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Teacher's Guide
Unit Two: Observer
Arrow Activity Tasks

Students will:

  • define observe.
  • observe objects from different perspectives.
  • read and discuss a poem about how differently people interpret observations.
  • learn about Dr. Jane’s experiences as an observer.
  • complete journal entries by writing about the characteristics of a good observer based on personal experiences and Dr. Jane’s experiences.
  • practice their observation skills by observing chimpanzees via video and writing field notes.
  • research general information about chimpanzees.
  • choose a chimpanzee behavior that is of interest and research it with available online resources.
  • orally report their research findings.
Arrow Dr. Jane’s Lesson
Dr. Jane’s observation skills and knowledge of animals enabled her to earn a research position studying chimpanzees in Africa through which she gained much success. Your students can follow Dr. Jane’s journey of ape observation starting from when she was unable to get close to the chimpanzees without them fleeing to when she began making significant discoveries such as tool use. Students are often told that hard work, patience, and persistence are important. In this lesson, Dr. Jane offers real life examples of how these characteristics can lead to desired results.
Arrow Duration
  • Part 1 – 45 minutes
  • Part 2 – 1 hour
Arrow Materials
  • Spoons
  • Other objects for students to observe
Arrow Connecting to the Content
Every day people walk past nature of all forms without taking notice. Yet, keen observation is an important part of experiencing the world and being an effective problem solver. Students first gain an appreciation of how different perspectives can alter observations. Students then experience being observers by conducting their own mini research projects with chimpanzees on video. This experience allows them to practice for the proceeding Pioneer section in which students observe captive and wild animals.

Arrow Procedure

Part 1: Sharpening Observation Skills

  1. Direct the class to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary to find the definition of observe. Point out the different definitions listed. Considering the purpose of the Observer section, which definition do they think best applies to the word “observe”?
  2. Challenge students to conduct the following observation exercises:
    • Examine a stainless steel soup spoon and describe the difference of the inner and outer side of the curved surfaces. Did you notice this before?
    • Select an object and describe it using as many of your senses as possible and then share your description of it and see if another person can guess what it is. Be sure not to mention the name of the object in your description.
    • Find and carefully observe a natural object in your environment from at least three different perspectives (e.g., up close, a few feet away, etc.). Write down three observations from each perspective and hypotheses for what you see. Discuss how the observations were affected by perspective and how the explanations changed with the addition of information.
    • Complete the group activity: "Mystery Poem: How Do We Interpret Observations?"

    Mystery Poem: How Do We Interpret Observations?

    1. Divide the class into six groups.
    2. Read introduction to the mystery poem.
    3. Assign each group one clue to read.
    4. Have students discuss with their groups what animal they believe is being described in the stanza.
    5. Ask students to read the conclusion and discuss their findings with the class using the discussion questions:
      • What does this poem have to do with science?
      • How would the observations of six blind scientists change the poem?
      • How could the observations of six people who happen to be blind be more valuable than observations of just one person?
    6. Read the original version of the poem.

  3. Direct the class to Dr. Jane’s Scrapbook to listen to her reflections on observation.
  4. Ask students to complete their journal entries by writing about the characteristics of a good observer based on their personal experiences.


Part 2: Survey of Chimpanzee Behavior

  1. Have students practice their observation skills by viewing video clips and making field notes.
  2. Challenge them to conduct their own mini primate research project.

    Mini Primate Research Project

    1. Ask students to complete the Chimpanzee Basics Worksheet to learn about chimpanzee culture and behavior.
    2. Direct students to the ABCs of Chimpanzee Behavior for a list of common behaviors found in chimpanzee communities. Have them read the list and pick the behaviors that interest them most.
    3. Have students write a list of the most interesting behaviors.
    4. Tell the class to choose one behavior type and research it using the resources provided.
    5. Challenge students to write a list of further questions prompted by their research. They may be able to ask these questions if they visit the zoo during their field observation in the next section.
    6. Have the class be prepared to give a brief oral presentation on their research findings.

  3. Encourage the class to view the video clips of chimpanzees for a second time and then compare their notes to those of a researcher at Gombe.
  4. Have students give an oral presentation on their mini primate research project.
Arrow Assessment

Have students:

  • explain the meaning of the word observe.
  • demonstrate their knowledge of how different perspectives (both from different locations and from different people) can alter observations.
  • indicate which senses they used while making their observations.
  • communicate the challenges they faced as observers.
  • explain the information they gathered about their topic.
  • share the questions they had after researching the topic they chose.
Arrow Extensions
Students may want to choose a different research topic for the Mini Primate Research Project.

Arrow Terms
  • Altruism – Behavior that benefits another individual at some cost to the helper.
  • Estrus – A regularly recurrent state of sexual readiness during which the female of most mammals will accept the male and is capable of conceiving.
  • Observe – To watch carefully, especially with attention to details or behavior for the purpose of arriving at a judgment.
Teacher's Guide
Unit One
  ArrowTree Exercise
Unit Two
Unit Three
Unit Four
 Related Topics:
  ArrowABC's of Chimp Behavior
  ArrowDr. Jane's Scrapbook
  ArrowMultiple Intelligences
  ArrowOnline Dictionary
  ArrowTree Sketching Guide
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