Personal Inquiry Blog

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Inspiration-created diagram of information about how we can help owls. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

"Wiggling" and "Weaving" while walking

I walk to school in the morning. It's a mile and a half as the owl flies and I realized that I do a great deal of "wiggling" and "weaving" during that walk. Normally it takes 20 minutes--I keep a good pace but don't hurry. It's a time to wake up, think about the day ahead and then mull things over. Maybe it's the movement that sort of juggles things around in one's mind. For me, it's not usually a time when I get new ideas. If I'm working on a quilt, it's a time for me to find a way around a problem area or refine an idea that's already percolating. (Julia Cameron has written an entire book about how walking helped her get past writer's block.) My favorite time of the walk is when I cross through the Wabash campus and aboretum. It's beautiful and peaceful. The squirrels are working already and the birds are calling to each other and most students are still in bed. Now, the reason for this pleasant diversion is that this morning as I was crossing the campus, I was mulling over something I read last night in a great book called Owls of the World. The chapter was called "Conservation" which is something of an old-fashioned word these days. (My grandfather was a Conservation officer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.) The really interesting point that the author made was that we really need to think beyond just conserving a species in the old sense. Animals evolved because of changes in their environment. They adapted or they died out. Of course, in this day and age, we have the ability to change the environment much faster, but that doesn't mean that animals aren't trying to make the changes. The author went on to point out that one of the jobs of ecologists is to study animals in their habitats and look for these changes. Then it occured to me that the little article I read about the burrowing owls using cow dung to attract dung beetles is an illustration of a modern adaptation. Cows weren't here before Europeans came to this country so the owls using cow dung is (in evolutionary terms) a really new behavior. The other responsiblity of ecologists is to try to safeguard habitats so that we give the animals time to make changes. So ecology is a changing and evolving thing. We can't really stop progress, we just have to buy these animals a little more time. I realized that I had a very conservative idea of what ecology was. I was thinking of it as much more like maintaining the status quo. Ecologists are really saying, "We know things are going to change and that some of that change is good, but let's consider all the ramifications that will result from this change." I am so grateful for all these folks who rehabilitate animals, go to schools to present programs or host field trips and camps to educate people, talk to farmers, put up nest boxes, and lobby Congress. And for those of us who care, I want to provide some suggestions of ways we can help and things that we can do to be more mindful (as the Buddhists say) of our actions. I'm now going to try to figure out Inspiration so I can put some of my information into graphic organizers.

Monday, September 27, 2004

"Webbing" : The search continues...

What kind of information do I need?
Digital-based: I decided to try Wabash Valley Education Center’s online catalogue and discovered three videos about owls. They arrived Friday and I watched them last night. “Two Little Owls” followed two owlets from the time of being hatched to leaving the nest to hunt on their own. “Raptors: Birds of Prey” covered all the raptors but had a great segment on an injured owl whose wing was being set. “Owls and Their Pellets” focused on barn owls and also included a segment with an injured owl. Not a lot of new information, but I loved the images of the owls soaring through the air. The other format I want to explore is the CD-ROM National Geographic.

Live: Both Mindy and Bev have emailed me several times and are probably providing me with the best information since it’s absolutely firsthand. The more I read about the rehabilitation efforts, the more I want to have some sort of service component in this project. These wonderful people, in many cases, are financing these rehabilitations themselves. Mindy certainly is. Bev has her organization to support her efforts, but she probably has to do fund-raising constantly to keep it going.

How do I find the specific pieces of information I need?
Web Pages: I did some more Internet searching today. Using ixquick a metasearch engine, I used “rehabilitate AND owls” and found a wonderful site called Wingmasters. It’s in Massachusetts near my brother so I emailed them to find out if they allow visitors. Next I tried “owls nesting boxes Indiana” and looked at the Department of Natural Resources site. Apparently, the only nesting box project in Indiana is in southern Indiana but is fairly ambitious. EZ2 Find has a wonderful image tab. Searching with “barn owls” I found so terrific pictures. I wonder why the Federal government doesn’t provide more leadership in re-establishing owls. The farmers and agricultural departments are all involved in nesting box projects because they are being pressured to use less chemicals to control rodents and barn owls are rodent eating machines. When the birds don’t recognize state boundaries (or national boundaries for that matter!) wider cooperation would really help.
While this post was basically about webbing, there is lots of wiggling and weaving going on as well.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Metacognition or what I think about "thinking about thinking"

