I wanted to take the kids through a simple practice inquiry process, and needed a subject not too narrow, not to wide, but just right. Inspiration struck when a fourth grade student walked through the library singing “What Does the Fox Say?” (thanks, Olivia, for the inspiration).
During the next library visit, we got to work. We started by listing our THOUGHTS and our QUESTIONS about foxes.
Here are the types of things we thought:
- They are members of the dog family.
- They probably make vocal sounds.
- Maybe their bodies and postures are used to communicate.
- Like dogs, they might have territory issues and maybe communicate because of that.
Here are the types of things we wondered:
- Do they make vocal sounds?
- Is it possible that they are mute?
- Do other parts of their body such as tail and ears help them to communicate?
- How about posture and body positioning?
- Do they use communication to mark their territory? What kind of communication?
- Do foxes have unique sounds only used by foxes?
- Can foxes communicate with other members of the dog family?
- How do foxes use their senses to communicate?
Where should we go to find out our answers?
The students decided on : Books, interviews with experts, zoo visit, websites, nature videos/TV, lectures, out to the wild/observation, articles
Possible search terms:
Fox, communication, fox sounds, yips and barks, vocal cords, dog family, animal language, body signals and language
During the research process we learned about scanning for big ideas and reading for details, we took proper brief notes on important information, we evaluated websites for information, and we learned a lot. We used books, websites and video + audio clips. Many of our early thoughts proved true, but there were a few surprises.
- That a fox uses its unique tail as a flag to communicate with other foxes.
- A fox’s voice may be heard up to a mile away.
- Foxes make over 20 types of calls, and use most of them during the winter months.
- Foxes leave their scent on bushes and rocks as another means of communication.
- Scientists continue to gain knowledge of fox communication; they are cataloging the various sounds made.
Yes, the song is annoying. But now at least you know the answer to the question it poses!