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Caribou and Bald Eagle/Tracking Data Using GPS/Fourth Grade

Jim Minerich
Pequot Lakes, MN

Jim Minerich teaches 4th Grade at Pequot Lakes School in Pequot Lakes, MN. He has a good strategy for
tracking the satellite-collared caribou with his class during the spring migration. They use a hand-held GPS (Global Positioning System) to assist them in determining the distance and direction each caribou moves between data updates.

"Our classroom uses a hand-help GPS to help us determine the distance and direction that each of the satellite-collared caribou move from update to update. Our GPS has as one of its functions a distance between waypoints function. Even though we know the data is days apart the direction is given to us in degrees. Our GPS does not use decimals so we have learned how to convert decimals to min/sec by multiplying. (For how to do conversions from decimals to min/sec see Conversions for Lat/Long.)

We use a worksheet to keep track of all the steps used for finding the distance and direction."

(Print a copy of their worksheet for tracking eagles and caribou in your classroom.)

"What the students find interesting is that early in the data collection caribou travel in many different directions, not necessarily north which would be the common thought. They soon realize that in the darkness they are just feeding and trying to stay alive not migrating. Also the GPS gives us the miles traveled between waypoints. Interesting how little they travel early opposite the great distances when the migration is a its peak. The time delays between data effects our information but at the elementary level that is ok. We still get the general time travel and direction. Hope this helps."
-Jim Minerich

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