This is a slippery concept and one of those things that just makes me crazy. Everyone tells you it’s “thinking about thinking” but then they aren’t able to tell you much after that or what they tell you is so clouded by jargon that it makes no sense. I finally found a really good, clear article (by Julie Halter, a graduate student at South Dakota State University) that really helped me understand it.
Julie says that metacognition “…consists of two basic processes occurring simultaneously: monitoring your progress as you learn, and making changes and adapting your strategies if you perceive you are not doing so well. (Winn, W. & Snyder, D., 1998) It's about self-reflection, self-responsibility and initiative, as well as goal setting and time management.” OK! That I can understand.
Metacognition is one of those things intelligent people do unconsciously like reading and seeing pictures in your brain or that internal dialogue you have with yourself while your reading something that reminds you of your life or something else you read and then it gets incorporated into your cerebral film festival. When I read an article last year that said not all children see pictures in their minds when they read, I wanted to cry. That’s one of the most wonderful things about reading!
I love the choice of dynamic infinitives in the final observation. Julie believes that the “…task of educators is to acknowledge, cultivate, exploit and enhance the metacognitive capabilities of all learners.”
Recursion certainly makes sense in view of the process of making changes and adapting strategies. As Sandy Guild points out in her essay in Curriculum Connections Through the Library, recursion “…is invoked any time the researcher determines that the emerging complex of relationships has undeveloped areas, logical errors, or incongruities.”(141)
It’s getting easier now that I have a base knowledge to relate some of this reading to. I need to feel that I have a handle on things before I can talk or write about them. And I really do have to relate new information to something else that I know. I did really well in math until I got to middle school and then they introduced “new math” and I was totally confused. I always got geometry because there was lots of memorization and you could draw pictures. But Algebra II and Pre-Calculus—forget it. Then about 15 years ago I took Pre-Calculus at Wabash with a woman professor who said, “A function is like a machine. You put a number in one end, turn a crank and another number comes out.” Suddenly, the fog lifted. I not only got it, I was good at it! How amazing that one little phrase could totally alter my understanding.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Take two on the owl picture. Posted by Hello

Monday, September 20, 2004

An early "Webbing" post

One of the people I was able to contact for my project is a wildlife rehabilitator who lives about 12 miles from me. I sent her some questions and we've been emailing back and forth as I think up more questions! She rescued an owl last fall and a picture is attached in the next post because I edited this one and somehow managed to mess up the picture. I have also heard back from Bev in British Columbia who is with O.W.L. She said this morning that of the 12 breeds that inhabit BC, a burrowing owl is the only one they haven't rehabilitated in some way. She mentioned owl boxes also so I asked her if she thought it was best to put them on poles or in trees. (An online article I read yesterday suggested that they will be used more if they are put up on poles.) My friend Diane also sent me an article from Nature magazine about a study being conducted in Florida with burrowing owls who use cow dung to attract dung beetles to their burrows! Tool use in raptors!! There's an email address so I'm going to give them a try, too. I searched Marco Polo using "raptor rehabilitation" and found a good article from National Geographic on barn owls. I also found a lesson plan using the video "Birds of Prey". I am borrowing that from Wabash Valley Education Center along with several others this Friday. Marco Polo is wonderful because it's standards-based. Searching today using "owl captive breeding" to look for other programs. Discovering that most of the "owls as pets" problems are in the UK because they don't have laws against keeping raptors as pets like we do here. I may try to go to the zoo in Indianapolis next Friday with the digital camera.Posted by Hello

Wondering...A more formal look at developing researchable questions

In the Wondering step of the 8W's, the student is finding the purpose of the inquiry through questioning and examining the topic area in terms of prior knowledge. By the time this step is completed, the student should be finding a focus and narrowing the topic.

