Cat Tracker teacher resources

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Cat Tracker Australia is an exciting Citizen Science project that teachers and students find highly engaging and educational. The project will involve the wider community, tracking cats with GPS tracking devices and sharing maps of cat tracks. There are also extensive resources to help teachers utilise the project in the classroom. Key points about the project:

  • The teacher resources are tailored for students from Reception to Year 9, with an emphasis on thinking and working scientifically.
  • The teacher resources also provide cross-curriculum links to learning areas including Mathematics, Geography, History and the Arts.
  • We could track a cat owned by one of your students. The project will work particularly well if students have a personal connection. The project team will give priority to cats from participating school classes when deciding which cats to track.
  • The key resource is a step-by-step guide on how to calculate a cat’s home-range: watch the video and download the printable document (1.6MB PDF). You can use real data from cats tracked in Australia and from project partners overseas.
  • The best times to participate are during Term 1 or Term 2, 2018, as during these school terms the project team will be actively tracking pet cats.

How to calculate a cat’s home-range from Discovery Circle on Vimeo.

Key resources

Let us know if you are a teacher using these resources in your classroom, particularly if you would like us to track a local cat! You can contact us at discoverycircle@unisa.edu.au 


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Jamie wearing a Cat Tracker GPS tracker

In the classroom…

The framework and materials provided here can be used at any time. You can choose how much to do, how to do it, and when to do it. To assist you, we have provided resources that include a teaching sequence and links to the Australian Curriculum.

The thinking behind these materials

We suggest using the Interactive Teaching Sequence, an approach developed by John Faire and Mark Cosgrove (1988). This approach highlights the importance of students’ questions and scientific investigations. Other constructivist-based approaches are also used when teaching of science. We describe how the Interactive Teaching Sequence can be matched with the ‘Five Es’ (Roger Bybee 1997) as used in Primary Connections.


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Snowy wearing a Cat Tracker GPS tracker

Links with the Australian Curriculum

These resources are linked to the Australian Curriculum. A separate webpage (click here) details links to the curriculum, including:

  • Science Learning Area (for year levels: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  • General Capabilities (Literacy, Numeracy, ICT, Critical and creative thinking, Personal and social capability, Ethical understanding, and Intercultural understanding)
  • Cross-curriculum priorities (Asian, Indigenous, and Sustainability)

The learning focus

This unit of work connects to students’ life-worlds by focusing on the lives of cats, and by addressing cross-curriculum perspectives through Cat Tracker. You can choose how you focus the project, some ideas are:

Learning Area Ideas

Science Understanding

  • Biology of domestic cats (biology, reproduction, lifecycle)
  • Behaviour of cats (distances travelled, home-ranges, where cats go, likes and dislikes)

Science Inquiry Skills

  • Observing, questioning, recording and reporting on cat behaviour
  • Developing and using primary sources of data (using their own observations to investigate cats and cat movement; collecting data about locations and movement)
  • Accessing secondary sources of data (investigate what is known about cats;)
  • Communicating (about cat movements, home-ranges, locations and activities )
  • Evaluating (home-ranges; costs and benefits of cats)

Science as a Human Endeavour

  • Developing an appreciation of the impacts of cats on people’s lives and the environment (both positive and negative)
  • How can science inform the management of cats by individuals and communities?

Mathematics

  • Focus on the home-ranges of cats. For older students, use the “How to calculate a cat’s home range step-by-step guide will enable you to use data from the Cat Tracker project to calculate cat home ranges. You can use data from cats your class have tracked or cat tracks from other people. Note that the guide includes a section on “Further Analysis and discussion ideas”. For younger students, you can measure how far cats travel using the maps of cat tracks directly from the Cat Tracker website (you can also see some US cats here, some English cats here, and some from New Zealand here).
  • Location and arrangement: construct a map using scale and direction, including the distance and direction cats’ travels.
  • Estimation and Measurement: collect data about cats, possibly including: height, mass, length of tail, length of fur. Compare different breeds of cats.
  • Collect data at class and/or school level about the numbers of cats people own, what types of cats they are, and attitudes towards cats. Develop a profile.

