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Getting Started

To take part in this program, you will need to become an Idaho Nature Probe member. Membership is free, providing you with your own password that allows you to access your data, compare it with similar experiments throughout Idaho, and allows us to keep track of repeat records from the same location.



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Bird feeder location experiment - Location

The following information will provide you with the steps for setting up your bird feeder location experiment.

  1. Predict answer (hypothesize)
    A hypothesis is the scientist's best guess as to the answer to a question based on observation, research, and careful thinking.  To make your hypothesis, you need to remember the birds you have observed and the background material you have read. 

    Remember that a hypothesis needs to meet the following criteria.

    1. It must be a statement.

    2. It must be testable.  You must be able to prove your hypothesis true or false by performing an experiment.

    And remember, sometimes the experiment will support your hypothesis and sometimes it will not. There are no wrong hypotheses, just added opportunities to learn!

  2. Plan the experiment
    Scientists plan experiments to test their hypothesis.  It is important to do the experiment several times to see that the results remain the same.  Scientists organize their experiments in several steps that are like a recipe.  This is a called an experimental design or procedure.  That way, if others repeat the experiment the results should be the same.  You will need to:

    1. List materials needed to complete your experiment.  You will probably need:

      1. At least two identical bird feeders.  You can decide the type you think will work the best. You may decide to simply scatter the food on the ground.
          Nature Probe has feeders for loan to registered schools upon request, depending upon availability.  Contact Alana Jensen,

      2. Bird food.  Check out the list on the Feeder Background page to decide which food to use.

      3. A balance or spring scale.

      4. Resealable plastic bags to weigh your seed.

      5. A data sheet to record information.

    2. Determine the locations where the bird feeders will be placed. You need to choose an area where the feeder is sheltered and an area where the feeder is in the open.  You may also decide to place a feeder in an area that is near shrubs or bushes.

    3. Decide what time (or times) of day you will fill your feeders and how long you will leave the food in the feeders before collecting it for measuring.

    4. Decide on the variables.  Variables may include the location of the feeder, what time of day you will fill the feeder, the amount of time the food will be left in the feeder, or the type of bird food you use.   Because scientists change only one variable in each experiment, the changeable variable in this experiment will be the location of the feeders.  The other variables should all remain the same.

    5. Write down the steps of your experiment including your materials, your procedure and your variables.  You may want to follow these steps:

      1. Place your feeders in locations you have determined.

      2. Using a balance or spring scale, fill each resealable bag with the same amount of bird seed.

      3. Place measured bird seed in each feeder.  Make sure you fill your feeder at the same time every day.

      4. Leave the bird feed in the feeders for the same amount of time every day.

      5. After the set amount of time, collect the leftover seed from each feeder.  Make sure to keep the leftovers from each feeder in a separate bag and label the bag.

      6. Weigh each bag to determine how much of the food was eaten.  (beginning weight - ending weight = amount of food eaten)

      7. Record your findings.

      8. Fill each bag with the same amount of food and repeat the experiment.


  3. Collect and record data
    Scientists collect data (information) and measure results.  They record and chart their data to support predictions and draw conclusions.  A data sheet might look like this:


(Click to enlarge or download Word file)

  1. Analyze data
    Once you have looked at the data from the experiment, you can draw conclusions. You can ask yourself questions such as, "What do the results tell me? Did my experiment support my hypothesis?" These could be as simple as "yes" the hypothesis was supported, or "no" the hypothesis was not supported.

    If your hypothesis was not supported, you need to think about what might have gone wrong.  Maybe your hypothesis was incorrect and you need to make further observations and conduct more research (return to Step 1).  Or maybe your experiment design needs some reworking (return to Step 4).  Don't be discouraged!  The Scientific Method is a cycle that helps us better understand the world around us. 

  2. Submit results to Idaho Nature Probe  You will need to submit the following data.

    1. School

    2. Contact Name

    3. Email Address

    4. School latitude and longitude (if known)

    5. Your hypothesis

    6. Materials used in your experiment (Type of feeder, type of food, etc.)

    7. Steps followed (your experiment design)

    8. Constant variables

    9. Changing variable

    10. Number of days the experiment was conducted

    11. Average amount of food consumed at each feeder location (in ounces):

      1. Sheltered location

      2. Open location

      3. Other?

    12. Did your experiment support your hypothesis?

    13. Any comments

  3. See Results from Other Schools

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