4th Grade Science: Ecologist Shares Her Work with Yukon Lynx & Snowshoe Hare

Princeton Day School Lower School Science teacher Aaron Schomburg's Fourth Grade students are learning about ecology, specifically food chains and webs. To enrich their studies, Mr. Schomburg recently welcomed Ecologist Rachael Derbyshire as a virtual guest speaker.

Ms. Derbyshire is an experienced field scientist who is currently studying the lynx and snowshoe hare populations in the Yukon. All three of Mr. Schomburg's Fourth Grade classes participated in Ms. Derbyshire's presentation on Zoom as she explained how she documents the lynx and snowshoe hare populations as they undergo a 10-year cyclical period of population explosion followed by steep decline.

Students were particularly intrigued to learn about her technique for safely trapping lynx and placing a collar with microphones and a "fitbit"-like technology on them to track not only their movements, but also their hunting, sleeping, playing and grooming activities.

Lynx tracks (from Rachael Derbyshire)

"Being able to bring an experienced field scientist to share with the entire Fourth Grade, both on campus and remote, helps to highlight the importance of what scientists are doing every day," Mr. Schomburg shared. "Ecologist Derbyshire was able to answer students questions, including how climate change is affecting animal and human life in the Yukon. Having a professional scientist to talk to also helps to dispel the myth of the stereotypical scientist in the students' minds," he continued.

Two scientists are currently lined up for virtual visits to the second and third grades this year, and Mr. Schomburg is hoping to arrange more visits with working scientists to share their scientific work and its impact with PDS lower schoolers.

"Working scientists are an invaluable addition to the LS science program, bringing first-hand expertise and powerfully reinforcing the learning we do in the classroom," Mr. Schomburg concluded.

Photos courtesy of Rachael Derbyshire (from top): a group of Lynx in the Yukon; fresh lynx tracks in the snow

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