With our STEM Club, we are undertaking a three part ecology study I call, Field, Forest, & Stream. We met at a local preserve with a fabulous outdoor classroom space and spent the day inundating ourselves in outdoor science.
Our focus for this first visit was on field ecology and we looked at several characteristics: soil, sunlight, water, plants, and animals. We dug two holes: one in a disturbed area (the trail) and one in a grassy area. We were able to collect some great data (shared below) and even found an amazing spider-like critter in the hole the boys dug.
We were able to identify the critter as a Solifugid (pictured in the collage), known variously as camel spiders, wind scorpions, or sun spiders. They are non-venomous, although they are capable of inflicting a painful bite with their powerful jaws.
Most live in dry climates and feed opportunistically on ground-dwelling arthropods and other small animals. Although Solifugae are considered to be endemic indicators of desert biomes, they occur widely in semi-desert and scrub. Some species also live in grassland or forest habitats. Solifugae generally inhabit warm and arid habitats, including virtually all warm deserts and scrublands.
The name Solifugae derives from Latin, and means “those that flee from the sun”. Can you guess why?
We then spent time looking for more critters and listing all the plants and animals we found. Some of the kids actually made a list – some did not. If you would like to see the list of plants & animals identified thus far, please let me know. I’d be happy to share it with you.
Interested in undertaking this study yourself? Field, Forest, & Stream is part of the Life Logic: Ecology Explorations unit that I have developed for middle school students. What better way to learn about ecology than to get out there, collect data, and experience the physical factors that influence the animal and plant communities first hand.