Kendra and Jasmine measure the height of a box turtle's shell.

Kendra and Jasmine measure the height of a box turtle's shell.

Over the past few weeks, the Sisters4Science students of Reavis Elementary School in Hyde Park have been studying local animals with professional women scientists. The students had the opportunity to study three types of animals who are their neighbors here in Chicago: turtles, squirrels, and birds!

On Thursday, November 5, students met veterinary assistant Cathy Patrick who works at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center. Cathy and the girls talked about the two types of turtles that live in Chicago – terrestrial and aquatic. Students then met four live turtles and made numerous observations about their behavior and bodies. One of the girls’ tasks was to identify if they had a terrestrial or aquatic turtle using their notes and observation techniques.

Jania and Rolonda observe and measure a gray squirrel specimen.

Jania and Rolonda collect data from a grey squirrel specimen.

The following week on November 12, urban ecologist Amy Hank from the University of Illinois at Chicago introduced the girls to a commonly seen neighbor – squirrels! The girls learned about grey and fox squirrels in Chicago and asked Amy many questions about squirrel behavior that they have observed in the past. Amy provided the girls with frozen specimens of both types of squirrels, which the students used to make qualitative and quantitative observations.

Deanna measure the beak length of grackles.

Deanna measures the beak length of grackles.

On Thursday, December 3, students met Marie Hoerner, a graduate student in paleontology at the University of Chicago. Marie and the students discussed urban birds and how they are adapted for the city environment. Using exhibit pieces from the Field Museum’s Harris Loan, girls worked in groups to make measurements of a goshawk, kingbirds, grackles, and an American coot. Students then described their bird to their fellow Sisters and hypothesized about the bird’s habitat based on their observations.

We have had a fantastic year at Reavis this fall. Let’s see what the girls decide to study in the spring as we embark on another semester of Sisters4Science!