The Fall pilot program begins at the end of October 2009 and lasts through December. Schools will be in New York City. An expanded Spring program will reach more classrooms, and the wider metropolitan area.
There is no cost to participate. Binoculars and iPhones are provided, as well as WildLab Facilitators to help the classroom teacher and the students with ecological and technical questions.
The iPhone application narrows down the range of potential species based on student input. First, students identify the habitat; for example, a forest or a wetland. Then they select the bird silhouette most similar to their observation. The application then displays a list of possible birds. Students can access data, including audio, on each species from the field. Moreover, the species list can be arranged in order of probability for that location and time of year, based on historical data from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird database. This database contains tens of millions of sightings posted by tens of thousands of birders. The students submit the species name and number to the WildLab database; the sighting is tagged with latitude, longitude and other information.
The curriculum is introduced as part of the students’ normal school curriculum. It correlates with a number of state and national science standards; Currently, we are working most closely with New York State guidelines.
We are working on a text message (SMS)-based method for inputting data, so that a broader swath of students can take part.
Parents need to give permission for students to participate for the purposes of the pilot program. A WildLab Information Sheet will need to be signed by a parent or guardian, in addition to the consent of the student.