5/6 teacher Lisa Colombo sees things differently now that she has taught an intensive animal tracking class. “At first, the forest just looks like a forest, but when you look closer, you see MILLION little things!” This was among the many observations she shared after returning with her class from their second trip to Oxbow Regional Park.
Oxbow, located on the Sandy River, is an ideal place for tracking because of its long stretches of sandy beach. Students studied tracks of beaver, deer, raccoons and found evidence of many more- including a deer carcass that the Metro naturalist suspected was killed by a cougar! Students learned how to find animal “clues”: tracks, partially eaten vegetation, animal-made paths and drag marks. In a sense, they learned how to “read’ the forest for animals.
These field work trips to Oxbow were only part of a trimester-long unit. Classes started out observing nature and establishing “sit spots” in Cottonwood Bay. As a connection to literacy, students read excerpts from The Tracker by Tom Brown and Tom Brown’s field guide, and all 5th and 6th grade students read the novel Scat by Carl Hiaasen. Students worked together to design tracking mystery cards and tracking identification cards. They are currently building a tracking kit for other classrooms to use and they plan on leading lessons for the Kindergartners in December at Cottonwood Bay.
An exciting culminating trip is planned for the last week of school. A member of Cascadia Wild, a non-profit organization, who visited the class in October, will be leading a guided snow-shoe hike in the Mt. Hood National Forest. If they’re lucky, students will find evidence of the elusive wolverine. Good luck and thank you for your work, 5/6!
This was a window into one class’s field work- I will update you on another class next month!