Education

To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. -Theodore Roosevelt

New Trail Camera Virtual Curriculum

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When do mule deer bucks typically shed their antlers? When are elk calves usually born? How can you tell the difference between a grizzly bear and a black bear? Does the wind blow on the Rocky Mountain Front?

For kids growing up in Montana, these questions might not be very difficult to answer. But to many children, particularly those living in urban areas, these natural science questions might be harder than an algebra test! 

With this in mind, the Club’s Lee and Penny Anderson Conservation Education Program released its first “virtual” wildlife education lesson that brings the beautiful Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch into the classrooms of middle schoolers around the country. The Trail Camera curriculum uses trail camera footage from the ranch to teach practical, real-life biological principles with no travel or field trip related expenses required.

The curriculum was developed by the Club’s director of conservation programs, Luke Coccoli, as part of his master’s in education project. While many have heard about the concept of “nature deficit disorder” in today’s youth, Coccoli’s master’s thesis suggests that engaging digital content can actually increase kids’ knowledge of the natural world and even inspire them to get outdoors.
“Many people associate technology with a disconnect from the outdoors, this curriculum was designed to change that. This curriculum can be used by anyone, anywhere in the world, and ideally it will connect people to wildlife and nature in a way never done before,” Coccoli says. “The research behind the design for this curriculum proved that viewing trail camera photos in an educational setting can increase the amount of time students later spend outside enjoying nature while also increasing their knowledge and ability to identify native wildlife species, all while delivering it in a manner students favored and believed in.”

The COVID-19 pandemic makes the release of this curriculum even more timely. Across the world, there has been a rapid growth and acceptance of online-based learning. Coccoli notes, “Electronic environmental education could not be more important than it is right now, and the timing of the release of the Boone and Crockett Club’s Trail Camera lessons just happened to coincide with this significant increase in virtual learning.” 

The use of trail cameras has the potential to reconnect students to the great outdoors while within any physical or virtual “classroom” – even thousands of miles away. The Trail Camera lesson plans bring the TRM Ranch and all of its Rocky Mountain ecosystem inhabitants into the lives of classroom teachers and students through pre-selected slides that focus on a variety of large and small game mammal species as well as birds, bats and even plant life. Trail cameras have been strategically deployed on the ranch since 2012 in order to capture a variety of species and seasonal movements across variable ecotypes.

The curriculum starts with a free “Trail Camera 101” lesson that provides background and understanding of the use of trail cameras in wildlife science, as well as understanding the different mammals that might be seen on the camera. The introduction is followed by three lessons of 190+ trail camera images that students learn to interpret using guided worksheets and teacher’s tools.

The lesson plans adhere to “Next Generation Science Standards” utilized by educators, in particular two standards:

  1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem; and 
  2. Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations. 

One of the primary goals of the curriculum was to increase awareness and understanding of the integration between wildlife conservation, private land and livestock management. The lessons seek to foster an understanding of the shared use of natural resources and promote stewardship of the land to build common ground for sustaining healthy ecosystems. This has the potential to not only increase students’ science knowledge but also create more environmentally responsible behavior within students’ daily lives. 

“We hope that this material can bring the wild experience and biological principles found in nature to the students who may not have the opportunity to experience such landscapes or see these types of animals. We also hope that these lesson plans will capitalize on connecting with the tech-savvy generation of today’s young people while simultaneously preaching the importance of wildlife conservation in a fun and interactive way,” Coccoli concludes.

The Trail Camera 101 lesson is available for free, while the three modules with trail camera footage are available for $10 each, or all three for $25 on Teachers Pay Teachers or in our webstore.


 


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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt