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Guide Index

Recycling the Trabant

Curing the Storm in the Head

Flight of the Dragonfly
in the classroom
TEACHING GUIDES


SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGHS IN GERMANY:
Flight of the Dragonfly


What's the best way to capture a dragonfly in flight? On film, believes German Professor Georg Ruppell, who has spent a lifetime stalking the insects -- not with a net but with a camera. After years of observing the dragonfly in its natural environment, Dr. Ruppell is a world expert on its flight dynamics and social behavior. High-speed film reveals the dragonfly to be an incredible flying machine capable of advanced techniques not equaled by human flight engineers.

Curriculum Links
Activity: Become a Naturalist



CURRICULUM LINKS

BIOLOGY


entomology,
ethology
LIFE
SCIENCE


animal behavior
PHYSICS/
PHYSICAL SCIENCE


aerodynamics,
fluid mechanics
TECHNOLOGY


cinematography,
research



ACTIVITY: BECOME A NATURALIST

A naturalist can be described as someone who observes signs of animal or plant life. If you've ever studied an insect up close, then you already qualify. You don't have to travel very far to become an amateur naturalist. Put your senses on alert and gather some very low-tech equipment, such as paper and pencil. You can go more hi-tech with binoculars and cameras, if you wish. You can probably find a subject to study as close as the nearest cobweb. If you're more adventurous, head for a park or anywhere outdoors. Here are some suggestions.

OBSERVING NATURE IN THE WILD

Whether you're conducting a city safari or a backyard hunt, observation is the key to becoming a naturalist. Take a little notebook with you. You can make a map of the area and record your finds, noting vegetation, animal tracks in winter, signs of visitors and seasonal variations.

PHOTOGRAPHING NATURE

A special lens for closeup photography isn't absolutely essential, but if you can, try experimenting with a telephoto or macro lens, especially for closeup work. Take a tip from a professional and lightly mist a spider web with water before you take a picture. Borrow a camcorder and videotape one of your pets in action. If you have a new pet, start a video diary and record its growth.

STALKING THE WILD BEAST

Serious birders sometimes travel hundreds of miles to catch a glimpse of a rare species. You can find birds anywhere, starting in your backyard. Recently peregrine falcons have been spotted on bridges over rivers and on buildings in the middle of large cities. There are over 800 species of birds in the U.S. How many can you find and identify? If birds are still migrating where you live, organize a mini-expedition and compile a list of species.

SURVEYING A HABITAT

Take a walk outside and turn over the nearest rock or log. What do you find? Photograph or sketch all of the life found underneath the rock. Compare notes with someone in another part of town. Another way to conduct a species survey is to make a circle with a length of string, then note and identify all the flora and fauna within the circle.








 

Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.