Education feature: Students study ecology of prairie dogs

Liliana Castillo

Carrie Geisler’s sixth grade class at Parkview Elementary School focused on prairie dogs for their ecology section.

More specifically, they set out with the intention of answering a question: Why is careful interaction among lifeforms important?

The class began by reading about and studying the animals in class. They then took their research out into the field with a near $800 grant from the Clovis Municipal Schools’ Education Foundation.

The grant paid for a document camera for study done in the classroom and a digital camera for the class to take photos of the creatures in their natural habitat.

Geisler said document cameras address all learning styles.

“They get to do a lot of hands on,” she said.

The students spent their time observing prairie dogs at Clovis Community College. Then the students created a prairie dog journal, which included drawings, photos and video of the animals, alongside their research. The class will then work in teams to present their findings to the class using the document cameras.

Geisler said she was happy with the way the class reacted to the project.

“They’ve brought their own cameras and video cameras and some even brought their binoculars,” she said.

Geisler said wrapping up all of their research with field work makes the project one that covers every aspect of learning.

“This is the greatest of experiences,” Geisler said.

In the end, the students learned that humans are interfering with the prairie dogs’ natural habitat but the animals are very resilient and can survive by moving their home.

The Education Foundation distributed about $25,000 worth of grants to teachers across the district in November. Executive Director Jan Cox said the foundation will award more grants in October.

Cox said the committee who awarded the grants appreciated that Geisler’s grant proposal included so many subjects.

“It integrated technology with reading, reading tied with a real-life experience and high order thinking. It incorporated art and teamwork and all kinds of things,” Cox said.