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Mason Ganoung
Grand Prize Winner:

Mason Ganoung
6th Grade,
Wilbur Middle School,
Wichita, KS
Teacher: David Clark

Mason's Blog

Michelle Cymansky

Michelle Cymansky
6th Grade,
Roselle Park Middles School
Roselle Park, NJ

Maya Hunter

Maya Hunter
3rd Grade,
Walnut Hills Elementary,
Centennial, CO

Go Go Bananas

Go Go Bananas (Mikayla Mayo, Meghan Sawtelle)
6th Grade,
Lyons Elementary,
Lyons, NY

Melody Wooten

Melody Wooten
5th Grade,
Belmont Elementary,
Shawna, KS

Jessica Bennet

Jessica Bennett
5th Grade,
Oldsmar, FL

Annie McDaniel

Annie McDaniel
6th Grade,
Mount St. Mary's Academy,
Grass Valley, CA

Kenny Haywood

Kenny Haywood
6th Grade,
Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies
Los Angeles, CA

Mason has won the opportunity to work with David Shepherdson, Deputy Conservation Manager at the Oregon Zoo and may have the opportunity to test his challenge on other zoo animals as well. He will have a chance to explore the wonders of Portland, Oregon and the surrounding area, and visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

This trip is all expenses paid including airfare and other transportation for one winner and one parent/chaperone.

Finalists in the Animal Smarts Topic have received prizes from Carolina Biological, Steve Spangler Toys, PITSCO, Rawhide Ranch and Escapade Direct.



Jakks Pacific

Edmunds Scientific

Escapade Direct

Educational Toys

Thames and Kosmos

Boreal Labs

Carolina Biological

Steve Spangler Toys

Rawhide Ranch



Science Bob




 A bird feeder that requires 2 birds to work as a team to acess food.

I reviewed the KSC website. Then, I thought of animals working together. Next, I thought about racoons and skunks, but they don’t hang together.

My experiment is....
To find out if cats have feelings. Like if they can feel sadness, anger, happiness, jealousy, etc. I will use treats, such as cat food, being brushed or petted, or other favorites, and see their response. Say, if I was to pet my one cat, Rex, in front of my other cat, Tiger, would he be jealous? Or would Rex feel happiness in being more important? I will work with a cat’s inner curiousness to find answers. If I split the cats up into different rooms, and fed them their favorite things, would they feel special or would they go to the other rooms and eat the different cat’s food? I will aslo work with my cat’s special quirks. Rex enjoys being brushed, but Tiger doesn’t. But, if Tiger saw Rex being brushed, would he allow himself to get brushed just to get the upper-hand, or in this case, upper-paw, on Rex? I have decided to conduct several experiments to see if my predictions are correct.

My experiments will be...

1. Try to see if I can access my cat’s feelings, and get them to cooperate. This will probably be the hardest step, knowing them.
2. Pet each cat and see if I get a reaction from the other.
3. Brush Rex, see reaction.
4. Food! How to get them to cooperate with that!

Okay, let’s get started! How to get the cats to cooperate with me?

My idea is to help the animals not get bored when they are at the zoo. It would stop them from sitting around doing nothing. They will have something that will involve their brain that they can do any time. The goal is to help these animals entertain themselves, keep themselves busy, solve problems, figure things out, and use their smarts. I know from my research (see question below for more) that some animals can recognize themselves in the mirror. My idea builds off this and has two parts. The first part of my idea is to use the animal s ability to recogize itself in the mirror. The second part will have the animal use that part of its body to actually touch the board at a specific spot. Let me explain. I would have a big touch screen, which is also a mirer, that would work like an interactive whiteboard (smartboard). The Orangatange (or a different animal, like gorillas, chimps, or European Magpies that could recognize themselves in a mirror) would sit in front of the big touch screen reflection. The touch screen would not only reflect their image, but also have a flashing airow on it, pointing to the body part that the animal should use to touch the screen. For example, maybe it would flash the airow near the top of the animal s reflection. I have included a drawng to show this example. Even just in the general area of the target body part, such as the head. The Oragnatange (or other animal) would see its image, and the flashing airow on the screen pointing at a certain part of its body. Next it would see a flashing shape on the mirer, sized to be right for the body part that was pointed to before. So the size of the flahing part would be small if it was for a hand or finger, bigger for a head or foot. Since an Orangatange can recognize itself in the mirer, it would know that the airow on the bard was meant to be talking about the part on him. The animal would then learn to use the body part that was flashed first, to now touch the screen/mirer with that part. The board would be able to know if the animal used the wrong part. If the animal used its finger to touch and not the head, the finger would have a different way of touching and pushing on the baord, and would only use a little bit of space instead of the whole flashing circle. If the animal did it right, more of the head would touch the board than the tip of a finger would, and it would press on the board differently than the finger would (see my drawing). And the problems could get harder. So maybe the board would flash an airow on the reflectin of the feet. But the circle for where to touch the board would be at the top of the screen. How would the Orangatange get its foot up there? maybe it would have to climb, or swing. it would have to use its smarts to do it, and have fun at the same time.

I came up with this idea when I went to your site and I was clicking around and reading the passages. One sentence I read said that some animals can even recognize themselves in the mirror. I was pondering about that and thinking that animals can really be as smart as humans, which changed the way I thought about animals. When finally I saw the passage about the contest, I knew that it would be best to do something about how some animals can recognize themselves in the mirer, because that fact my brain really took in. When I was reading more about this, I clicked on a button and saw a video about chipanzees CLICKING numbers on a touch screen computer and I put the two ideas together. Of course, I couldn t copy the one about them putting numbers in order, so I took time to think about how I could make the animals be entertained like when they put the numbers in order. The idea I came up with first was that the animals would have a mirer touch screen that would flash an arrow to show the body part they were supposed to touch on themselves. But there was a problem. How would the smartboard know if the animal was right and touched the right part of its own body? Then I thought the animal could touch the mirer s reflection of the actual body part, but that was a problem too. The problem was that the animals reflection would move as the animal moved its body part to touch the mirror. So I changed my idea again. This time, I decided on two steps, like I talked about above. I would be excited to get to put my idea to action with real live animals!

