oops. Luckily for me, she’s incredibly patient with me especially during my moments of biology nerdiness. I simplified and we talked about how scientific names are the same for animals no matter where the animal is found, as a way for all scientists to know what animal another scientist is discussing, while common names are often different in different places. She understood (at least there wasn’t a blank stare in response), especially when we talked about different languages people speak in different countries and made the comparison to names.

Overall, the adventure this activity afforded us was one I greatly value for a variety of reasons. One, I got to spend some fun time with my kid, looking from her point of view at the world around us. This is vital to me as a parent and an educator. Two, it was another opportunity to appreciate nature and how scientists work. A recent quote from the kid that gave me a ‘parenting win’ moment was “Scientists are always curious and clever. I’m always curious, so I’m a scientist.” I’m so incredibly glad she has that perspective! Three, stretching myself as a parent and an educator. Writing this blog post is definitely a step out of my comfort zone, but a huge step I am happy to take. I assume if you are a fan of ARKive, you probably already appreciate nature and get out into it as much as possible (although we all know what assuming does…), but regardless I feel compelled to say: get outside. Explore the world around you away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Take off those modern convenience blinders and see where you are. And bring along your kid(s), or borrow a few (with permission, of course!), or both. Learn through their eyes. Then share it.

Sarena G, Environmental Educator and Mom


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