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Washington State University

Hidden Highways – Explorer: Skill Level One

Hidden Highways

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EXPLORER – Skill Level: One

Observing wildlife
Observing wildlife


Recording Wildlife Encounters


Objective: Look for wildlife and signs of wildlife
Science Skills: Observation, deductive reasoning
Life Skills: Critical thinking

Preparation Activities:

Review the Safety Precautions regarding interacting with wildlife.

Ask your group the following questions:

– What do animals need to survive?
– What kinds of animals do we have in our area?
– How do we know what kinds of animals we have in our area?
– Are their animals we don’t see?
– How do we know they are there?
– How do we confirm they are there?
– What kinds of conditions will affect what animals we see?
– How do scientists learn this information?

Check the web links in Explore More for resources about identifying animals.

What You Will Need

– Calendars / Observation Journals
– Pencils/Pens
– Animal Identification Guides
– Magnifying glass
– Binoculars

Using a calendar, youth will choose an interval to which they can commit. That might be as simple as once a week at breakfast logging what they see out the kitchen window, or as complex as making a detailed investigation every day of what animals they see in the habitat behind their house.

1) Decide the parameters: where will they investigate, how much space? Ten square feet? An acre? Will they be on their hands and knees doing detail studies, or just making casual observations? Commit to what is the most likely for each individual.

2) Choose the subject: what will they study? A single species of bird? Only deer? Just insects? All reptiles? Any living animal they see?

3) How long will they commit to the investigation? Five minutes once a week for one season? Ten minutes every day for a year? Encourage them to make a realistic and achievable goal, and at the same time, tell them that the longer they commit, the more they will discover. (Using a calendar helps suggest that many animals have seasonal habitats and migration patterns.)

Research any animals of interest that they observe. Ask questions.

• What are they doing?
• Where did they come from?
• Where are they going?
• What brought them here?

Utilize local animal guides or some of the online resources in Explore More to learn more about each animal.


Activity 2: Wildlife Feeders

Objective: Create a feeder to attract local wildlife
Science Skills: Observation, Draw/Design
Life Skills: Critical thinking

What You Will Need

Gather a large variety of materials to promote creative designing: Wire cutters, hangers, jars, cans, chicken wire, liter pop bottles, milk cartons, wood, nails, glue, tape, pinecones, seeds, peanut butter, string, straws, chop sticks, popsicle sticks, paper, plastic or pie plates, etc.


Step 1: Hypothesize

Ask the youth to look at their habitat. What kind of animals would be most likely to visit if you create a feeder? What kind of animals do you want to feed? What do those animals eat? Have youth state and record their assumption, for example: “If I make a feeder and fill it full of seeds, robins and sparrows will come to the feeder.”

Step 2: Research Feeder Designs

Go on-line or to the library to learn about feeder designs. (Note that an internet search for “making wildlife feeders” will bring up a very different list of responses from “making a bird feeder.” Be specific.) There are also books available at your Extension Office that describe a variety of wildlife feeders.

Step 3: Design and Build a Feeder

This is really a great opportunity to get youth thinking creatively. Have them draw out a design using easy to acquire household objects. Once they have designed a feeder have them build it.

Step 4: Observation

Put the feeder near a window, (near a window by a computer). Have the youth log the animals that utilize the feeder.

Asking the Right Questions:

Did you attract the animals you intended? Did you attract other animals? If you only attracted an animal you were not expecting what kinds of conclusions can you make about your environment? What kind of conclusions can you make about your feeder? What kind of conclusions might you make about the wildlife?

Finished this Activity?

Complete this survey.


Explore More

Birds of the Pacific Northwest

American Bird Conservancy

Bug Guide

UW Nature Mapping Animal Fact Sheets


“Objects are concealed from our view not so much because they are out of the curve of our visual ray as because there is no intention of the mind and eye toward them…We cannot see anything until we are possessed with an idea of it, and then we can hardly see anything else.”

H.D. Thoreau – Walden