Observation Guides

Guide to Close Observation

Prepared by RHS English teachers Mary Ellen Dakin and Allison Casper from guidelines by Art teacher June Krinsky Rudder and Science teacher David Eatough

We humans have a tendency to create symbols for things instead of really looking carefully to find what makes something unique and distinct from other, similar items. A circle surrounded by a bunch of semi-circles is not a flower: it is a symbol for a flower, and not likely an identifiable species of flower. We need to really look at what we see.


Step 1: Observe and Describe

Hold the specimen or object; just touch it if it’s heavy. Smell it. Listen to it.

Observe the overall structure of the specimen. Where is it widest? narrowest? darkest? lightest? Is the surface even or uneven? Does it feel cool to the touch? Is it hard or soft, and to what extent? What contrasts exist? Is it broken or intact? What is unique about it? What makes it similar to others of its kind? How does it smell? Does it make a noise? What does it taste like? (It may be necessary to imagine that.) How much does it weigh?

 

 Step 2: Draw

Hold a drawing tool (such as a pencil) and trace the object in the air, taking care to capture every detail. Do this three times, slowly. This will help you to develop a body memory of how you will draw it.

Slowly draw the specimen, using one continuous line, without lifting the pencil from the paper, and capture all the details. Look only at the object and not at the paper. You are trying to capture the essence of the specimen. (This is called “blind contour drawing.” A contour is an outline.) Don’t be judgmental about how your drawing looks. Pay more attention to how it feels.

Draw the specimen again, adding unique and distinct detail.

 

Step 3: Question and Connect

What do you wonder about? What have you discovered? Talk and write about the connections between pattern and purpose, form and function, anatomy and physiology.

Does what remains after death and decay still tell the story of what the specimen did when it was alive and well?

 

Step 4: Write

Imagine the specimen alive in its habitat – the beach, the marsh, a city street, a building, a vacant lot. Write the story of its final day, final hours, or final minutes.

Click here for a user-friendly handout of this Guide to Close Observation.



Observation Guide Sheet

NIH Office of Science Education http://science.education.nih.gov/supplements/nih7/healthy/guide/nih_healthy-behaviors_mstr.pdf

Record your observations of the video clips on this sheet. Record behaviors you observe, as well as those you only hear about. Record as many behaviors as you can, but be careful to record only the behavior and not what you think it means. Use the third column, General Behaviors, to record overall categories of behavior. Check each box that applies.

Research Project

Specific Behaviors

General Behaviors (check all that apply)

Learning behavior

 

 ¨Social Bonding

¨Obtaining/Eating Food

¨Activity/Exercise

¨Self-protection

¨Communication

¨Other:

Nonhuman primate behavior

 


¨ Social Bonding

¨Obtaining/Eating food

¨Activity/Exercise

¨Self-Protection

¨Communication

¨Other:

Adult human behavior

 

 

 ¨Social Bonding

¨Obtaining/Eating Food

¨Activity/Exercise

¨Self-Protection

¨Communication

¨Other:


 




  


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