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Inquiry 2: How Can I Learn More About Animal Vision?

Several of the activities that follow encourage students to research different animals and how they see, where their eyes are located, and why these animals have special adaptations. The book, Extraordinary Eyes: How Animals See the World by Sandra Sinclair (ISBN 0803708068) is an excellent resource that students can use as a starting point or to provide context for their animal vision projects.

Model - Have students research and make a model of the eye and all of its parts, including a written description of how the eye parts work together to produce an image. Encourage them to investigate materials that have the same properties as lenses, such as clear gelatin.

Research - Some animals have eyes in different places. The position of an animal's eyes determines what it can see. Have students choose an animal that has eyes in an unusual place (for example a hammerhead shark, a starfish, a snail, or a scallop), and find out where their eyes are located and what they can see. Students report on their findings.

Art/Writing - Students could draw a picture of themselves with eyes in different places and write a short story about how these new eyes would help them see.

Creative Writing - Humans and other animals have binocular, or 3-D, vision. Have students research what would happen if they did not have two eyes. Then ask them to write a story explaining the consequences of being able to see out of only one eye.

Mythology - In Greek mythology, the Cyclops were a race of giants that had only one eye. Read to students the story of the Cyclops and have them imagine what these giants would see as compared to what two-eyed humans see.

Art - Some animals have compound eyes, which are made of many lenses rather than just one. Insects, spiders, and crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, shrimp, and crayfish) are examples of animals that have compound eyes. Have students research what these animals can see and then design an imaginary animal that has compound eyes. The drawing of the animal should be neat and any features that are unusual should be labeled. Encourage students to make up a name for their animal and write a short description of where the animal lives, what it eats, and how the eyes work to help it survive in its environment.

Interview - Humans and some other animals are able to see color. Have students research why we can see colors what it means for someone to be colorblind. Then have them interview someone who is colorblind and share their results with the rest of the class. Approve questions before students schedule their interviews. You could also invite a guest speaker to address the class instead of requiring students to carry out their own interviews.

Collage - Have students find pictures of birds in magazines and create bird collages. This will provide a frame of reference with which they can complete the rest of this activity. The eyes of birds are more advanced than many animals and some can see very far distances. Students should choose a type of bird to study and draw the head and eyes of that bird. Have students compare drawings while paying attention to issues such as how the eyes of birds that hunt for food are different from the eyes of birds that eat seeds. Discuss their findings as a class.

Reading - Read aloud Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel (ISBN 0689825587). Although this is a fictional account of a family of bats, there is a lot of information on how bats navigate, why they fly at night and not during the day, and how echolocation is used. Comparisons are made between bats and other animals. Afterwards, have students answer the following questions in their science notebooks:

    Are bats really blind?

    How do bats gather food?

    Are there different kinds of bats?

    What kinds of bats are found in Florida?

    How are bats like other nocturnal animals?

    How are the eyes of bats like those of other nocturnal animals?

Local nurseries often provide workshops on making bat houses and producing environments that will encourage bats to live there. Attending a workshop such as this and then presenting this information to the class is a way to tie class work to real-world applications.

Careers - There are several careers that involve the study and care of eyes. Students can research these careers or interview an ophthalmologist, an optometrist, or an optician. As a class, design a questionnaire that they can use as a guide, including topics such as how much education is required, what they like best about their job, what they like least about their job and what the potential salary in the field is. Groups of students could present their findings to the class.

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