In this introductory activity, use sweep nets to sample the variety of animals living in lawns.
- Site: Lawn or other grassy area with relatively short grass. This will need to be an area that has not been sprayed with insecticides.
- Safety: If chiggers are a problem, suggest that the youngsters wear shoes and sock and use insect repellent around the ankles.
- Prep: Check the area by using a sweep net and pitfall traps before taking the kids there to see that there are plenty of critters present. For the large group the instructor will need a data board and a marking pen.
How many different kinds of animals can you find living in our study site?
- Develop techniques for sampling the animals in a grassy area.
- Develop an appreciation for the variety of organisms in the study site.
This is a good activity to introduce youngsters to the variety of animal life found at a grassy study site and to acquaint them with some techniques used to collect samples of that life. Lawns and grassy areas support many types of small flying, hopping, and crawling animals. Unless they are hopping or flying, many of these critters go unnoticed because of their small size, camouflage, and tendency to stay near the ground. Initially youngsters try to collect animals without the aid of nets, but these attempts are usually fruitless. When sweep nets and pitfall traps are introduced as tools, the variety of organisms found can be astonishing.
If at all possible, arrange a second visit to the study site so that the youngsters can set the pitfall traps. This technique will usually produce a much wider variety of critters than they would find by using the sweep nets alone. There is also an opportunity to investigate the effectiveness of different baits in the traps and to see if some baits are more effective at attracting certain critters than other baits.
Animals in a Grassland offers many opportunities for study beyond what is mentioned in the OBIS folio. Here are a few questions and ideas to consider:
Did you find the same critters at all places across the study site?
Do you know of other similar places that you could explore? (a park, around your home, around a campsite, around a school)
Most youngsters will want to know “What is it?” In addition to the OBIS Lawn Guide, the small Golden Guides or additional field guides are handy to help identify some of the critters that you will find. Naming a critter is never where the discussion should stop or even focus. These guides will provide information so that later on students can enthusiastically answer questions like: What was the most interesting thing about your critter? What does it depend on in this study site? What depends on it? What else can you learn from other resources about these animals?
Click on a category for other similar activities.