Migration Invitation and Oil Spills


To continue this week’s seabird theme, I facilitated two different activities with the youth program students focusing on migration and feathers.

The first activity, involving feathers and what happens to a bird’s feathers in an oil spill, can be found here.

Keys to this activity are to allow students time to observe their feather, think about the behavior of seabirds, and ponder how an oil spill might affect a seabird.  Though this activity requires materials such as vegetable oil, dish soap, and feathers it clearly demonstrates how feathers function and are negatively affected by oil.  Additionally, because the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico occurred only three years ago, many students still remember and can relate to this tragedy.

The next activity that we explored this week is a game I created called “Migration Invitation.”  After discussing the annual migration of the Arctic Tern, we talked about why birds migrate what might hinder a bird’s migration.  Factors such as traveling for food, shelter, and breeding were the main reasons sited for why birds migrate.  Students then listed factors that would positively and negative impact a bird’s ability to migrate.  I wrote each of these factors down on its own index card.  Many of the negative factors included:

  • wetland drainage
  • drought
  • pollution
  • coastal developments
  • conversion of wetlands to farmlands
  • illegal hunting
  • disease
  • oil spill

The positive factors included:

  • preservation of wetlands
  • high rainfall
  • restoration of habitat
  • a balance with predators
  • humans protecting wetlands
  • laws regulating hunting

The game continues as follows:

  1. Locate a large playing area. Designate one end as the “nesting habitat” and the other as the “feeding habitat.”
  2. Draw on circle on the ground out of chalk for each student in each habitat.
  3. Explain that the students are to migrate from the feeing habitat to the nesting habitat and later back again.  To survive they must each have a circle to stand in when they arrive in the area.
  4. Mix up the cards you made listing the negative and positive factors that can impact the migration of birds.
  5. Begin with all students in the feeding habitat.
  6. Then, pick a card and read the factor listed on it. If it is a factor that favors migration you can leave all the circles.  If it is a factor that limits migration draw an X in one circle in the opposite habitat to where all the students are.
  7. Then tell all the students to migrate!
  8. A student that does not have a circle to stand in is now “dead” due to that negative factor. (Note: The number of circles taken away can vary. For example: coastal development has a great impact and this can be shown by removing three circles from the area instead of just one.)
  9. Students that are eliminated can come back into the game as “hatchlings”…if a card is picked with a positive impact on migration, you can draw new circles and allow some students to return.
  10. Do several cycles of this and keep track of the number of birds surviving per cycle.  On a white board or chalk board write the number of birds who survived and what factor created that survival rate.

Some tips—students get very excited to “migrate.”  Make sure they wait for the teacher to say “migrate” and encourage safety while migrating (no pushing!).  Also, relate the game back to bird migration and the factors seabirds need to survive.

Seabird Specialists week was a success.  Now on to Fish Fanatics!

in Green