Geography

  • Look at where tracked cats have gone (e.g. built areas, parks). For older students, use the “How to calculate a cat’s home range” step-by-step guide – see the section on “Further Analysis and discussion ideas”. For younger students you can do a visual assessment of cat tracks using the maps of cat tracks directly from the Cat Tracker website (also see some US cats here, some English cats here, and some from New Zealand here).
  • Volunteer, visit or have guest speakers from the RSPCA, Animal Welfare League, local veterinary hospital, or the Living Safely with Pets program.
  • Map and discuss the different laws that apply to cats (local councils). Why are there different laws in different areas?
  • Discuss or enact social actions that could help cats (e.g. you could collect blankets or pet food for a pet shelter).

History

  • Discuss the history of cats (see Fact Sheet 3: A short history of domestic cats), considering Australian and global perspectives (also see Fact Sheet 4: Owned, semi-owned and un-owned cats).
  • Research and discuss the mythology associated with cats (start with Fact Sheet 3)

The Arts

  • Draw or paint a range of cats, using shapes, patterns or lines. Use Fact Sheet 2: Cat biology to guide discussion about important cat features.
  • Watch excerpts from the musical ‘Cats’ on YouTube.
  • Develop your own dances or skits.
  • Design and construct a cat, using paper mâché, plasticine, or junk material (again, use Fact Sheet 2 to guide discussion about important cat features).

English

  • Discuss how cats are portrayed in literature and the media; some example you could use are:
  • Joan Phipson’s “The Cats”
  • T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” (the basis of the musical “Cats”)
  • Dr Zeuss’s “The Cat in the Hat”
  • Lynley Dodd’s “Slinky Malinki” There is a list of fictional cats in literature available on Wikipedia.
  • Write stories, poems or reports about cats as pets and cats as pests (see Fact Sheet 4: Owned, semi-owned and un-owned cats)
  • Write a diary from a cat’s perspective; consider places they go and people or animals they see. Do you think they go to the same places during the day and night? Look at some of the cat tracks on the Cat Tracker website to generate ideas (also see some US cats here, some English cats here, and some from New Zealand here).

Lesson planning: the Interactive Teaching Sequence

The Interactive Teaching Sequence can help plan a unit of work. This teaching framework links well with other commonly used teaching frameworks. For example, it aligns closely with the Primary Connections: 5Es:

Components: Interactive Teaching Sequence Description Components: Primary Connections
Engagement experience Engaging the class or individuals with this topic Engage
Before views Elicit students’ prior knowledge – the class or individuals describe what they already know Engage and Explore
Exploratory activities Explore and challenge students’ before views and generate investigable questions Explore and Explain
Students’ questions Students are invited to ask questions about the topic Explain and Elaborate
Assessment of Learning Teacher and students select questions to explore Evaluate

Below, we list each component of the Interactive Teaching Sequence and suggest strategies that you can use in your classroom as part of the Cat Tracker project.


Engagement experience (Primary Connections = Engage)

To engage the class or individuals with this topic pose some questions to engage, or show pictures, or bring in a live cat.

You can refer to the Cat Tracker Fact Sheets and see maps of cat tracks on the Cat Tracker website (also see some US cats here, some English cats here, and some from New Zealand here). Before you share these resources with students, consider what students will do as part of the “Before Views” activities (see the next section below) – you wouldn’t want to give them answers before you ask them about their prior knowledge!

