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School Groups

Classroom Teachers

The Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History (RTPI) provides educational programming for grades 3  through 12.

If your school participates in BOCES Co-Ser, RTPI’s account number is 438.020. Check with your principal, your field trip may already be in the budget.

Classroom Programs

All lessons are age-appropriate and align with State Learning Standards. An RTPI educator will visit your classroom and provide a self-contained lesson for 15-25 students.

Cost is $125 per classroom visit for up to 25 students, each student after that is $7 per student.

Please call for more information (716)664-2473 x221 and ask for Melanie Smith or email [email protected]

Available programs are listed below.

Third grade

Fourth grade

Fifth grade

Sixth grade

Seventh grade

Eighth grade

Ninth through twelfth grades


The available programming follows:

Poison-dart frogs in your classroom

Grade level: Grade 3
Type of program: Classroom visit
Duration: 45 minutes

Objective of the program:

  • Students will be able to interact with a frog expert who researchers frogs in various parts of the world, learn first-hand from his experiences and together explore the topic of adaptation and the diversity of frogs.
  • Students will get a unique opportunity to meet several species of live poison-dart frogs, and learn many interesting facts about these and other frogs.

This program supports Grade 3 ELA Module 2A “Researching to Build Knowledge and Teaching Others: Adaptations and the Wide World of Frogs”

Background information for teachers:
RTPI director Twan Leenders is a conservation biologist who has spent the past 25 years working with some of the world’s most endangered  frogs in remote parts of Central America and Western Africa. His work focuses mostly on generating better understanding of the diversity of amphibians that live in complex ecosystems such as a tropical rainforest (adaptations), as well as developing conservation strategies to make sure our at-risk frogs do not go extinct. He has authored several books on amphibians.

Dr. Leenders also works closely with zoos that maintain captive populations of species which have become extremely rare in their natural environment, and he supports captive breeding programs of poison dart frogs and other rare species. RTPI is a partner organization with the Amphibian Survival Alliance, the world’s leading frog conservation group. More information can be found on our website here:  https://rtpi.org/conservation/tropical-research-conservation/

This program will include a meet-and-greet with several different live Poison-dart Frogs, including species that students are familiar with from the supporting Central Texts (e.g. Poison Dart Frogs Up Close and Deadly Poison Dart Frogs). Please note that poison-dart frogs’ toxins are diet-based; captive poison-dart frogs that are not fed their natural prey lose their toxicity and pose no risk to students.

 


For the Birds

Grade levels: Grade 3 – 5
Type of program: Classroom visit or off-site
Duration: 40 minutes

“For the Birds” is based on the children’s biography For the Birds, The Life of Roger Tory Peterson written by Peggy Thomas and illustrated by Laura Jacque.

Items representing Roger Tory Peterson’s life alongside his biography help participants learn about Roger Tory Peterson’s life as he develops into a naturalist, ornithologist, artist, environmentalist and educator. Using a Peterson Field Guide as a reference the presenter describes the Peterson System, the method of nature identification that Roger Tory Peterson is famous for. Participants practice using the Peterson System by participating in a game based on Jeopardy® that challenges them to identify various birds.

Objective of the program:

  • Students will be able to interact with an environmental educator, learn how Roger Tory Peterson’s boyhood fascination with nature and birds evolved into a career as a world-renowned naturalist, artist, author, and educator, and discover Peterson’s unique system for identifying different bird species.
  • Students will have the opportunity to utilize Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds to identify various species using Peterson’s informative illustrations and literary descriptions.

This program supports the following ELA Modules:

Grade 3 ELA Module 1; Using Literature and Informational Text to introduce students to the power of literacy and how people around the world access books.

Grade 4 ELA Module 2B: Exploring animal defense mechanisms. “Students build proficiency in writing an informative piece, examining the defense mechanisms of one specific animal about which they build expertise. Students also build proficiency in writing a narrative piece about this animal.”

Grade 5 ELA Module 2B: Inventions that changed People’s Lives.

 

Fifth grade

Rainforest in your classroom

Grade level: Grade 5
Type of program: Classroom visit / live streaming interview with rainforest researcher(s) / Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality experience
Duration: 45 minutes

Objective of the program:

  • Students will be able to interact with a visiting scientist who researches tropical rainforest ecology, mainly focused on migratory birds, endangered amphibians, and tropical mammals.
  • Optional – students will get a unique opportunity to connect directly with rainforest researchers and their students while they are doing tropical field work, using a live-streamed connection.
  • Optional – using an innovative VR/AR experience, students can explore what it is like to study tropical frogs in a rainforest. Through classroom-wide and individual VR wander through  a rainfdo  meet several species of live poison-dart frogs, and learn many interesting facts about these and other frogs.

This program supports Grade 5 ELA Module 2A, Unit 1: “Building background knowledge: How scientists communicate about the living things of the rainforest.”

Background information for teachers:
RTPI director Twan Leenders is a conservation biologist who has spent the past 25 years working with some of the world’s most endangered  frogs in remote parts of Central America and Western Africa. His work focuses mostly on generating better understanding of the diversity of amphibians that live in complex ecosystems such as a tropical rainforest (adaptations), as well as developing conservation strategies to make sure our at-risk frogs do not go extinct. He has authored several books on amphibians.

Dr. Leenders also works closely with zoos that maintain captive populations of species which have become extremely rare in their natural environment, and he supports captive breeding programs of poison dart frogs and other rare species. RTPI is a partner organization with the Amphibian Survival Alliance, the world’s leading frog conservation group. More information can be found on our website here:  https://rtpi.org/conservation/tropical-research-conservation/

This program will include a meet-and-greet with several different live Poison-dart Frogs, including species that students are familiar with from the supporting Central Texts (e.g. Poison Dart Frogs Up Close and Deadly Poison Dart Frogs). Please note that poison-dart frogs’ toxins are diet-based; captive poison-dart frogs that are not fed their natural prey lose their toxicity and pose no risk to students.


