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Our Wisconsin charter school uses scientific research and project-based learning as the focus of our curriculum. Project learning is based on a constructivist model of learning that engages you in real-world scholarly activity because you get to chose topics that interest you.
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Bear Survey

Posted on December 15, 2013 by Ben B, Jordan D, Brad R

In the past we have done numerous deer surveys with varying success, but we wanted to do something new. One of our members was going through old newsletters and found an old bear survey. We all liked the idea so we began doing some research on bears and their habits. Once we decided that this would be possible, we began the long process of procuring everything we needed to get this project started.


In order to safely locate our four sites we needed to talk to the director of Beaver Creek Reserve. He told us that our sites needed to be located at least 100 yards from any trail for safety reasons. We also had to have bear spray in case we encountered a bear. After we found general areas for the sites we went out to the exact location of the sites then took GPS coordinates.


Our next step was to find a method to determine the individuality of the bears so we can find out how many bears visit our sites. Since our trail cameras do not have depth perception we needed to find a method for measuring the size of the bears in the photos. In order to do this we will place a marker at each of the four sites every foot for twenty feet so when a bear triggers the camera we will be able to use a ratio to find out how big the bear is, than we will use the bears unique features to identify the bear.


Before we could start the baiting process we had to acquire bait in order to bring the bears to the sites.  After researching the eating habits of the black bear we learned that they will eat almost anything, but they prefer sweet food. We then proceeded to contact a nearby bakery for donuts, an apple orchard for bad apples that they couldn't sell, and acquired bacon grease through Beaver Creek Reserve.  We hit the jackpot when we one of our team members contacted the Festival Foods bakery and gained a steady supply of doughnuts for the rest of the project.  We currently have over 100 donuts available. After we had a constant supply of bait we were able to start prebaiting.


Prebaiting is when we leave the bait out for a week without placing the cameras.  The reason that we spend an extra week doing this is to give any bears nearby the chance to find the bait before we start collecting data so that we are certain that we gave the bears a chance to discover the site.


On October 21st we will be able to start our data collection.  Our prediction is that we will have 2-3 individual bears throughout the entire project. We also expect other scavengers to try to eat from our bait pile.  This will be a great opportunity for us to learn how to complete population surveys as well as building skills that we will use in future projects.


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In the winter of 2011, Wildlands Charter School students began producing news stories for our website and an electronic email newsletter.

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