Hi, my name is Madi Edens and I’ve been a part of different HAWS Education programs for about seven years and have recently started being a camp volunteer. This week I’m in a fairly new camp called “Science with the Animals.” This camp is like a regular Kids ‘N Critters Camp but has more scientific activities. Some of these activities include looking at mites/parasites under microscopes, watching a surgery performed by HAWS veterinarians, learning about animal anatomy, and conducting our own experiments after learning about the scientific method. We have to come up with a experiment ourselves and decide how we’re going to conduct it.
Khris gave us a PowerPoint on the first day of camp that showcased the scientific method. Following this PowerPoint were videos of different experiments researchers have done with dogs, birds and chimpanzees. One of the studies that interested me was one that focused on how dogs pay attention to us and the signals we give them. In this study, people would put dogs in a sit/stay a couple feet away from a chair and two cups. The person would then sit on the chair, give the dog a release word and point to one of the cups. They found that dogs almost always go to the cup that was pointed at. This is something that even chimps don’t do even though they are thought to think more like humans than any other animal.
As I mentioned earlier this camp is newer as it was for the first time last summer and I’ll admit my group didn’t do so well with our experiment then. This year however, we knew what we were doing and conducted an interesting experiment. The experience we did was based off of the one in the video we saw. We decided to see whether cats or dogs respond better to pointing. Our hypothesis was that dogs would respond better. We tried to eliminate variables by using the same treats and cups for both the dogs and the cats, and making sure that we did say anything to the animal or move our hands around while pointing.
What we found at the end of our research proved our hypothesis. There was a 100% success rate with the dogs and only a 62.5% success rate with the cats. We found it interesting that cats had such a lower success rate. While dogs were thought to be domesticated first, cats have still been around humans for a LONG time. I feel as that the independent nature of cats factors into why they didn’t respond as well to pointing as the dogs did. Since cats don’t rely on us as much as dogs they may not be as in tune to what we are doing or showing them.
Activities like this are one of the many reasons I love coming to camp. Not only do we get to come up with and perform our own experiment, we get to think about why we see the results we do and make conclusions based on these results. This was just one small activity in science camp but it made us think outside the box and figure out why the results ended up how they did. Who knows, maybe years down the road a camper will think back to their experiment and decide to look further into it?