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[MultiMedia Schools]
September 2001
Copyright © Information Today, Inc.
In the Hollow of a Tree
by Linda C. Joseph, Columbus (Ohio) Public Schools, Library of Congress

[Editor's note: URLs mentioned in this article appear in the chart that follows.]

Teachable moments are treasured learning experiences. They can happen anytime, anywhere for teachers as well as students. For me it happened on a warm spring day as I was helping my friend plant her flower garden. Her husband was mowing their five acres of land. The property is situated at the corner of two busy roads in a fast-growing suburban area. Behind their house is a wooded ravine with a creek that feeds into a river.

As her husband made one of his turns near the house, he shut off the engine and said he thought there was a baby raccoon in the yard. He was not sure if it was alive. We dropped everything and went to see. Indeed the baby was alive, and upon further investigation we discovered three more babies in the hollow of a giant maple tree. They were making quite a racket. Although I had grown up on a farm, I had never heard the sounds of a raccoon that range from soft coos to distressing chortles.

We wondered if the mother had left them to get food. We soon realized she was not coming back. Only a few feet away lay a raccoon that had been hit by a car. These baby raccoons were orphans. We pondered what to do since we knew we could not raise raccoons. My friend called the county wildlife agent who told her to bring them into their facility. Since this was Sunday that task would remain for the next day.

In the meantime we had an idea. Why not videotape the little critters and do some sort of educational piece for teachers and students. I dashed home and grabbed my digital movie camera. We spent about an hour capturing their movements and sound on film. My friend even brought out her kitchen scale and a measuring tape. We began with one raccoon on the ground, then two more dropped out. Finally, we had three babies on the ground and one who remained in the tree. We later found that this guy was the smallest of the four and probably was not able or too scared to climb from the safety of the nest. We placed all four babies in a large garbage can for the night to protect them from predators and the possibility that they might wander onto the road. The next morning they were taken to the wildlife facility.

Next, we had to decide what to do with the information and how to present it to the educational community. My friend suggested we re-purpose a Big6 workshop on raccoons into activities for students, make a movie from the footage, and create Web pages. The following activities were developed for you to use with students. The Big6 Information Access Skills serve as a framework for teaching students how to research the Web.
 

Introduction
Using raccoons as the topic, we will go through the six steps of the Big6 Information Access Skills and how to find resources on the Web.

1. Task Definition
What question(s) are you trying to answer?
What do you want to know about raccoons?
Where do raccoons live?
What do raccoons eat?
What sounds do they make?

Activity:
Think of other questions and write them down.
2. Information Seeking
Brainstorm all the places you might go to find resources that would help you answer your questions.
Some examples are wildlife refuge, CD-ROMs, books, interviews with naturalists, and Web resources.
Activity:
To find information on the Web, you will need to brainstorm words or phrases to search. Make a list of keywords or phrases you might use to find information about raccoons such as raccoon habitat or raccoon food. Write these down on a piece of paper or in a word-processing program.
3. Information Seeking
How do you find information about raccoons on the Web? One way is to use a search engine. Other ways include starting points, ask an expert, and sites bookmarked by your teacher.
 
Search Engines
A search engine indexes Web sites. You type in words or phases and a list of sites is returned about your topic. Sometimes the list does not give you what you expected. Try different words and phrases until you find information about your topic.

Search engines use different methods for searching and finding Web sites on a subject. You will want to look at the directions and tips at each search site for complete details.
 

Internet Search Tools Quick Reference Guide

http://www.itrc.ucf.edu/iqr/
For a quick guide to search engines, try this reference published by the SouthEast Initiatives Regional Technology in Education Consortium (SEIR*TEC). You can quickly look at a grid of search engines and view how to search using quotes, keywords, or other connectors. In addition, the guide suggests specific sites depending on whether you want to browse a broad topic or search a specific database. Best of all, you can print the PDF file and keep the guide next to the computer as a handy reference or send for free copies.

Activity:
Google
http://www.google.com

1. Go to Google.
2. Click on Advanced search.
3. Type raccoons in the "with all words" search box.
4. Print the first page of your results.
5. Next type raccoon habitat in the "with the exact phrase" box.
6. Print the first page of your results and compare the two searches.

AltaVista
http://www.altavista.com
AltaVista uses the Boolean method for searching. Boolean is a big word, but it means you can use connecting words to help you search. Examples of connecting words are and, or, not, near.

You can also search by phrase or natural language. For example you can ask a question like, 'What do raccoons eat?' When using a natural language search, you may get hits that have nothing to do with raccoons.

Another feature available with AltaVista is the image search.

Activity:
1. Go to AltaVista.
2. Click on advanced search.
3. Type raccoons and habitat near food. This means you are searching pages that contain both raccoons and habitat, and the word food is near these words.
4. Print the first page of your results.
5. Next click on images at the top of the advanced search screen.
6. Type the word raccoons and click on search.
7. What kind of pictures did you see? Were there any you could use in your raccoon project?

Dogpile
http://www.dogpile.com
Dogpile and other meta search sites let you ask several search engines at one time and then retrieve the top hits. This can be a time-saver. However, there are occasions where sites are duplicated several times or useful information is not retrieved. Experiment and see how it works for you.

Activity:
1. Go to Dogpile.
2. Type the word raccoons.
3. Print the first page of your results.
 

Starting Points
Starting points are places where specific topics have been searched and links created. Many include a description of the Web site.

Activity:
Go to these sites and look for information about raccoons. What did you find?