Some strategies you could use are:

  • Share students’ stories about cats.
  • Discuss the variation in cats: colours/breeds/behaviours/travels?
  • Discuss how cats are managed – indoors/outdoors; owned/semi-owned/un-owned?
  • Discuss where cats fit in the lives of students’ and others (cats for kids/families/older people).
  • Discuss the benefits and responsibilities of owning a cat? You could refer to the “Cat Owners Handbook”, available online and the Australian Veterinary Association’s PetPEP resources.
  • Discuss stories about cats from literature – see the ideas for ‘English’ in the ‘Other Learning Areas’ section above.

Before views (Primary Connections = Engage and Explore)

Elicit students’ prior knowledge – as a class or as individuals – to describe what they already know.

Some links to resources are provided for you, but don’t show your students the resources as you want to gauge their prior knowledge.

Some strategies you could use are:

  • Draw an annotated (labelled) diagram of a cat that points out important cat features (see Fact Sheet 2: Cat biology)
  • Have students draw cartoons depicting good and poor cat management.
  • Draw the lifecycle of a cat indicating the timing (e.g. gestation periods, age of first breeding, expected lifespan)
  • Create a concept map with key words or phrases associated with cats. Students should sort the concepts into a hierarchy (broad to specific) and develop connections with phrases between concepts. There is a useful video on concept mapping on YouTube.
  • Ask students questions focussing in on individual concepts:
    • What is a cat: what makes a cat a cat? (see Fact Sheets 1 and 2)
    • List some cats (do students think of domestic cats or big cats)?
    • What do you know about the lifecycle of a cat? (see Fact Sheet 2: Cat biology)
    • How far do you think cats go from home?
    • Where do cats go? Do they go into national parks?
    • What are owned/semi-owned/un-owned cats? (see Fact Sheet 4: Owned, semi-owned and un-owned cats)
    • Do you see cats in your neighbourhood?
    • Are there cats in your school yard?

Exploratory activities (Primary Connections = Explore and Explain)

Explore and challenge students’ before views and generate investigable questions.

Some strategies you could use are:

  • Track some cats: you and your students could participate in the Cat Tracker project and track one or more of the classes’ cats. Don’t forget to let us know if you are a teacher using these resources in your classroom, particularly if you would like us to track a local cat! You can contact us at discoverycircle@unisa.edu.au
  • Look at some of the cat tracks on the Cat Tracker website (also see some US cats here, some English cats here, and some from New Zealand here). Generate hypotheses about cat movement through urban, rural and natural landscapes – see the “Further Analysis and discussion ideas” section in the “How to calculate a cat’s home rangestep-by-step guide.
  • Observe and record cats at home or at school (students develop an observation sheet).
  • Research cats online (areas of research could be physiology, diet, life-cycles/reproduction, territoriality, breeds, and wildcats), also see our fact-sheets.
  • Place ‘markers’ on a Google Earth map to show where cats have been spotted around your school by your class. There are instructions on how to install Google Earth in the guide “How to calculate a cat’s home range”.
  • Interview other people about what they think of cats (students devise questions).
  • Research cats in the literature.
  • Invite people to talk to your class about cats (see the “Useful Resources” section below).

Students’ questions (Primary Connections = Explain and Elaborate)

Generate and then use students’ questions to explore their interests about the topic.

Students should be invited to ask their own questions about the topic (as a class, in pairs, in groups, and individually). They then devise a way to: answer their question(s); conduct their investigation (after being conferenced by the teacher/a peer/a buddy/the class) and communicate their findings. Try to focus on questions that are investigable – where students undertake a scientific investigation rather than focus on secondary sources such as google.

The “How to calculate a cat’s home rangestep-by-step guide will enable you to use data from the Cat Tracker project to calculate cat home ranges. The guide includes a section on “Further Analysis and discussion ideas”, including questions like:

  • What is the average size of cats’ home-ranges in your area?
  • What types of habitat are within cats’ home-ranges?
  • Are there differences between cats’ home-ranges in urban, rural, peri-urban and natural areas?
  • What are the factors that influence the size of a cats’ home-range and why do they make a difference (including how people manage their cats)?

