Wild webcams

Last week I was at the regional NSTA conference in Charlotte (always a great experience!). I attended a great session with Krista Brinchek, the science specialist at Abbots Creek Elementary in Raleigh, NC. She talked about her experiences using live wildlife webcams with her classes, and has generously agreed to let me share some of her great ideas here.

Krista uses the webcams each morning as she takes attendance. Students record their observations, sometimes in response to specific questions (e.g. What’s the weather in this area? What’s your evidence? Where do you think this camera might be located?). If something particularly engaging is happening, they will follow it for a few minutes after attendance. Otherwise, they share their observations and move into their day.

These are some of her favorite webcams to highlight at different times of year and topics she uses the cams to address:

Season Camera Topics and Vocab Explored


Cornell Lab of Ornithology Feeders- Ithaca NY http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/40/Cornell_Lab_FeederWatch_Cam/ Change in seasons, weather patterns, geographic location exploration, species identification,
Late Summer/Fall Brooks Falls Brown Bears- Katmai National Park Alaska  https://explore.org/livecams/brown-bears/brown-bear-salmon-cam-brooks-falls Migration, hibernation, geographic location, adaptations, food webs, ecosystems, weather, primary consumer, secondary consumer
Fall Cornell Lab of Ornithology Hummingbirds http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/50/West_Texas_Hummingbirds/ Migration, adaptations, geographic location,
Fall/Winter/Spring NC Frying Pan Shark Cam- NC Coast  https://explore.org/livecams/frying-pan/shark-cam Food web, adaptations, ecosystems, environmental issues, predators, prey
Winter/Spring Dick Pricket Eagle Camera- Southwest Florida


Food web, decomposers, ecosystems, environmental issues, math concepts (nest size, wing span)

Tips on Using Webcams with students:

  • These are live feeds, and all animals are part of food chains, so anything can happen. Krista prefaces her work with students by telling them that sometimes nature makes our hearts happy and sometimes it makes us sad. Also, nothing in science is gross.
  • Bald Eagles tend to bring in prey that is already dead, which works better with students. Hawk prey is often still kicking–she recommends watching hawks build their nests, but switching to a different animal once the eggs hatch.
  • Krista uses webcams in a fairly open-ended way with her students, but more formal resources and lesson plans can be found here:

Observation Summary Worksheet: http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson234/webcam_datawkst.pdf

Observation Worksheet: http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson234/webcam_obsvsum.pdf

Read Write Think Web Cam Lesson Plans: http://www.readwritethink.org/resources/resource-print.html?id=234


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