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Students will hop, skip, and jump across the prairie as they discover the importance of the prairie wetlands for migrating birds. Also known as Prairie Potholes, students will roleplay the importance of these freshwater areas to the survival and propagation of waterfowls. They will also consider how the destruction of wetlands makes migration more difficult for the birds. Students will brainstorm and share strategies to protect and restore this vital ecosystem and how their actions impact their local environment.
Students will learn about the ways birds are physically adapted to their various habitats. Each small group of students will be assigned a different bird and will make observations and inferences about what kinds of habitats and behaviors their bird is adapted for. Students will then move through 4-5 stations where they will see models of different bird features such as wings, feet, beaks, bones, and plumage. At each station they will learn what the different types of features are best adapted for and will try to identify which of the types their bird has. After moving through the stations, students will create a picture of the habitat that their bird is best adapted for and present their bird to the class by explaining the physical features that help it survive in that environment.
Students will model the formation of the prairie wetlands. Each group of students will be given a tray of packed soil and a block of ice mixed with sand and gravel. They will slide their "glacier" over the surface of the soil and observe how it affects the surface. They will also model the retreat of the glaciers by breaking off chunks of ice and burying them in the soil. After the ice has melted, they will observe the kettle lakes (also known as Prairie Potholes) that have formed in their soil. They will sketch their observations and create before and after pictures showing how the prairie wetlands were created.
Using provided datasets, students work in groups to create a travel webpage that recruits different species of birds for an upcoming migration journey. For example, one group will be focused on recruiting Sandhill Cranes, while another target Yellow Warblers. Each group creates a compelling vision of the journey including how they will navigate, what the flightpath will be, and how to plan the flight (v-formation, scheduled stops, flight speed etc.) to make it easier than traveling alone. Don’t go at it alone, join your fellow Mallard Ducks and let’s make this journey of a journey together!
What better way to learn about the carbon cycle than by experiencing it firsthand? Students will explore the journey a carbon atom might take through a prairie wetlands ecosystem by becoming carbon atoms, themselves. They will first invent an action that recreates the role of carbon at each stage in the cycle, then perform these actions at stations around the room, going from one stage in the cycle to the next. Afterward, students will answer the question: What does the carbon cycle have to do with me?
After learning about how mallards and other birds disperse seeds from the film, students will design their own seed dispersing animal. This activity will help reinforce the important role that seed dispersing animals play in their ecosystems. Students will have to think about how the design of their animal will help contribute to its role as a seed disperser as they create their own fictional seed disperser.
Students will discuss possible reasons for animal courtship behaviors, then split into groups to analyze the mating display of one of the film's three main bird species. They will evaluate which survival and parenting skills might be represented by each movement and how these skills will help offspring survive. Students will then come up with three movements birds living in a different ecosystem, such as arctic, tropical, or desert, might use in their courtship behaviors. Once each group has their new behaviors, they will explain them to the rest of the class, who will then guess which ecosystem these behaviors might belong in.
Citizen science is a collaborative partnership between the public and scientists that lets the public contribute to scientific research. Students will make meaningful observations in the natural world through bird watching. They will collect important data on their local birds and birds in different communities. Then, they will share their findings with scientists using a citizen science program. Students are encouraged to compare bird diversity in the different communities they explore.
Students will take the role of farmers competing for a sustainability grant. After researching farming methods used around their area and sustainable alternatives, students will build a model of their farm highlighting the sustainability practices used and the advantages these practices provide to the environment and the farmer. Students will then present their models to the class "board" and debate the pros and cons of each design before the "board" votes on the most sustainable design.
Students will be assigned a role within a wetland ecosystem and will work together to show how each component is linked through symbiotic relationships of producers, consumers, and decomposers. They will create an ecosystem web using yarn to link the different components together throughout the room. The facilitator will introduce various changes to the ecosystem (ex: new predators, drained wetlands, loss of birds, etc.) to show how the changes affect all components over time. Afterwards, students will work in groups to create ecosystem web drawings on posterboard with each group choosing and researching a different ecosystem (ex: tropical rainforest, temperate forests, wetlands, etc.).