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Adopt a Plot

Put on your naturalist's hat and record the activity on a piece of land near you.

Naturalists who study the Serengeti and its animals have sharp observational skills. They spend hours watching and recording data. One of their most useful tools is a log book, where they record notes, sketches, and questions for further research. You may not be able to sharpen your observation skills on the Serengeti, but you can by walking out your door. Adopt a plot in your backyard, playground, or park. Start your own log and observe the environment at your toes.

Materials :

Find a spot that is home to a variety of plants and animals. Visit your plot over a specific period-two weeks or more. Schedule visits at different times of day. Start recording in your log by entering the date, weather conditions, temperature, and time. Observe your plot.
Find out how many different birds, animals, insects, and plants come to your plot. Which can you identify? Research the rest. Using a magnifying glass, sketch the grass in detail. Do all blades look alike? Quietly study one animal or insect. Identify the trees in your plot. Press samples of their leaves. Make bark rubbings. Tape these samples into your log.
Discover animal tracks: Place a pan filled with sand in your plot and check it daily. Are there any animal footprints? Can you identify them?
Measure precipitation: Make a rain gauge with a jar and a funnel. Paint a measuring scale on the outside of the jar and put the funnel in the opening. Put your rain gauge in an open area of your plot and record the amount of precipitation. (Remember to empty the gauge after each rainfall.)
Design other experiments: Share and compare your observations with your friends. What did you learn about your own environment?

Take a trip to your nearest zoo. Choose an animal to observe. Using a log book, jot down your observations and make sketches of your animal-its coloration, movement, food, sleeping position, etc. When you return, continue gathering information about this animal at the library or by computer. Design, write, and illustrate several pages about your animal. Combine your pages with those completed by classmates to create a book about the animals at the zoo.

The wildebeests play a critical role in the Serengeti. Which mammals, birds, or insects migrate where you live? Do some research. Where does each migratory animal make its home in the winter and summer? Draw a map to show the migratory patterns of as many animals in your area as possible.

The animals of the Serengeti depend upon its grass. Find out more about grass. Plant several types of grasses in cut-off milk cartons. After the grass sprouts, start observing. Using a magnifying glass, compare and contrast characteristics of the different grasses. Cut the plants at the top, middle, and bottom. Observe these plants over the next few weeks. Dig up the grass and study the root system.

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