One activity that I have done a few times, and particularly enjoyed, was doing a mark and recapture study on dragonflies with elementary/middle school students. In my opinion, it is a pretty perfect project - you get to teach the scientific method, a little bit of math, and a good bit of natural history. I didn't come up with this project (I think Taylor Yeager, of Mass Audubon, suggested doing it with grasshoppers, initially - but that was the summer of 2006 or 2007, so my memory is a bit hazy) but I've run it a few times with kids from ~9 years old to high school age.
|Hetaerina americana, the American rubyspot, my favorite odonate in California. A damselfly, these are just as suitable for the study described here, though a little more fragile.|
|You'll almost certainly see Pantala flavescens, the world's most widespread dragonfly. Catching them is a bit harder - they fly high and fast! This is a female.|
|Rhionaeschna sp. Chiloe Island, Chile. WHO DOESN'T LOVE DRAGONFLIES?!?|
|The eyes of emeralds, family Corduliidae, lend them that common name.|
What you'll need (not very much!):
1) Nets - 1 per student is ideal, but partners are fine, too. Wooden-handled aerial nets are not expensive (<$10) and will last a long time and take a good bit of abuse.
3) A good field guide. I use Dennis Paulson's excellent guides for the US, though there are really good regional ones, like Blair Nikula's Massachusetts guides and others. Identifying dragonflies and damselflies in all but a few genera (Sympetrum, Enallagma) is really simple and can be done by most high school age children with pretty good accuracy.
4) Clipboard, data sheets.
5) Two days of predicted sunny weather!
|A meadowhawk (Sympetrum sp.) like above. This is a male - told by the bulge in the abdominal segments as well as its red color (females of this genus are yellowish).|