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Guide Index

If Only They Could Talk!

Who Needs Words, Anyway?

Number Crunchers

Figure That One Out

No Fools About Tools

Thinking About Thinking

Viewer Challenge
in the classroom
TEACHING GUIDES


Animal Einsteins:
Thinking About Thinking


Can animals empathize? To find out, Alan Alda participates in a study designed by primatologists that explores a chimpanzee's awareness of other chimps. The experiment will attempt to find out if a chimpanzee can put himself in the place of another chimp. A comparative study with a young child explores similar issues from the human standpoint.

A note of caution to viewers: In this story, the chimpanzee appears distressed when he thinks it's time for his annual physical. Educators may wish to preview the segment, as it contains sensitive content.

Curriculum Links
National Science Education Standards
Related Frontiers Show and Activities
Activity: Be an Ethologist




CURRICULUM LINKS


BIOLOGY/
LIFE SCIENCE


evolution, nervous system, primates

HUMANITIES/
LANGUAGE ARTS


 

PSYCHOLOGY


intelligence, learning




NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS

SCIENCE AS INQUIRY / LIFE SCIENCE
5-8: Structure and Function in Living Systems, Regulation and Behavior, Diversity and Adaptations of Organisms
9-12: Behavior of Organisms
SCIENCE IN PERSONAL AND SOCIAL PERSPECTIVES
5-8: Science and Technology in Society
9-12: Science and Technology in Local, National and Global Challenges
HISTORY AND NATURE OF SCIENCE
5-8,
9-12:
Science as a Human Endeavor




RELATED FRONTIERS SHOW AND ACTIVITIES



ACTIVITY: BE AN ETHOLOGIST

Scientists who study animals will tell you that working with animals requires incredible patience. It's not easy to sit in the field and watch a family of monkeys for hours, days, even weeks. But they'll also tell you that the rewards are worth the effort.

Here is your chance to become an ethologist -- a scientist who studies behavior of animals in their natural environments. You can start with your pet or a friend's pet to observe an animal's behavior when it is alone. Then try to find a group of animals for observation. You can find groups of animals at a zoo, wildlife habitat or animal park, or at a pet store or kennel -- even at a local park where people walk their pets.

You'll want to study your selected animal subject(s) over a period of time, if possible. If not, then try to spend at least an hour observing. Remember, when you are an observer, you should interact with your subject(s) as little as possible. Remain still and become a part of their environment.

Record all your observations as entries in a notebook. Use the questions below as a guide. (If you cannot observe any animals, use the Web to find out more.) After completing your observations, prepare a final report. You may wish to include video clips or photographs.


OBSERVATIONS
  1. Animal's common name:

  2. Animal's scientific name:

  3. Description of current habitat:

  4. Description of natural habitat:

  5. Time and date of observation:

  6. Describe the animal's activities during the observation period.

  7. Is the animal solitary or does it hang out with a group?

  8. If the animal is part of a group, how many are in the group?

  9. Do members of the group interact with each other? Describe.

  10. Does there seem to be an order of dominance? Explain.

  11. What is the makeup of the group, in terms of adults and young?

  12. Describe the behavior of the young and adult animals.

  13. Do males and females exhibit different behavior? Toward each other? Toward the young?

  14. Do the animals communicate with each other? Describe.

  15. Describe their interactions with each other.

  16. How do your observations of a solitary animal's activities differ from animal's activities in a group?
QUESTIONS

  1. Findings by animal behaviorists like those seen on Frontiers are causing people to rethink their assumptions about other animals. As you watched this show, did you find yourself surprised by some of the studies and findings? Explain.

  2. Imagine you are an animal, observing your human trainer or owner. Put yourself in the place of that animal. How do you perceive the human? What would you like to find out about the human trainer? What kind of experiment would you set up to test the human's intelligence -- from your perspective as an animal?

  3. Think of all the animals you watched on this show. Create a hypothesis about some aspect of that animal's life that you'd like to understand better. Then design an experiment to test it.





 

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