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Inquiry 2: How Can I Learn More About Animal Vision?

Several of the activities that follow encourage you to research different animals and how they see, where their eyes are located, and why these animals have special adaptations. The book Extraordinary Eyes: How Animals See the World by Sandra Sinclair (ISBN 0803708068) is an excellent resource that you can use to better understand the subject and is a good starting point for your animal vision projects.

Model - Research and make a model of the eye and all of its parts. Include a written description of how the parts of the eye work together to produce an image. Use what you learned about lenses to design "working" models. Investigate materials that have the same properties as lenses, such as clear gelatin.

Research - Some animals have eyes in different locations on their bodies. The position of an animal's eyes determines what it can see. Choose an animal that has eyes in an unusual place, such as a hammerhead shark, a starfish, a snail, or a scallop, and find out where their eyes are located and what they can see. Report on your findings.

Art/Writing - Draw a picture of yourself with eyes in different places and write a short story about how these new eyes would help you see. If you could have eyes anywhere on your head, where would you put them and why? What would these new eyes help you see?

Creative Writing - Humans and other animals have binocular (binocular means two eyes) vision. Binocular vision is also called 3-D vision. Research what would happen if you did not have two eyes. What things would change in your day-to-day activities? Write a story explaining the consequences of being able to see out of only one eye.

Mythology - In Greek mythology, the Cyclops were a race of giants that had only one eye. Read to the story of the Cyclops and imagine what these giants would see as compared to what two-eyed humans see. How would having one eye affect a Cyclops' vision?

Art - Some animals have compound eyes, which are made of many lenses rather than just one. Insects, spiders, and crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, shrimp, and crayfish) are examples of animals that have compound eyes. Find out what these animals can see and then design your own imaginary animal that has compound eyes. The drawing of the animal should be neat and any features that are unusual should be labeled. Make up a name for your animal and write a short description of where the animal lives, what it eats, and how the eyes work to help it survive in its environment.

Interview - Humans and some other animals are able to see color. Research why we can see colors. What does it mean for someone to be colorblind? What causes colorblindness? Interview someone who is colorblind and share your results with the rest of the class.

Collage - Find pictures of birds in magazines and create a bird collage. This will provide a frame of reference with which to complete the rest of this activity. The eyes of birds are more advanced than many animals and some can see very far distances. Choose a type of bird to study and draw the head and eyes of the bird. Compare your drawings with those of another student. Think about issues such as how the eyes of birds that hunt for food are different from the eyes of birds that eat seeds.

Reading - Read Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel (ISBN 0689825587). Although this is a fictional account of a family of bats, it includes a lot of factual information about how bats navigate, why they fly at night and not during the day, and how echolocation is used. Comparisons are also made between bats and other animals. After reading the book, answer the following questions:

    Are bats really blind?

    How do bats gather food?

    Are there different kinds of bats?

    What kinds of bats are found in Florida?

    How are bats like other nocturnal animals?

    How are the eyes of bats like those of other nocturnal animals?

Local nurseries often provide workshops on making bat houses and creating environments that will encourage bats to live there. Attending a workshop such as this and then presenting this information to your class is a good way to tie class work to real-world applications.

Careers - There are several careers that involve the study and care of eyes. Research or interview an ophthalmologist, an optometrist, or an optician. Design a questionnaire to find out how much education is required, what they like best about their job, what they like least about their job, what the potential salary is, and other things that you might want to find out. Present your findings to the class.

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