Roger Tory Peterson Speaks for the Birds

Grade levels: Grades 6 – 8
Type of program: Classroom visit or off-site
Duration: 45 minutes

“Roger Tory Peterson Speaks For the Birds” is based on the children’s biography For the Birds, The Life of Roger Tory Peterson written by Peggy Thomas and illustrated by Laura Jacque.    Participants learn about Peterson’s life as he develops into a naturalist and environmentalist. Using one of Peterson’s favorite birds – the osprey – as a model, students participate in an activity which illustrates the concept of bioaccumulation.

The presenter then explains how this phenomenon affected birds of prey exposed to the pesticide DDT, and how Roger Tory Peterson’s knowledge and keen observation skills played a role in raising the alarm about the danger posed by this chemical and it eventually being banned. Connections are then drawn to modern-day environmental issues affecting birds such as plastic pollution.

Objective of the program:

  • Students will be able to interact with an environmental educator, learn how Roger Tory Peterson’s boyhood fascination with nature and birds evolved into a career as a world-renowned naturalist, and discover how Peterson’s keen observation skills and knowledge of ecological connections helped him to identify the environmental threat posed by the pesticide DDT.
  • Students will engage in an activity which illustrates the concept of bioaccumulation, draw connections to modern-day environmental issues, and discover ways that they can take action to be a part of solutions.

This program supports the following ELA modules:

Grade 6 ELA Module 4: students explore the benefits and harmful consequences of the use of the controversial pesticide DDT.

Grade 7 ELA Module 4B: Focused on a “science and society” topic, engaging students in reading compelling informational text about water sustainability, fresh water management, and how to make evidence-based decisions. (DDT was affecting birds of prey via their aquatic prey).

Grade 8 ELA Module 4: Students analyze arguments and the evidence used to support arguments to determine whether sufficient evidence has been used and whether the evidence is relevant in support of the claim an author or speaker is making. They then research to gather evidence to make their own spoken and written arguments. (The chemical industry pushed back against environmentalists attempts to ban DDT with conflicting claims about the dangers of the pesticide).


Urban Ecology – the world we (and many other creatures) live in…

Grade level: Grade 7-12
Type of program: Classroom visit and/or walking field trip / half day
immersive experiences available also.
Duration: 45 minutes (in-class); may vary depending on options selected.

Objective of the program:

  • Students who demonstrate understanding of these concepts can design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.

This program supports Grades 9-12 standard HS-LS2-7 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics; Disciplinary Core Ideas LS2.C (Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience), LS4.D (Biodiversity and Humans) & ETS1.B (Developing Possible Solutions).

Background information for teachers:
In recent years, RTPI Conservation staff has identified populations of several at-risk species within Jamestown, which share our urban environment. This modular unit consists of several case studies that focus on these species in the city. Presenters will highlight the unique niche each occupies, discuss the relation between the original natural habitat and the man-made surrogate habitat they currently inhabit, present the specific research questions that need to be addressed before effective conservation strategies can be designed or implemented, and evaluate the impacts urban living have on our local ecosystem functioning and its biological diversity.

Focal species include:

Spiny Softshell Turtle, a NYS species of Special Concern, inhabits the Chadakoin River and nests in the city. Four other species of turtle are known to exist in the Jamestown section of the river. Dams within the city obstruct movement up and downstream, and population structure may be impacted by these barriers. Competition for scarce habitat, food, or other resources may determine their long-term survivorship. Spiny Softshell Turtles are thought to live up to 50 years. The population structure and size we observe today is the result of impacts that accumulated over several decades; conversely, any changes to their habitat made now may take decades to have an impact on the population. Assessing impacts and implementing conservation strategies for long-lived species is extremely complex and challenging.

Chimney Swift & Common Nighthawk, two species of aerial insectivores that are among the fastest declining birds in our country (72% and 61% range-wide population decline in the past 50 years, respectively, with a continued decline of 2-4% annually).  Both species suffer from indiscriminate use of pesticides and the resulting crash in insect populations, but they also both lost their natural habitats to widespread conversion of forest and floodplains for residential, industrial, and agricultural uses in the past 100+ years. Over time, they have adapted to living in man-made structures, but now changes in industry and construction trends are jeopardizing those adopted man-made habitats as well. How do we factor loss of man-made habitats into future urban design plans?

Henslow’s Sparrows, a NYS Endangered species, have bred successfully at the Jamestown airport in recent years – there is only one other location in NYS where these birds persist currently. Habitat management tailored for operation of a commercial airfield inadvertently created the environmental conditions these birds need. Loss of their native prairie habitat could potentially be offset by proper management (mowing schedule, vegetation composition, predator control, etc.) of managed large grasslands and benefit endangered species. How do we transition away from large areas of unnecessary lawn, and all the environmental and management challenges those create, to identifying and creating the critical habitat values that can save communities money by reducing maintenance costs, while improving biological diversity in the community?

These units are offered as in-class programs by RTPI conservation staff who are involved in these research programs; programs can be tailored to the interests and grade level requirements of students in grades 9-12.

In addition, walking field trips to observe these species in their urban environments are available, but are limited to certain seasons. Half-day, immersive field experiences where students explore these projects first-hand and become involved in the ongoing research that RTPI staff is carrying out in the community can also be arranged.

Please contact the Roger Tory Peterson Institute to customize your Urban Ecology experience!

Customized lessons are available  – please call Melanie Smith at (716)664-2473 x221 or email [email protected] to discuss your needs.