To kick off our summer programs, I thought it was about time for our young scientists to think a little more about the scientific process – in particular, the use of field journals in research. With the abundance of computers and smart phones, it’s easy to forget that even today one of the most important tools a field scientist has at his/her disposal is good old-fashioned pen and paper! Think about archaeologists, paleontologists, geologists, botanists, and more who spend a lot of their time traveling and studying items in nature. While they also make use of the latest and greatest computer technology for their research/studies, most also rely heavily on the scientific field journals they keep while they explore nature. They take notes, they sketch pictures, and they record their observations as soon as they see something “in the wild.”
Our G3 scientists got to practice first-hand with keeping their own scientific journals. For our purposes – and to make the best use of our lovely summer weather – our crew specifically got the chance to practice with “nature” journals. Before heading outside, we did a practice round of “observation” indoors. Four tables where set up with a mystery item under a plastic dome. Our scientists picked a table, and after an appropriate countdown and drum roll, someone at each table removed the dome so scientists at each table could begin describing their item in the nature journals that Nicole provided. The mystery items included a bumblebee, turtle egg remnants, a hornets nest, a moth, beetles, and a fly (all insects were dead of course…and big props to me for scrambling around and collecting them! 🙂 ). The scientists in Track A had a lot of fun dissecting the fly so they could better look at its head, legs, wings, etc. The scientists in Track B were particularly interested in how items smelled (the favorite item for sniffing was the turtle egg remnants, which all agreed smelled like “poo”).
After a few minutes, we shared our observations with the full group, and then I passed out the challenge for the day: a scavenger hunt in the cemetery next door!
The scavenger hunt included many items you would expect to find outdoors, even in a cemetery: branch, moss, rock, leaf, flower, plant, etc. But it also included a few items not typically found in your standard cemetery…like an antler, a wild turkey feather, and a coconut! [Hands down, I’d say that the coconut was a strong favorite for most of our scientists.] I actually did a raffle to give away the coconut after the Track B session due to its popularity (and the begging from my young scientists)…so of course I plan to bring in another coconut and hold a similar raffle for my Track A crew!
It’s always interesting to see how young scientific minds work. Many of the scientists from Track A focused on finding as many items as quickly as possible, so that they could then sit down and describe items in their journal. There was a lot of excitement when both the real deer antler and the coconut were found. Track B scientists approached the scavenger hunt in a step-by-step format – most spent time after each find to carefully document their finds in their nature journals. The coconut was again popular, as were some coins from European countries found on top of a headstone.
When all was complete, both processes were of course completely valid and resulted in some great journal entries. In our final program minutes, we headed back inside to share some of our favorite finds and descriptions for the day.
I think for our next program, it’s about time we got our creative juices flowing again. And there should definitely be some target practice involved! 🙂 Stay tuned…