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In the Field with Salamanders

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Keywords: animals, classification, collecting data, book making, life science
Subject(s): Biology, Life Science, Art, Photography, Science, Math
Grade 5
School: Naomi Elementary School, La Fayette, GA
Planned By: Renee Walker
Original Author: Renee Walker, La Fayette
Subject: Life Science

Topic: Animal characteristics; classifying animals

Summary: Students will locate, observe, photograph, and collect data on various salamanders located in their local community. Students will use the collected data and photographs to create an online and hard copy field guide.

Objectives: After completing this field experiment students will be able to:
1. Identify distinguishing characteristics of various local salamanders
2. Classify various local salamanders by these characteristics

Materials: collection jars, tongs, magnifying glasses, identification key/
field guides, ziplock bags, spring scales, measuring tapes, digital cameras, memory cards, card stock, binding materials, and publishing computer program.

1. Prepare various plot sites suited for collecting salamanders by placing 3" tree cookies cut from dead hardwood logs in 4 different areas. Assign each area with a number. ( you may want to flag these areas for quicker access later)

2. Divide students into groups, providing each group with collection jars or bug boxes, tongs, magnifying glasses and a digital camera. Give a demonstration on how to collect the specimens and data. Also give a demonstration on how to use the identification keys/ field guide for classifying the salamander.

3. Once students are confident in performing these tasks, proceed to the collection site for practice. Once at the site, lift the first cookie so that the board is still between you and what lies underneath. Catch any salamanders and put them into a bag labeled # 1 (for cookie # 1) to be identified, measured, and weighed.

4. After checking each area, students will return to the classroom to collect and record their data onto a recording sheet. This will include length, weight, a physical description, and the common name as well as the scientific name for each salamander. Students will take a digital picture of each salamander captured for use in compiling the field guide.

5. Repeat this process until enough data has been collected for the field guide. Students will release the salamanders in the same areas where they were captured after the data has been collected and recorded.

6. Each group's data will be compiled together to be added into the field guide. A field guide will be created using technology and posted on the class web site as well as a hard copy.

Suggestions: Students may also bring in specimens from home once they have participated in the correct method of capture and release at school.
Materials: Database, Spreadsheet, Word Processor, Mobile Labs
Other Items: 5 point and shoot cameras, $149.99 each, total of $749.95
1 mobile lab or, $3648.95 each, total of $3648.95
3 card stock, $9.95 each, total of $29.85
1 Tool Factory Workshop, $199.95 each, total of $199.95