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Migration Education Program Engages Students in Bird Science and Conservation

By Liza Barney, Science Educator, Bird Studies Canada


Photo: Liza Barney

The Motus Wildlife Tracking System continues to generate buzz in the scientific community, as its geographic scope and collaborative network grows. Alongside the knowledge gained from a research perspective, Motus lends an exciting opportunity to engage students in real-world bird science and conservation!

With support from an Ontario Trillium Foundation Seed Grant in 2016, Bird Studies Canada explored the potential of bringing the science and technology of Motus to the classroom. Receiving stations were installed on two demonstration schools in Ontario (Russell Reid Public School in Brantford and Northern Lights Secondary School in Moosonee), and we piloted a Migration Education program with students in grades four through eight.

In the program, education modules construct a storyboard of bird science and conservation, using interactive case studies to highlight current bird research. Students become scientists as they use real Motus datasets to map and study bird movements across the landscape.

Using the interactive visuals of the receiving stations, students could observe the birds detected around their school or within a region of interest. Students worked through case studies of a Motus project to learn about species life history and conservation concerns, and map the coordinates of detections during migration. For an example, view the migratory journey of a Swainson’s Thrush.

The pilot activities were a success among teachers and students. They especially liked using Motus visuals to learn about the birds passing over their communities!

Bird Studies Canada is excited to continue developing the Migration Education Program with new support from NSERC PromoScience. This next phase aims to build the educational content across broader curriculum and geography in Canada, and integrate various technologies to connect students with new research projects and scientists in the field. The program’s bird’s-eye view of nature, with its technological hook and hemispheric scale, aims to increase appreciation for local bird life and the environment, and encourage stewardship efforts for birds at home and at school.

Resources will be available for the upcoming school year via the Migration Education page on the Bird Studies Canada website. For more information, or to participate, please contact education@birdscanada.org.

This project is made possible by Ontario Trillium Foundation and NSERC PromoScience, as well as the supportive scientific network of Motus collaborators.

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