We’ve been working hard with the students for the past two weeks, teaching them the specific requirements of the protocol. Based on what they’ve learned so far, they should be able to identify the social grouping of the sea lions, quickly discern the age and sex of a given sea lion, and easily differentiate between the observable behaviors (calling, nursing, barking, growling, challenging). A lot of learning has been done even though our twice-weekly meetings have been at the beach instead of the classroom!
Today, however, we brought the students back into the classroom, putting their newly-acquired skills to the test. As a class, the students identified the sex and age of 10 different sea lions on images projected onto a screen, and similarly gave a rating of reactivity for several sea lion videos (mimicking our protocol’s assay component). Later, the students broke into smaller groups to look at an expertly-drawn sketch (i.e., little “sea lion” blobs on a scantily-detailed beach), to identify an individual’s social grouping. This activity was especially interesting in its ability to create discussion between groups, since it sometimes required the groups to work together with their classmates other groups to find out the social grouping, to find out the numbers of neighboring sea lions belonging to the other group. These activities provided the same type of interactions required on the beach, but allowed for more discussion and clarification for the most nuanced points of the protocol. Plus, we passed around canguil (the local term for popcorn) for students answering the questions, which provided a little motivation and sustained attention throughout the meeting.
Overall, we were very happy with how the day turned out. Our students are well-versed on the major pieces of the protocol, and we’re excited to let them begin their own observations next week! They will start off in paired observations first, giving more time to seek clarification of the protocol in-action, but we already know they are going to succeed. 🙂 We’ll be back with more updates soon!