I have become a real fan of Jamie McKenzie's website He says that "questions and questioning...are the tools that lead to insight and understanding." We need to learn to "live with entire families of questions, " according to McKenzie, and to realize that many questions don't get answered and only spawn more questions. This brings me to the character McKenzie calls "the serial questioner." This is a model to which I aspire. These are the qualities that McKenzie describes:

  • Humility
  • Relentless curiosity
  • Indefatigable persistence
  • Dogged determination
  • Open-mindedness
  • Tolerance of ambiguity
  • Thirst for the missing
  • Positive skepticism
  • Sharpened humor
  • Edgy wit
  • Vivid imagination
  • Cussedness
I want to keep these characteristics in mind as I work on this project. I want always to be a serial questioner in every aspect of my life.

This entire process for me is a little like juggling--I want to read and understand the professional literature and then assimilate it so that I can use it in my inquiry process. Like trying to keep two eyes on three moving objects in the air, you are always afraid something is going to slip out of your line of vision and fall down. And like so many things in my life, I'm sort of going at this backwards. I've been teaching for years and taking care of the library for six years and now I'm taking education and library science classes. I like having the experiences to call upon, and I can really understand the practical applications of many things I'm learning in theory. Wow, that was really parenthetical.

So...why owls? I have always loved birds, watching them, feeding them. When the Harry Potter films came out, I was struck by the dichotomy of their beauty and their role as raptors in nature. Why do they symbolize wisdom in nearly every culture in which they are found? Why did J.K. Rowling conceive of them as messengers? Why did parents think a raptor would make a good pet for their children?!!

In terms of prior knowledge, I must confess to not knowing much about owls. I was aware of the plight of the spotted owl in the old growth forests of the Northwest and that owls were good for gardens so many people put out owl boxes to provide nesting opportunities for them. What other owls were being threatened by pollution or eradication of their habitats? What, if anything, was being done to help save these habitats? What could I do personally to help these causes?

While I started out like every middle school kid putting "owls" in Google, I found several interesting sites in the first 20 hits. One of them was the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota. From this site, I learned about rehabilitation of injured owls. (How do owls become injured? Who takes care of them? Can they be sucessfully returned to the wild?) I also read about programs to breed owls whose numbers are dwindling and reintroduce them into the wild. I used and searched "owl rehabilitation". (I love the little tree and branch connections among the sites!) From this search, I was able to find O.W.L. (Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society) in Canada. After an email contact, I sent a list of questions to them:

What are some of the reasons that you receive owls for rehabilitation?
Once the owl is healthy, is it returned to the wild? If not, why?
Are there laws against keeping owls as pets?
Do you have any reintroduction programs similar to ones in the US that are attempting to reestablish burrowing owls in Minnesota?
What kind of owls do you see the most?

I also found out that there was a wildlife rehabilitator about 12 miles from my house. I emailed her and have been receiving replies regularly. Most of her posts have spawned additional questions.

Once again following McKenzie's lead, I am narrowing my focus using How?, Why?, and What is the best? and I've come up with these questions:

How can owls be kept safe and healthy? How can their habitats be preserved? Why can't we reintroduce endangered owl species to areas that are protected? What is the best way for the average person to observe and appreciate owls?

Still tinkering but I think I'm down to a "manageable chunk" as Dr. Lamb puts it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Testing Hello account

OK. I figured out how to work the Hello account. This doesn't have anything to do with my personal inquiry project but it was handy. "In the library with my anniversary roses. "Posted by Hello

Monday, September 13, 2004

"Watching" Topic Exploration

The nerdy, perennial student who lives inside me leapt with joy when it saw this assignment. I must admit that I love nothing better than finding a new topic to explore. When I was a little kid, I'd go to the public library and systematically check out every book they owned on whatever my hot topic of the moment was--horses, the Lindbergh kidnapping, Anastasia, and so on. As I got older, I added buying books to the mix and now there's the the pool of drool. Anyway, it was difficult to decide on what to pursue. I've had this jones for the Arts and Crafts movement for several years. When my husband was at the Newberry Library in Chicago, I worshipped at the Art Institute and gazed with love at all the Louis Sullivan and FLW buildings. During our stay in London, it was William Morris and the V&A and the Tate. My son's life as a Buddhist and a vegan makes me interested in both those topics. My daughter's career in the theater which was also my original training and my husband's work, fans that interest. My fascination with all birds and now owls in particular. The lives of my favorite writers, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and Louisa May Alcott. And the list goes on and on.

