Students Conduct Elephant Behavior Study

Second grade students from Green Fields Country Day School helped Zoo Keepers by conducting a two-day study on elephant behavior this week.  After reading some books about elephants in their classroom, students arrived at the Zoo with a lot of great information about how elephants use their senses to find food in the wild.

Observing in the elephant exhibit

Observing in the elephant exhibit

Greenfields Student Scientists

Greenfields Student Scientists

For their study in the Zoo, the students addressed the following question:  “Will the elephants eat less and walk more if their morning food is hidden around the exhibit instead of given to them in a big pile?”  The students predicted that the elephants would spend more time walking and less time eating in the first 30 minutes on exhibit if their food was hidden.

Students watch the elephants on Monday

Students watch the elephants on Monday

On Monday, Keepers gave the elephants their morning diet in a big pile, and students observed the animals for 30 minutes, recording the behavior of each elephant every 30 seconds.

Students record behaviors, placing colored bead in marked boxes

Students record behaviors, placing colored bead in marked boxes

On Tuesday, students helped Keepers hide food around the exhibit.  The elephants were then observed again for 30 minutes, and the students recorded their behavior every 30 seconds.

Students hide bamboo and zucchini around the exhibit

Students hide bamboo and zucchini around the exhibit

After compiling their data, students were surprised. “I thought there would be more walking,” said Chaya.  In fact, Shaba DID walk more when the food was spread around, but Connie lingered at one pile of hay for quite a while.  In the end the students’ prediction was partly true:  The elephants were observed eating as often on Tuesday as Monday, but they walked more too.  “They’re walking and eating at the same time!” said Isabel.  The students agreed that the elephants get more exercise if they have to explore the exhibit to find all their food.  Caleb remarked that elephants “sure like to eat!”

Here are more photos of the students participating in this study:

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