Welcome to Field Trip Earth!

by Mark MacAllister

Page 1 : Exploring Field Trip Earth

Field Trip Earth focuses on field-based wildlife conservation research projects ongoing around the world. Some of the projects are "live," meaning that research activities, and one or more research scientists, are currently active in the field. These projects are featured prominently on the site. Projects that are not "live" are archived so that students can continue to access the relevant articles, photos, videos, and other materials. All of the projects, though, are similar in that they provide classrooms and others around the world the opportunity to interact meaningfully with wildlife researchers and other conservation experts. Students and other users can read researchers’ field diary entries, direct questions to the researchers (and read their responses), listen to recorded satellite telephone calls and other communications, see video taken in the field, and discuss conservation issues with them. In a sense, students can use the interactive resources of Field Trip Earth to become part of the research team itself.

Resources on the site are divided into two broad categories. Site-wide resources are not connected to a particular species or research project. Rather, they focus on conservation issues generally, and in doing so address concerns that span several species and/or regions. Access to the site-wide resources is via a menu found on the left-hand margin of the Field Trip Earth homepage, and nearly every other page on the site.

Species-specific resources, on the other-hand, focus with significant detail on a particular species inhabiting a particular region: red wolves in northeastern North Carolina, for example, or savannah and forest elephants in Cameroon, Africa. Access to each "field trip"—that is, to each research project—is via each field trip's homepage. Go to the Field Trips list for a list of research projects monitored on the site.

Field Trip Earth users interested in learning about larger conservation perspectives should explore site-wide resources, while users wishing to learn more about a particular species, a particular research project, or conservation in a particular part of the world should look to specific field trips first. However, each type of user will find valuable information throughout the entire site.

Page 2 : Site-Wide Resources

Link to List of All Field Trips
Follow ths link to obtain a list of all the field trips available on the site (both "live" and archived field trips), and for summary information about each.

Join Field Trip Earth
Two options are available for users that wish to be kept up-to-date on important information about the Field Trip Earth website. Users who are not classroom teachers can simply provide an email address and some non-personally identifiable information that we use for data collection purposes only; in exchange, we'll occasionally email a brief "newsflash" (usually only a sentence or two and a link) pointing them to an interesting website update or important event in a particular field trip. In addition to the newsletter, classroom teachers anywhere in the world have the additional option to participate in a variety of data collection surveys we use to better understand how Field Trip Earth is used in the classroom, and what effects the website has on teaching and learning. These surveys are brief and are conducted online—data gathered via the surveys are shared among Field Trip Earth staff, and are also reported as required to our funding sources.

About Field Trip Earth
Information in this section provides an overview about the Field Trip Earth project and its mission. Project participants are highlighted, as are technical issues, basic guidance for using the site, and so on.

Contact Us
Information on how to communicate with the Field Trip Earth staff is offered in this section.

The search engine will examine all of the information on the site, both for active and archived field trips. The search engine can be used to locate information about a particular species, a particular region under study, or any other aspect of the site. Students searching for answers to specific questions can often find them via this resource.

Page 3 : Interactives

This tool allows a student or, better yet, a group of students, to construct an interview with a Field Trip Earth researcher. That interview is then forwarded to the researcher for his/her responses. The most relevant, thoughtful and intriguing interviews will then be shared on the website. An archive of previous interviews will also be available. Please note that we will not be able to answer all interview requests—we will be choosing only a few, but we will respond to those in significant detail. Interviews that focus on larger issues that span several species and/or regions are especially encouraged.

Discussion Groups
The Discussion Groups offer an opportunity for users to substantively exchange ideas, questions, comments, and reflections regarding any topic related to Field Trip Earth. All discussions are moderated, meaning that a teacher or other adult reviews the discussion entries, responds to issues raised, and suggests related new topics for additional discussion. Teachers may use this section to encourage their students and their colleagues to think about, and write about, their own experiences with wildlife, as well as their experiences in using this website. We hope that the discussions will be wide-ranging, and that they will serve to bring together teachers and students from around the world.

Field Trip Earth discussion groups are public discussion groups, and as such all information submitted to these discussions becomes public. All users, and especially children, should avoid disclosing personally identifiable information—such as names, email addresses, and street addresses—on the discussion group.

Page 4 : In-Depth Articles

What I Know About...
In addition to researchers actually working on the ground, wildlife conservation projects involve a wide variety of experts: computer programmers, guides, zookeepers, attorneys, laboratory researchers, veterinary students, and so on. Each of these people has a story to share regarding their experiences in working with wildlife. Field Trip Earth gathers these stories in this section.

Field Reports
Field Reports comprises a collection of stories about the wildlife, people and places associated with the projects featured on Field Trip Earth. These stories allow us to look more closely at the field experience itself, and to better understand issues related to each particular field trip. For example, some Field Reports consider new technologies being tested for use in the field. Another Field Report may be an in-depth examination of an important species that shares habitat with one of the species under study. Yet another may simply show a step-by-step process, such as how morphological measurements are taken in the field.