Other investigable questions might address ideas such as:

  • How long is a cats hair ( does it vary among breeds or on different parts of a cat’s body)
  • What do pet cats eat – what does your cat eat, and how does that compart to what wildcats eat?
  • How often do you need to feed cats – how often do you feed your cat?
  • Cat behaviour – how long do they sleep?
  • In your class, how many students have cats? How many are male or female? How many can have kittens (i.e. they are not de-sexed/neutered)?
  • How often can your cat have kittens?
  • How young can your cat have kittens?
  • How do you care for cats?
  • Cat care – do you need to clean your cat or provide treatment for worms or fleas?
  • For how long do your cats go outside each day?
  • What are the local laws about cats?

Assessment of Learning (Primary Connections = Evaluate)

To help devise your assessment, consider these points:

  • What learning outcomes have you selected from the Science Learning Area (SIS/SHE/SU) or other learning areas? Some examples for assessment in the Science Learning Area are provided in the table below.
  • How will you know what the students have learned (evidence)?
  • When will you assess learning (pre, during, post unit)?
  • How will you collect and report on this information (your recorded notes/rubric/check list/pictorial evidence from conferencing, focused observations, students’ products)?

For example:

What will you assess? How will you assess? Who leads the assessment? When will you assess? How will you record your assessments?
Science Understanding lifecycle\physical characteristics Have students do annotated diagrams before and after your unit of work on cats. Teacher and peers Formative and Summative task Compare the before and after drawings for evidence of learning
Science Inquiry Skills Observing, questioning, recording and reporting on cat behaviour Have students make oral presentations (supported by ICTs) of their investigations at the conclusion of your unit of work on cats. Peer assessment Summative Complete rubric
Science as a Human Endeavour Considering and discussing how an understanding of cat movements impacts on people and communities At the conclusion of your unit of work on cats, have students write an essay, or conduct a debate, in which they present one side of an argument about the impacts of cats, positive and negative. Teacher Summative Video-record the   debate

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Jamie in the garden

Additional resources

Cat anatomy/species/biology
  • Pet health: can click on the organs to learn more
  • Basic and general information on anatomy, how big they grow, having a rough tongue etc.
Cats and Egypt
  • Cats in ancient Egypt, includes: history, deities associated with cats, status of cats, mummification and burial.
  • The cat in ancient and modern Egypt.
Cat videos
  • A 2014 Landline episode “Killer Cats”: (12 mins) discusses feral cats as a threat to native wildlife, and how they affect sheep farmers in Tasmania by passing on diseases to sheep. There is discussion on trapping cats and reintroducing the Tasmanian Devil as a way to control cat populations.
  • Two ‘talking’ cats on Youtube.
  • National Geographic videos:
    • Where do cats go? This video features the Cat Tracker project in the USA (3mins).
    • Do cats always land on their feet? (3mins).
    • Crittercam POV (“point of view”) camera on domestic cat – captures where cats go and them hunting, catching and eating a rat (2.5mins).
    • Can you train cats? Cats that have been trained to do tricks, circus acts, how they do it (4mins).
    • How do cats move so quickly? This video, “the science of speed”, shows a cheetah’s skeleton and, in slow motion, how they run so fast (3.5 mins).
Other useful links
  • ABC Splash – some short videos, story map game:
  • Goodcat website – lots of info on cats – instructions on how to make cat toys and golden rules for cat owners
  • Australian Veterinary Association’s PetPEP (Pets and People Education Program) resources.
  • Living safely with pets website.
  • Why cats meow and purr.
  • RSPCA Responsible pet care lesson plans.
  • Responsible pet ownership program for schools (Victoria government).

Places to contact:


 How to contact us

You can contact the project team at the Discovery Circle (University of South Australia) at: discoverycircle@unisa.edu.au.

Or you can contact the researchers who put these resources together; click on the person who you would like to contact to see their contact details: