This article in NSTA’s December 2015 issue of “The Science Teacher” describes two lessons developed by teachers attending the Crossing Boundaries Project (www.crossingboundaries.org) - a joint venture of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and the National Science Foundation. Both lessons use a free online digital mapping tool, ArcGIS Online (www.arcgis.com), to study biodiversity, habitat, ecological niches, and migratory patterns of birds. Over 60 teachers worked with the sponsoring organizations to create the lessons. They were piloted in teacher workshops, field tested in participating teachers’ classrooms, and modified based on these experiences. The two lessons cover geographic regions at different scales. Lesson 1 uses ArcGIS to create nine interactive map layers of different information concerning twenty different bird species in New York State. Lesson 2 uses data for North and South America. Along with information from the website All About Birds (www.allaboutbirds.org), students use the map layers created in ArcGIS to determine how the locations of different bird species relate to land use, weather data, and other geographical information provided on the map layers.
Maps, student worksheets for the investigations, and supporting book information are provided at: http://crossingboundaries.org/bwbmaps.php.