7th Grade Students Participate in Intriguing “Lost Carnivores Project”

75 seventh grade students participated in the recent “Lost Carnivores Project” with help from Saguaro National Park Rangers.

Middle school Science teachers Mrs. Huetter and Mrs. Maxwell have been working with our seventh grade students on gathering data regarding five suspected missing species as a project-based Ecology unit. The lessons took place both at TCDS as well as Saguaro National Park West – the Tucson Mountain District.

Students started with a pre-visit from Park Ranger Emily Devereaux who presented us with the problem: biologists need help collecting evidence of five carnivores that had not been spotted recently in the park.

The students then formed groups and were assigned a carnivore to research in-depth before deciding on the best place to relocate a wildlife camera at Saguaro National Park.  The students visited Saguaro National Park in two rounds and two weeks apart to collect data and relocate cameras.  They were able to analyze wildlife camera photos, document signs of life digitally, analyze climate, terrain and human population data before they made their final conclusions about the animal they were researching.

The wildlife cameras were then checked and relocated by another Tucson-area school, and those data photos were also sent to our students to add to our collection, as well as shared with the biologists for confirmation of species.

Students set out looking for the Striped Skunk, Hog-nosed Skunk, Spotted Skunk, Kit Fox and the Raccoon.  Although students documented many signs of life including their favorite – identifiable scat – they were only able to confirm one visual sighting of a Hog-nosed Skunk.  This was very exciting!  Students also documented many predators and prey of our “Lost Carnivores” which really reinforced the unit of study for students.

Students then discussed their experience by presenting their group’s findings and conclusions.

This project-based Ecology unit covered all of the Arizona state standards for seventh grade, and it exposed the students to real world applications of science.  They got to be citizen scientists, and the data they collected is being used by park biologists in their study of the park’s inhabitants.

This project is the third one that Tucson Country Day School has been selected to pilot with Saguaro National Park in an effort to increase awareness of such a wonderful local resource that these students will inherit.  These hands on, real-life experiences may also inspire students to pursue a career in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) – something our nation greatly needs!

What excellent work, seventh grade students, Mrs. Huetter and Mrs. Maxwell!

Here are some pictures of students using GPS to locate the cameras in the field, reset the cameras and document signs of life along the way.