Animal Man….?? –>Web Cams To the Rescue


“Hi.  We just started a survey of the animal kingdom and were wondering if you knew of a person or place who might bring some different types of animals in and teach the classes about them?  It needs to be free because we are past the spending deadline.  Any ideas?  Thanks!”

I got this e-mail request from a long time teaching friend just last week.  We have all been there.  It is past the time we can submit P.O.’s.  We want to try to do something a little different in our class.  It is the time of the year when the kids, the teachers, even the administrators would rather be somewhere else (this might occur at any time of the year, but the bell curve is skewed towards late May in many schools.)  What to do??

Here is what I wrote back—

Not that I know of.  Wally Hintz (my high school biology teacher and a Grandfather to a student in my friend’s class,) has a few animals, ask his grandson.  The Metroparks only bring animals for programs and these have a cost.  You might contact Jungle Terry–he might be convinced to come as a promotion of his visits?????

If all else fails, assign students to find a variety of animal cams on-line, they then need to observe them for a period of time as an assignment and then have them present their web sites to the classes and discuss classification as well as behaviors.

Well, what about using Web Cams in the classroom?  It is amazing what you can find on a web cam.  Of course, many Web Cam sites are blocked by school IT departments, as you can imagine, but there are many terrific sites to be found.  Check out some of the sites that I listed for my bio teacher friend.  The National Zoo in D.C. has 20 animal cams itself.  Here is a list of the animals your class can visit, observe, and learn about:

My favorite from this list is the Naked Mole Rat, but I have enjoyed their Microscope Cam at the MicroTheatre Cam site too.  Or how about the Animal Webcam Locator and Web Site Directory, where each listing leads you to many other sites that have live animal cams?  I just now got back from South Africa……    (Well, virtually this time.)  I used the site ( and was zoomed off to the Tembe Elephant Park where I saw a lone zebra at the water hole that the Web Cam was focused on.  I had to put up with a commercial or two, but with my volume turned down, it was not too distracting. cameraimagephpBy going to Elephant Plain, I saw a number of views in South Africa because the camera had multiple positions.  Did I mention that the Web Cams usually have microphones too?  I was watching the African plains and listening to the birds that were there.  I have toruble identifying all the Ohio birds by song, now I have to learn the birds of the African plains too!!~!    Check out some of these sites, but I warn you, THEY CAN BE ADDICTING !!  I write this from personal experience.  As you might have read in an earlier posting, I have established a small Bluebird nesting box trail around the Environmental Learning Center where spend my time these days.  A friend sent me the following web site–   .     When I first took a look at the site there were 5 bluebird eggs on camera.  Within 2 days they were staring to hatch.  The next time I looked four young hatchlings were squirming about their neatly kept nest.  ”Mom” and “Dad” (or more scientifically–the male parent and the female parent,) were constantly flying in and out.  Feeding, warming, cleaning up after the four new birds.  the fifth egg was not hatched.  The site shows how may “observers” are tuned in and it also has a chat function.  I did not add to the natural chatter (the young were starting to exercise their voices every time one of the parent birds landed on the nest box,) by participating in the on-line chat, but I read what others were writing.  What about the 5th egg?  I found myself checking on it for over a day and half.  Well, according to the on-line chat, it hatched at 9 pm on the day following the first four.  I DID notice that there were 75 or so other people that were watching and cheering on hat last egg.  Over the next 10 or 12 days I glanced at the fedmecam site to watch the birds bringing food (mostly mealworms as provided by the nest cam’s owner,) picking up fecal sacs, and sitting on the new birds (the female both brought food and sat on the young, the male only brought food.)  I had the site on the big 42 inch monitor we have at the environmental site.  Visitors (1000′s of 3rd and 4th grade students from the two counties we serve,) were able to see our nest boxes, watch “our” Bluebirds flying around and in and out of our nest boxes, and they were able to see inside a nest box from Blue Ridge, Georgia.  How great is that?   But the addiction did take it’s toll.  When the birds were ready to fledge the Bluebird world was at hand.  For almost three days there were anywhere from 75 to over 100 Bluebird fans on this site.  From the chatroom chatter that was constantly being posted on the site lots of work was NOT getting done.  picture-3There were viewers from all over the US and from lots of other countries as well.   They finally did fledge, on Saturday, May 16th.  The last ones left the box in early afternoon.  All are doing fine according the owner of the nestbox cam.  But this little story doesn’t end here.

While I was on the site I started to explore setting up my own Web Cam.  The site was being broadcast by USTREAM.TV    This is a free WebCam hosting site.  There are occasional advertisements that pop up , but it is free to you and I.  I signed-up.  I experimented.  I broadcast myself all over the World!  (Of course, since no one knew the URL of my site, no one saw me, but I was there!)  Then I found another site–JustIn.TV       I tried that site too.  No problem.   This time I decided to broadcast my little garden pond.  Again, no one knew my “station”, but it was there–from one corner of the World to the other, just like the Elephant Cam from South Africa.  Now my goldfish and koi are no match for an African Elephant, but think of the possibilities!  If you want to see what this looked like I did record a short bit for all to see even when I am Off Air!  Go to JustIn.TV/richardbenz  ignore the big ugly picture of the Australian Benz and select “More from richardbenz.”   There are two clips of my pond and my fish.  If you look really close you might see a frog or two too.  dsc_0054

So there you are.  Use the World Wide Web to travel the world.  Think about creating some significant lessons with the site you find.  Think about journaling, think about recording behaviors observed, think about diversity of life studies.  I know that we need to get our students out into the real world more.  We need to be sure to “leave no child indoors,” but sometimes traveling to the National Zoo or traveling to the plains of Africa or the rivers of Alaska is just not practical.   But be careful, it can be addicting!!!


Written by richardbenz in: Biology Teaching |

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