Tuesday, November 24, 2009

iPods on the Boardwalk

Over the last two days, Knightsville Elementary School's 4th graders visited the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest and they brought along some of their iPod Touches.

Using fundsfrom a South Carolina Geographic Alliance (SCGA) grant, we purchased two iPod Touches and accessories. With the two iPod Touches brought by the school, each of the four groups had an iPod Touch as they rotated through the animal (mammal) track activity, an iPod bird call activity and the tour around the 1.75-mile boardwalk. Additionally, two groups used our Flip video cameras to record their experiences in the swamp.

During the animal track identification activity, students used the paper track identification sheet, but also had the option of using the iPod Touch to peruse the various animal track drawings. Images of each animal appeared next to the appropriate track drawing. Even on the best of days, which would not describe either of these two cold, damp days, mammals are not likely to be seen during a walk around the boardwalk. Gray Squirrels are plentiful, but the other mammals (Raccoon, Opossum, Bobcat, Gray Fox, River Otter, White-tailed Deer, Coyote, Beaver, Marsh Rabbit, Feral Hog, rodents, and recently-arrived Nine-banded Armadillo) are mainly nocturnal, secretive, or sufficiently alert to move away from the boardwalk when humans approach. The image of a track and scat was at the Black Bear stop. Although Black Bears are not known to be in Four Holes Swamp, they are in the nearby Francis Marion National Forest and one was hit on I-26 near Jedburg several years ago.

A bird calling station was set up in each of the rain shelters along the boardwalk with each group stopping at one of the stations. Speakers, published bird field guides, Beidler Forest-specific field guides, and other bird identification-related materials were staged at the rain shelters. Using the iPod Touch and speakers, students played an Eastern Screech Owl call attract other bird species within range for visible inspection. Students could use the six S's to narrow the bird species possibilities. Additionally, our two iPod Touch devices contained the National Audubon Society bird field guide app that provided images, content plus a variety of audio for each bird. Once the coding issue is resolved for our Beidler Forest boardwalk-specific app, the same information will be available for use by students and other visitors without the clutter of plants and animals not present or likely to be seen along the boardwalk.

During the tour around the boardwalk, students accessed the extensive library of images showing plants, animals, and maps (boardwalk, watershed boundary, Beidler Forest boundary). With the poor weather and time of year, many animals were not present or not visible. However, as we talked about animals or as students asked questions, the student with the iPod Touch could be tasked with finding an appropriate image to share with the group.

Having the images, content and other data available on the boardwalk when the questions are being asked or the students are looking at the plant, animal, or habitat is a powerful learning tool. It is our desire to obtain additional iPod Touch devices so that we have an iPod for every four students.

Images by Mark Musselman

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