Smithsonian Wildlife

Many people can only say that they have seen wild animals through pictures, in the zoo, or on a safari. All of these ways of seeing wild animals are disruptive to their habitat and so you never get to see what they are truly doing in the wild. The Smithsonian Institution has recently released a website with pictures and video clips of animals in the natural habitat from hidden cameras throughout forests and jungles in China, Kenya, Malaysia, Panama, Peru, Thailand, and the United States.

These cameras give us an up close and personal look at the lives of wild animals with the absence of humans. Our presence in the wild scares the animals and causes them to retreat back into their homes, so this is a great way to see what they do while we are not there.  The following video from Richard Byrne, of the blog Free Technology for Teachers, is about his take on the Smithsonian Wild website.

The website has 250 different species you can look up with pictures of all different quality and from different times of day.  Blue Raster blog says that the website, “also offers detailed descriptions of the diverse animals and regions as well as a world map so the user is always aware where the animal being observed is located.”

Picture of a snow leopard in the wild

This is an example of a photo from Smithsonian Wild of a snow leopard in its natural habitat. To enlarge, click on the picture.

In education this could be used while introducing different animals and habitats to students in younger grades.  This is a great way for kids to see animals in their natural habitats without the presence of humans.  One lesson you could do with your students on this website is have them explore the site, choose their favorite animal and present it to the class with a poster board and a brief explanation of the animal’s habits.

Some websites where you can learn more about Smithsonian Wild are:

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12 Responses to Smithsonian Wildlife

  1. Riley K says:

    I’ve got to be honest I find this to be a extremely useful tool in the classroom. Student will love the ability to check out all different types of animals and have it be their decision which one’s they check out. I was a little confused on how to find the videos of the animals on the Smithsonian website but if that is a tool on the site it could open students to a whole new realm. Switching away from pictures and books brings a whole new spectrum to the classroom. Maybe for a project students could research one of the animals on the site and study them through the website. There are so many animals to choose from that every student could find one they found interesting.

  2. Sydney B. says:

    This is a really great tool! I never thought that our observations are not really accurate because we are so out of place in the animals environments. So, this is a great website. I think it would be interesting for students to make a few lists. One list would be before they watched the video of what they have observed in nature. It could be about animals in the woods or at the zoo. Then, after watching the video, make a list of observations they made while watching the video. Answer questions such as how are these animals acting? Does it differ from my prior observations? Why could they be acting differently? It would make a great activity! This was very informative, Anna!

  3. Katie R. says:

    This looks like an awesome way to look at wildlife! I never thought about how the impact of humans would make the animals more likely to not act how they naturally do in the wild. Now thinking about it, it makes complete sense that they would shy away from humans and therefore we wouldn’t get to truly see how they act! This idea of a hidden camera is a great idea and I think it would be very helpful inside the classroom to show students how animals act when no human is around them. Great job, Anna!

  4. Kyle W. says:

    I think this is really cool! More and more today, students are not exposed to “real” wildlife. Zoos and conservator’s centers just aren’t reality, and I think that’s sad. If students could do a real field analysis or observation, how cool would that be? They could actually see what animals are doing, not just what the television says they do. This could also maybe be an interesting comparison tool: What are the differences between Animal Planet shows and real wildlife? How do zoos treat animals, and how is it different from the life they might experience in the wild? I’m struggling to see how this might apply to English, though–anybody want to help me out?

  5. Christiana C. says:

    What a cool tool! Field trips can be hard to organize and get approved, and going to see animals isn’t always the best portrayal of their actual behavior since the animals are not in their natural habitats. I am fascinated by wildlife, and I think its awesome that this site lets you see animals acting as they would undisturbed by humans. I think this tool would be a great resource for learning about different parts of the world, and teaching students about different types of environments and habitats. This could also be a great tool to compare animal behavior when wildlife is aware of human presence and when it is not. Overall I think this is really interesting!

  6. Allie W. says:

    I will definitely use this tool in teaching! It can be so hard to really grasp facts about an animal through a book or pictures because you’re only getting snapshots of them and their interactions. Seeing videos is so much more helpful and fascinating to the kids. I interned in a class that used this tool to watch hawk eggs on a wildlife preservation hatch. Every morning for 4 weeks they would log on to the internet and check on the eggs to see if they were hatching. This was such a cool way for the kids to be involved in this without having to worry about class allergies and having a pet, or organizing an expensive trip to the zoo. Great source!

  7. Alex H. says:

    This is great! I spent half an hour just flipping through all the pictures of animals in their natural habitat. Not only would you be able to show students animals in their natural habitat, but you could also connect that to a lesson about being conscious of the impact that people have on nature and how we disrupt the natural habitats of many animals. This seems like a really cool and useful tool.

  8. Erin M. says:

    I agree with everyone else, this will be a very useful tool in the classroom. As a teacher, you want to provide your students with as accurate of an example as you can. This website could be an extremely useful tool in a science lesson on animals and habitats. Pictures from books or online are only able to show so much about that animals day to day lifestyle, but with this site you would be able to show them more. I am a person who needs to see something in order to remember it, so again site would be very useful to learners like me who learn better from watching a video. I like your idea of each student exploring and picking their favorite animal to present to the class!

  9. Hollyz says:

    This was so cool! I loved that they actually compiled all of this footage into one place for anyone to see. This would be such a useful tool in the classroom because it gives the children a chance to actual see these animals interacting in their natural environment with no interference from humans. When working on projects it would really enhance a child’s understanding of the species by being able to see real life footage. These kind of tools are rare to come across and can be so interesting for the children in the classroom. I loved looking at all of the pictures and footage and learning more about where the animals come from. And like Christiana mentioned field trips to see animals like this at a zoo are often hard to organize. However, with this tool they can see the animals in their natural habitat right in the classroom. Great job!

  10. Kate H. says:

    Anna, similar to everyone else, I really enjoyed exploring this tool. I can not believe that there are 250 different species available for students to explore! In third grade, my class went to the Bronx Zoo for a field trip. It was a very hot day and all the animals were tired, lazy and barely moving around because of the heat. Even though it was awesome to see these animals, it was a bit disappointing that they were not animated and did not demonstrate characteristics that we had learned about the animals previously. This tool would have been perfect for my third grade class, giving a more accurate perception of these animals and their life in nature. These pictures are fantastic and students would love exploring this tool! Great find!

  11. Emily D says:

    This is such a great tool to use! I feel that not only can it be used in a science class, but it can be used in a multitude of settings. Seeing animals in their natural habitat, and then comparing animals in the zoo, could be an excellent compare/contrast essay that would bring a real-world feel to a writing assignment. In addition, it does not just represent the basic ideas of what wildlife is, and I think it is so enriching to see 250 species, many of which students probably would not encounter in a scenario similar to the one explored with this tool. Great pick!

  12. Kendall C says:

    I live in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area, and I love the Smithsonian museums, so when I saw your post topic was on this, I was excited! Even though I am going to teach English, I still really enjoyed your blog and think it’s possible to incorporate into my classroom. Even if it’s just as a warm up activity where I ask students to reflect on animal or science-related topics that they discover on this website, I think this tool is definitely worth using! It’s amazing how science and technology have been merged together so much. Also, I think this is helpful for low-income schools who cannot afford field trips to explore science firsthand, do not have recently published science textbooks, or lack good libraries and other critical resources. Because the Smithsonian is a credible and educational group, this tool is appropriate for the classroom, free, hands-on, and easily accessible. You’ve stumbled onto something really great!

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