The Boone and Crockett Club’s Lee and Penny Anderson Conservation Education Program has released its first “virtual” wildlife education lesson plans that teach middle schoolers about wildlife science. The Trail Camera curriculum uses trail camera footage from the Club’s Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch near Dupuyer, Montana to teach practical, real-life biological principles with no travel or field trip related expenses required. The Trail Camera 101 and three training modules provide educators with a ready-made lesson plan that includes trail camera photo sequences, short answer questionnaires, vocabulary lessons with “word finds”, teacher keys, lesson extensions and background information. The curriculum was developed by the Club’s director of conservation programs, Luke Coccoli, as part of his master’s in education project.
“Our world is currently experiencing never before seen measures in regard to online-based learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Electronic environmental education could not be more important than it is right now, and the timing of the release of the Boone and Crockett Club’s Trail Camera lessons just happened to coincide with this significant increase in virtual learning,” commented Coccoli. “We hope that this material can bring the wild experience and biological principles found in nature to the students who may not have the opportunity to experience such landscapes or see these types of animals. We also hope that these lesson plans will capitalize on connecting with the tech-savvy generation of today’s young people while simultaneously preaching the importance of wildlife conservation in a fun and interactive way.”
In a time when students are more disconnected from the outdoors than ever, the use of trail cameras has the potential to reconnect students to the great outdoors while within any physical or virtual “classroom” – even thousands of miles away. Trail cameras have been deployed on the Boone and Crockett Club’s Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch since 2012. These cameras are routinely monitored and placed in strategic locations to capture a variety of species and seasonal movements across variable ecotypes. The Trail Camera lesson plans bring the TRM Ranch and all of its Rocky Mountain ecosystem inhabitants into the lives of classroom teachers and students through pre-selected slides that focus on a variety of large and small game mammal species as well as birds, bats and even plant life. The curriculum starts with a free “Trail Camera 101” lesson that provides background and understanding of the use of trail cameras in wildlife science, as well as understanding the different mammals that might be seen on the camera. The introduction is followed by three lessons of 190+ trail camera images that students learn to interpret using guided worksheets.
The lesson plans developed by Coccoli adhere to “Next Generation Science Standards” utilized by educators. Specifically, students that participate in the lessons will connect with two of these standards:
“Many people associate technology with a disconnect from the outdoors, this curriculum was designed to change that. This curriculum can be used by anyone, anywhere in the world, and ideally it will connect people to wildlife and nature in a way never done before,” Coccoli concluded. “The research behind the design for this curriculum proved that viewing trail camera photos in an educational setting can increase the amount of time students later spend outside enjoying nature while also increasing their knowledge and ability to identify native wildlife species, all while delivering it in a manner students favored and believed in.”