For many students, geography is a class in memorization: all the state capitols, the major rivers of the world, the main export of each of the countries of Africa. Although such facts are important for students to know, activity-based learning such as those in Operation RubyThroat may be more effective in teaching, learning, and retention than mere memorization. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is an ideal topic for discussion in geography because it breeds, migrates through, or spends the winter in all the countries of North and Central America. While learning about the natural history of this diminutive bird, students can also learn a great deal about geography.
We hope you'll want to share your original hummingbird geography work through publication on Operation RubyThroat. If so, contact PROJECTS.
In the meantime, here are some ideas for teachers, students, and other individuals to try.
Teachers and their student groups, individual students, and others who are registered participants with Operation RubyThroat get priority attention to all requests for information and assistance. To register, see How to Participate.
In recent years, banded and color-marked Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) have given us new information about the migrational strategies of this species. Originally it was thought that all RTHUs from the eastern United States flew to south Florida before migrating across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan. However, one RTHU banded as part of Operation RubyThroat was recaptured in Atlanta, Georgia, and a second color-marked bird was seen in southwestern Louisiana. Both these birds indicate at least some RTHUs probably fly across the Gulf from the Corpus Christi/Rockport area of Texas, or follow the Mexican coast and stay overland for their entire migration into Central America.
Using a Western Hemisphere wall map, plot the route that would be covered in fall migration by a RTHU that hatched out of a nest in Rhode Island, flew to south Florida and the Yucatan, and ended up overwintering in northern Panama. Calculate the air distance (in kilometers and miles) that would be covered by this bird. Then, using a road atlas, overlay on the wall map the highway route that would have to be bicycled by a student from Rhode Island who wanted to visit the RTHU on its Panamanian wintering grounds. Calculate the road miles the student would have to pedal, and think about how amazing it would be for both the RTHU and the student to perform such a migrational feat.
As an alternative exercise, use the wall map to plot the migrational path(s) that would likely be followed by the RTHU from Rhode Island if it took a southwesterly overland route--avoiding any high mountain ridges--to Corpus Christi, and then: 1) flew from Corpus Christi to the Yucatan and on to Panama; or 2) stayed overland for the entire migration.
ACADEMIC DISCIPLINES: Geography, math, art (if the students draw their own maps)--plus hummingbird science.
MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES: Spatial, Naturalistic, Logical-Mathematical
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