How Many Species Do You See? – Distance Learning the EV Way.

Photo by Brittany Sabol

How many species? Well that depends – did you count the people?

Ok, even focused on the stick, the actual number is not the important takeaway. Of course, when you start thinking about resolution of the photograph we can’t hold you accountable to seeing everything.  That is one reason the more important question is the follow up, such as how can you tell that you are seeing different species?

Did you use the shape? The color? Prior knowledge? (Any Lichenologists reading this who know the names of all these lichens?) This is a great foundational conversation for younger students. 

Or maybe the follow up question is what makes something a different species? Different shapes don’t necessarily indicate a different species. It may be a different phase of the life cycle. Or it could be different shapes of the same species. Your Chihuahua and your neighbor’s Great Dane? Same species. Not the same shape. Did you know poison oak can be shaped like ground cover, bush, or climbing vine? But regardless of the shape, it is all the same species. So how do scientists define a different species? This is a great discussion for older students (and even a point of debate among professional scientists).

So, the EV way of distance learning is not just writing up lots of science facts, or filming videos of someone talking about lots of science facts. Don’t get us wrong, there are some fantastic examples of those kinds of resources. But what we are hoping to do is engage our students in science skills like observation and critical thinking. We want to help our students be better learners and to know what to do with all of those amazing science facts that are out there.

Want to do this yourself?

This is a simple and rich observation based activity. In pre-Covid times we would take students on a field trip to a forest and find a stick like the one pictured. What if you aren’t in a forest with sticks like this?

By Brittany Sabol, EV Education and Training Director