I spent a lot of time looking through my books, pictures from our trips and doing lots of Internet surfing to see where one of these topics might lead me. Since many of these areas of interest are historical, there isn't really much new happening with the information about them. With owls, it was a different story. There were lots of really compelling issues--endangered species, people trying to adopt owls as pets as a result of the Harry Potter films, rehabilitation of injured owls, captive breeding and reintroduction. I found myself coming back to those sites again to check out more links and wanting to find out more about what could be done to return more of these remarkable birds to the world.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Kuhlthau's Syndrome

I think I have Kuhlthau's Syndrome. I've got all the symptoms--uncertainty, confusion, frustration, lack of confidence. I'm in the Zone of Intervention and I'm running a fever! Someone call 411. I need to see the doctor.

OK, seriously, the inquiry project is going well. I'm narrowing my topic down to How have changes in the environment affected owls? What can be done to help owls who are injuried or whose numbers have been decimated by the encroachment of human beings? The lady at the sanctuary in Canada received my questions and emailed back that she'll work on them and get back to me. The wildlife rehabilatator in Waynetown emailed back with lots of interesting stuff about her experiences with an owl. She doesn't have one now, but she'll let me know if she gets one before October 1. Still have to contact the zoos so I can get some pictures. The Minnesota Rehab Center has lots of great info and good links. I wish it was closer. I'd love to go to their camp sometime.

I'm going to try to keep track of all this stuff so Susan's students will have something to look at and I'm going to suggest the BLOG as a dialogue journal option. I think she needs to free up the form that the final project takes so that the students can more or less design their own product just as long as they can share it with an oral presentation.

Back to reading about the models.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Venting..or You bring the cheese and crackers, I've got the whine.

I wonder if anyone else is feeling completely beaten down and defeated by this class? I hate the lack of human contact and with so many places to post on Oncourse, we don't even have the commaradarie of a listserv in common. This is probably one of the most important classes I will take in this program and I just feel like I can't get a handle on it because there's no way I can keep up with the reading. I don't know what to really read and study, what to scan or what to ignore. I tried printing out just the material from two of the eight W's and it was already over 200 pages. One of the articles was 104 pages long! I am so frustrated and I feel completely alone in this. I try to at least skim the postings so I can find something to comment on and no one else seems to be troubled. I don't know. Maybe I'm too old to have tried this but at the same time, spending at least three hours a day on this class seems a little excessive.

I found a woman at a raptor sanctuary in Canada who agreed to an email interview and the Louisville Zoo has a Raptor Rehab Center. I'll email them to find out if they have owls. There's also a wildlike rehabilitator in Waynetown. At this stage I'm planning to focus on environmental issues involving owls and how they are rehabilitated. The last text book finally arrived in the mail yesterday so now I have MORE things to read and be behind on. OH, JOY!

Monday, September 06, 2004

Settling on a topic

After a look through the standards, I've decided that my topic for the personal inquiry project will be owls. The fifth grade standards are such that an interdisciplinary unit at that level would work. Some potential researchable questions I've come up with so far include:

  • Math Standards 5.6.1 and 5.6.2 (Data Analysis) and 5.7.1 and 5.7.2 (Problem Solving)How far can an owl actually fly?
  • Science Standards 5.4.1-5.4.9 (The Living Environment) How does destroying an owl's habitat affect other living things? In what ways is an owl's body system different than mine?
  • Social Studies Standards 5.2.10 (Roles of Citizens) How can we save the endangered habitats of owls?
  • Language Arts Standards 5.3.5 (Literary Devices) Why is the owl a symbol of wisdom in literature and art?

I also like "Would an owl make a good pet?" but I'm not sure where it fits in the standards.

I'm going to try to contact the Owl Research Institute in Montana. They were featured in a National Geographic article that featured tracking Snowy Owls for distances flown. I've started compiling a list of fiction books featuring owls as well as the non-fiction. Next step is to check zoos and bird preserves. Maybe Dan's friend who runs the farm animal santuary knows of some.