This project brings together observation in the living world and data-collection.
It provides ideas for a STEM club for up to half a term.
This would be a great project for a STEM club wanting to combine maths and science at school with observation which students can do in their own time.
The RSPB website has numerous links with help for people who are new to bird-watching. There are many different aspects that students could find out more about, such as:
Data needs to be collected for a purpose, and that should be discussed prior to collecting the data to ensure that the right data is collected in an efficient way. So before you start the data collection, decide which questions you want to focus on, for instance:
The first question simply requires each species observed to be noted once, while the second requires an initial decision on which species will be observed, then a count made of each. Of course, there are other ways that a question could be framed to initiate the observation and data-collection, and students should be encouraged to discuss this and decide on something which will provide interesting data whilst being achievable on a practical level.
You may need to decide that observations will be done during a certain period of the day - say, the lunchbreak - rather than at any time of day.
Once the question to be answered has been decided, then students need to draft a form to record their data, and trial it to ensure that it is easy to use and does actually help them to record the data they want.
When you have your data, it should be entered into a spreadsheet for further work. This might include graphs to display the data in some way, especially if you want to make comparisons with other data, such as that in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.
You may also want to find an average, perhaps the average number of species observed on one day, or the average number of individual birds seen on one day. Does it make more sense to use the mean (where you add up all the values and divide by the number of them), the median (the middle/central value) or the mode (the value which occurs most frequently)?
The mean has the advantage of making use of all the data, but the disadvantage that it is skewed by extreme values. The median has the advantage of being unaffected by extremem values, but doesn't make use of all the data. The mode has the advantage of being easy to find and the only average you can find for non-numerical data (like species type), but may not tell you anything very interesting.
If you quote an average, it is also a good idea to quote the range of the values (this is the difference between the most extreme values) for numerical data or the number of different items observed in the case of non-numerical data.