Field Reports will also strive to use a variety of media to tell the story. In addition to words, we'll use a lot of photographs, video, and sound. It is important to understand that these media materials are posted to the site "as is." This means that nothing appearing in a Field Report is staged or rehearsed. As a result, field researchers often must use their cameras in poor light, in bad weather, or at long distances; sound will often be gathered in less than ideal conditions. Additionally, we do as little editing of sounds and images as possible. In other words, the intent of the Field Reports is not to offer perfect pictures and professional-quality video. Rather, it is to show as authentically as possible what it is like to work in the field with wildlife.

Page 5 : Educator Resources

Educator Resources
This section forms the core component of the Field Trip Earth instructional mission. Itcontains a variety of teaching strategies that may be used individually as "stand-alone" events or as parts of a larger instructional unit. These lessons, designed by K-12 educators from our partner school districts, reflect national standards in a variety of academic areas, though of course they should be adapted for implementation in each individual learning environment. Please see the Educator Resources page for more information about these strategies.

These strategies will offer a measure of guidance to teachers wishing to implement Field Trip Earth in their classrooms. These strategies do not represent a fully-developed curriculum. Rather, they are "kernels" or "building blocks" that teachers can use to teach certain concepts, processes, or thinking skills. A teacher wishing to improve students' writing skills, for example, can employ the journaling strategies highlighted on the site as a means for doing so. And, our experience shows, students are in turn very excited about journaling if they can learn the skill while, at the same time, reading the journal entries of a field researchers actively engaged in a wildlife conservation program.

Page 6 : Features

Feature Stories
A list of recently-posted stories from among all of the field trips, as well as an abstract of each, is available in the center of the page. Users can choose to read a story in its entirety, or can be linked to a list of other stories with content similar to that topic.

Field Trip Earth News
Breaking news about the site or its associated field projects is displayed here. Important events in the world of wildlife conservation generally will also appear in this block.

Field Trip Earth users will frequently have the opportunity to voice their opinions on key environmental questions. Polls are open to all, and are anonymous. Results can be viewed as votes are cast.

Page 7 : Species-Specific Resources

About the Species
Each "About the Species" section will provide background information—some general, some quite detailed—about the species under study. In addition to basic descriptive articles, there will be a FAQ (frequently asked questions) article for each species, as well as information about behavior, distribution, and habitat preferences. Information about each species' place in mythology, literature and other arts will be available here, as will photographs of the species. Teachers may use this section to become more familiar with the species, and/or to provide a store of research materials for their students.

About the Project
This section provides critical background about every wildlife conservation research project hosted on Field Trip Earth. Each project's history, goals, objectives and methods will be outlined. Links to web resources about equivalent research projects will also be provided. Classroom teachers should use this section to introduce students to project basics and to research methodology concepts.

About the Region
An "online almanac" of information about the region under study is available in this section. Facts about that region's geography, population, and history are available. Maps and other images will also be used to better describe the area, and detailed article will outline key regional components, such as unusual habitats or threats to wildlife. Teachers should use this section as a resource for learning more about the region, and for placing the research project itself into social, economic, ecological, geographic, and historical perspectives.

Page 8 : Resources for Research

Research Data
Datatables and other datasets relevant to the field trip will be downloadable from this section. Examples of datasets include location data (latitude/longitude) for animals tracked by radio or satellite collars, morphology data, population data, and so on.

Media Galleries
A gallery of media objects, including photographs, video and audio clips, maps, and other materials will be available here. Users can simply browse those objects and select which pieces they wish to review in greater detail.

Photographs, video and other media objects related to a specific article will be listed in the Media Gallery which appears on the right-hand margin of each article page. Users wishing to see the media object in greater detail—that is, to see a full-size version of a photo, or to download a videoclip—must click the link to that object.

Feature Stories
A list of recently-posted stories from the field trip, as well as an abstract of each, is available in the center of the page. Users can choose to read a story in its entirety, or can be linked to a list of other stories with content similar to that topic.

Page 9 : Field Diaries

Field Diary
Each field researcher participating on the Field Trip Earth website will keep a diary or field journal about his/her day-to-day activities on the project. These first-person accounts will include stories about preparations for field activity, actual events in the field, "you-are-there" insights about the species and and region under study, and reflections about conservation biology, species endangerment, and other topics. All of these entries will be made available to students via this component of the website. Teachers should use this section to provide students with the most realistic accounting of science at work. The researchers' diaries will bring to life both the mundane and the exciting aspects of the project; the diary entries can, in turn, help focus students' day-to-day understanding of what's happening on each project, and can also serve as excellent models for journaling and other writing tasks.

mugshotAbout the author:

Mark MacAllister is the Project Coordinator for Field Trip Earth.

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