The Electronic Zoo
http://netvet.wustl.edu/e-zoo.htm

eNature
http://www.enature.com/
 

Ask an Expert

KidsConnect
http://www.ala.org/ICONN/AskKC.html

If you are a K-12 student, KidsConnect is one place to go to ask a question. It is not a place for help on an assignment due tomorrow. A volunteer school librarian will usually get back to you in 2 school days. You will be given suggestions of good Web sites and other resources that will help with your project.


4. Use of Information
How do you know the information is reliable? Can you use photographs and music in projects without violating copyright? How do you cite resources or give credit to the people who wrote the material, took the photographs, or created the music?

Evaluating the Content

CyberGuides (Secondary)
http://www.cyberbee.com/guides.html

Karen McLachlan, Library Media Specialist at East Knox High School in Ohio, developed this guide to use with teachers and students to evaluate content and graphic design of home pages.

Website Investigator (Elementary)
http://www.motivationmining.com/website_investigator.htm

Decide whether a Web site is engaging, stimulating, useful, credible, organized, easy-to-use, satisfying, and effective with this interactive tool. Sad, neutral, and smiley faces are utilized to evaluate and score Web sites.

Activity:
Compare the information at the following two sites using either the WWW CyberGuide Ratings for Content Evaluation or Website Investigator.

Raccoon Facts
http://www.raccoonrescue.com/facts/

Why do raccoons have a mask?
http://www.alienexplorer.com/ecology/m172.html
 

Selecting Content to Use in your Report or Project
Look at other Web sites about raccoons. After evaluating the information, you can create a folder of bookmarks of the sites that will be best for your report.

Copyright
Copyright is the law of the United States that protects the works of authors, artists, composers, and other from being used without permission. It is important to know what you can and cannot use from the Web when you are creating your presentations and projects.

Activity:
Check your knowledge about copyright. Go to Copyright with CyberBee at http://www.cyberbee.com/cb_copyright.swf. See if you can answer the questions before looking at the answers.

Citing Resources
Noodletools
http://www.noodletools.com

The most practical tool for you to use for citing your references is the Web-based program called Noodletools. You type in the information about your resources and Noodletools creates a bibliography that you can save or print.


5. Synthesis
Putting together your report or project is the most fun. Be organized. Storyboard your ideas. Inspiration and Kidspiration software programs are great tools for this task. If you want to use technology for your presentation, try a word-processing program, Microsoft Publisher, PowerPoint, HyperStudio, or a Web page.

Activity:
Create a presentation about raccoons using one of these technology tools.


6. Evaluation
Did I show what I learned? This is called evaluation.
While you are working on your project you may share your ideas with your classmates for their comments. You may evaluate your own work using a checklist. Your teacher may give you a rubric or criteria to follow.

Activity:
Use Barbara Jansen's Big6 Assignment Organizer to help organize and evaluate your project. Go to http://dewey.chs.chico.k12.ca.us/b6org.html and print a copy of the handout.


Out of the Hollow and into Your Hands
What makes this a very special article is the fact that a companion Web site was created so that you and your students can see the four baby raccoons in action and hear their various sounds. The movie was created in iMovie on an iMac computer. The camera we used is a Sony Digital 8 with a fire wire cable. The fire wire cable allows the film to be imported into iMovie with great ease. We hope you will share the story, the activities, and the experience with your students.


Be sure to visit the MultiMedia Schools Home Page (http://www.infotoday.com/MMSchools) with active links to all of the Web sites mentioned in this article. Then fly over to CyberBee (http://www.cyberbee.com) for more curriculum ideas, research tools, and activities to use with your students and staff.

In the Hollow of a Tree
http://www.cyberbee.com/raccoons/raccoon.html
Engage in the Big6 activities outlined in this article, view the movie, and listen to the sounds of baby raccoons.

Links to Raccoon Sites

British Columbia: Raccoon
http://www.fishbc.com/adventure/wilderness/animals/raccoon.htm
Raccoon tracks, description, and photograph make this site a quick ready reference stop.

Gable's Raccoon World
http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/Vines/4892/

Kids Farm—Raccoons
http://www.kidsfarm.com/raccoons.htm
Follow the routine of Zorro, a four-week-old raccoon, as he adjusts to his life at the rehab center.

Raccoon Rescue
http://www.raccoonrescue.com/facts/
Raccoon Rescue is an organization dedicated to rescuing and relocating wildlife. The Web site is loaded with facts and photographs about the humane treatment of raccoons. 

Raccoon Sounds
http://members.aol.com/dhswan3/index.html
Did you know that raccoons make over 200 sounds? This is the only site on the Web with a comprehensive collection and explanation of raccoon sounds. 



AltaVista 
http://www.altavista.com

Big6 Assignment Organizer
http://dewey.chs.chico.k12.ca.us/b6org.html

Copyright with CyberBee
http://www.cyberbee.com/cb_copyright.swf

CyberGuides 
http://www.cyberbee.com/guides.html

Dogpile
http://www.dogpile.com

The Electronic Zoo
http://netvet.wustl.edu/e-zoo.htm

eNature
http://www.enature.com

Google
http://www.google.com

Internet Search Tools Quick Reference Guide 
http://www.itrc.ucf.edu/iqr/

KidsConnect 
http://www.ala.org/ICONN/AskKC.html

Noodletools
http://www.noodletools.com

Website Investigator
http://www.motivationmining.com/website_investigator.htm
 

Linda Joseph is the author of Net Curriculum: An Educator’s Guide to Using the Internet, published by CyberAge Books. The recipient of numerous awards, in addition to her work in the Columbus Public Schools and the Library of Congress, Linda is a part-time instructor for Ohio State University. Communications to the author may be addressed to her at Columbus Public Schools, 737 East Hudson Street, Columbus, OH 43211; 614/365-5277; ljoseph@iwaynet.net.
 

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