Help scientists establish valuable baseline data about the numbers, locations, habits and health of penguins in a range of Southern Ocean sites. This information will enable better understanding of the effects of climate change, fisheries and direct human disturbance on the Antarctic ecosystem.
Nature of science focus: Online citizen science (OCS) projects can be used to develop any of the Nature of Science (NoS) substrands. Identify aspects of NoS that your students need to get better at or understand more fully and then frame your unit to be very clear about these things when you do them.
Science capability focus: Gather and interpret data
Science focus: habitat, adaptation
Some suggested science concepts:
- Bird species are adapted to live in their particular habitats.
- Populations are living organisms of the same species living in the same area at the same time.
- Changes in habitat can affect the survival of populations and the relationships between them.
Many concepts could be learned – focusing on a few can often be more powerful. Develop your learning outcomes and success criteria from these concepts as well as the Nature of Science strand and the science capabilities.
Some examples of learning outcomes:
- label and annotate the adaptive features of a penguin
- describe that science requires detailed observation
- discuss how logged sightings are used by scientists
About Penguin Watch
In this project, participants tag penguins observed in still photos taken from cameras at remote locations. Penguins are classified as being either an adult, chick, egg or other. There is a tutorial to assist in training.
The nice thing is that anyone older than about 5 years old can contribute to penguin conservation. Choose whether you would like to count aerial photos or images from time lapse cameras. Be warned, it is mildly addictive but it’s for a great cause!Researcher
The task is rich in opportunities to discuss why scientists need help with this work (Understanding about science). Some of the images have an abundance of penguins, making the accuracy of tagging another discussion point. Why do we need to be accurate in our tagging? A zoom and scroll feature gives you a closer look.
Unfortunately, the results are not available to use as a discussion point. However, an education resource has a variety of video clips, and the Talk page allows you to connect with the scientists and ask questions.
Carefully embedded in a unit, Penguin Watch offers some rich opportunities to develop students’ understanding about what science is and how it is done.
Nature of science
Using this OCS gives opportunities to discuss why scientists need help analysing this type of data, how they might use the data to monitor species, including changes over time, and why this matters.
Other citizen science projects ask for help to analyse images of Antarctic life:
The Ministry of Education’s Connected series includes a level 4 article on migration, On the move, including teacher support material.
The following articles provide background information about penguins and how technology is helping scientists learn more about these hardy creatures:
Penguins are among the top predators in the Antarctic ecosystem – but can become the prey as well! Find out about energy flows and who eats whom:
Planning for stdents to be citizen scientists provides hints and pedagogical advice for educators interesting in joining an online citizen science project.
This outline was written as part of Victoria University of Wellington’s Citizen Scientists in the Classroom project funded by the Ministry of Education’s Teaching & Learning Research Initiative.