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Ever Increasing: Encouraging Lapham Elementary Students to be Citizen Scientists


This school year the Kindergarten, first and second grade students at Lapham Elementary are celebrating the life and legacy of Increase Lapham. I wrote about the project in an earlier post, which you can read here

The art and music teachers have done a wonderful job of incorporating ideas about curiosity, observation, and keeping track of natural occurrences (phenology) into their lessons. The idea is to help all Lapham students see themselves as Citizen Scientists.


Increase Lapham is often called Wisconsin’s first scientist. However, he held no advanced degrees and called himself a Citizen Scientist. The students at Lapham learned about how their school’s namesake started taking notes and drawing pictures of things he observed at a very young age. Based on one of Lapham’s own journals, they made personalized observation journals in art class. Amy Mietzel, the artist who runs Bare Knuckle Arts on Winnebago Street, spent two weeks in the art classroom making these journals with the students.


Carolyn Byers, the Director of Education at Madison Audubon Society (MAS), then brought bird and nature fun to the music classes. She led activities to help students understand how to listen to birds, what they are saying to each other, and what we can learn from them.



Students played Birdcall BINGO. Kids listened to the songs of more common birds like crows, robins, and blue jays, as well as the intriguing calls of Baltimore orioles and sandhill cranes. Carolyn helped the kids identify each call so they could get a “BINGO!”


They also played a game called “our unique sounds.”  Each student received a small piece of paper with a short nonsense-word printed on it. After learning “their” bird song, they milled about singing this unique word. Just as birds recognize each other by their calls, eventually each child found the other child singing the same song. The birds of a feather flocked together.



At the end of each class, students used their hand-made Citizen Science Journals to write about what they had learned and draw some of the birds.




To tie these ideas together, the music teacher helped everyone write a song about Increase Lapham:

🎵  Sing About Lapham  🎵
(to the tune of Sing About Martin)

Sing about Lapham
            Sing about Lapham
Sing about sketchbooks
            Sing about sketchbooks
Sing about history
Sing about history
And citizen scientists
            And citizen scientists

Sing about Lapham
            Sing about Lapham
Sing about bird calls                         
            Sing about bird calls              
Sing about books                                              
            Sing about books
And naturalists, too
            And naturalists, too

Sing about Lapham
            Sing about Lapham
Sing about weather
            Sing about weather
Sing about maps
            Sing about maps
And magnifying glasses
            And magnifying glasses

Sing about Lapham
            Sing about Lapham
Sing about nature
            Sing about nature
Sing about our school          
            Sing about our school
We’re citizen scientists!
            We’re citizen scientists!



Carolyn says, “all MAS educational programming is free for teachers and students! Contact us if you would like to discuss a partnership or borrow a lesson kit (Carolyn.byers@madisonaudubon.org or 255-BIRD). We also offer free family-friendly field trips at local natural areas. More information can be found at Madisonaudubon.org.”



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