Our idea is to challenge the minds of chimpanzees. The idea to hav a box with clear squares that can slide and move over top. There will be a piece of a corner or side missing from each slide, so that when each slide is in a certain place they will all form a hole big enough for the chimp to fit his/her hand though. There will be a banana in the box under the slides. When the chimp forms the hole he will be able to get the banana or food. This idea mentally challenges the chimp by makeing him think. As our enrichment teacher would say, it stretches his/her brain. This idea physically challenges the chimp by causing him to use his hands or feet.

Our idea is based on what we have learned while playing a mind teaser. We have researched alot of information on chimpanzees and what they are capable of doing. We got part of our idea from Kids Science Challenge Animal Smarts videos.

Our first idea was similar to the idea we have. But in the first one instead of clear slides they had a picture on them. The chimp would now know his/her reward was food. So, we thought harder and figured the tiles, or slides, should be clear. Our enrichment teacher, Mrs. Parker, also helped us. Her idea was to double layer the clear tiles. We dug deeper and got the idea we have now.

We came up with the squares forming a circle because that way the chimp can get his/her own reward.

Jaguar Sensory Enrichment Activity

My idea for enriching involves sensory enrichment. I wanted to involve its sense of smell because while I was researching, I found that any big cat’s sense of smell is important in the wild. When I was just starting this project, at first I thought that every enrichment item or game needed to have food, but then I talked to a zoo keeper at the Kansas City Zoo and she said that I could just use the sensory enrichment instead of sensory and food enrichment. I call my idea JSEA, Jaguar Sensory Enrichment Activity.

The JSEA is a cardboard box scented with animal urine. This will make the jaguar have to use its sense of smell because the box should be well hidden in the trees. The box would be covered in brown paper mache. The mache would be attached by flour and water, which is something that would not harm the jaguar, like glue would. The box ideally resembles a monkey, one of the jaguar’s natural prey animals. It would be strapped to the tree branch by a loose vine. The vine would keep it straight up until the branch shook and the JSEA fell. Because of the smell and swinging motion, the jaguar would try to attack the toy. It would bat around and struggle with it until the jaguar finally puts it upright and shreds it.

I chose the jaguar as my animal. I wanted to do this animal because it spends a large portion of its life in a tree. Because I like to climb trees, it would be easier to think about if I were this animal, the jaguar, and I wasn’t exactly in my natural habitat, what would I want to do in order to busy with something that I would also do in the wild?

I already knew that the jaguar liked to climb trees but I didn’t know that it ate monkeys and other animals that live in trees. I thought that I might do something that involves enrichment in trees.

My first idea wasn’t in a tree and it might be better for a different big cat. It was to have a large box that has loops throughout it made out of vines. The vines would make it harder for the cat to get to all of the food.

My second might also be better for a different cat. It was a box that is on an underground mechanical device that would send the toy around the sanctuary causing the car to chase it.

I had another idea that you could have a box in a tree that would fall when the jaguar jumped to get it. It would most likely jump from the tree and get the meat from the box.

My best idea involves sensory enrichment. It is to have a scented box, well hidden in a tree, and attached to the tree by a vine. The jaguar would jump to get it. Because it was attached to the tree it would sway. The jaguar would bat around until if finally got that box and shredded it.

My last idea would probably be better for an animal that spends a lot more time in water than the jaguar. I thought about making a floating ball on special mechanism that would make the ball bob up and down.

When I talked to the zoo keeper about the JSEA, she asked me a few questions that changed my mind a bit about some materials I had planned to use. At first the JSEA was attached by velcro straps, to the tree instead of a vine, which is what I now am using. She asked me “What would happen to the jaguar if its fur made contact with the velcro? I realized that if the jaguar’s fur touched it, it would stick. Something safer for the jaguar might be a vine or rope.

Another thing she asked me was, “Do you always have to have meat inside? She told me that if I filled it with paper it would have the same effect it would have if I used food.

I think that the JSEA might really help some jaguars in captivity to use their natural abilities, like climbing trees and hunting.

My idea is to make a game for crows that teaches them to recognize people using photographs. The game would be taught and played by first using only one person and his or her picture. Whenever the bird finds the person, he gets a treat from the trainer. Then, as the crow gets better, you would add people and have them moving and hiding in a bigger space. These birds have been known to recognize people and remember them for a long time because of what they get from the person or because of what the person did to them. Not only would the game be fun, but it could be helpful for search-and-rescue, as well as wanted and missing people. Crows are very fast getting around because they can fly. They can also be fitted with a light tracking device when finding people that are far away, possibly even carrying food or water for those who are lost and hungry. A crow could be taught to make a specific noise when it finds the correct person, notifying the trainer or setting off the tracker. Crows can also teach things to other crows like what people look like, so they all can help find the person. Crows aren t suspicious, so they are safe locating wanted people, and yet all they might need is a photograph!

I designed a game for a crow that shows how well a crow can identify people. I came up with my idea by watching videos and reading articles about crows. I started by learning about crow vending machines: the crow puts in a penny, and gets a peanut. This showed the logic the crows use, and showed that crows are happy to do anything for food. Another article talked about a scientist who always wore a blue hat when he worked with crows. One of the crows that he had never met, but was related to one of his crows, was attracted to him because of his blue hat, showing that crows can learn from other crows. In another video, one person tagged crows while wearing a mask, and afterward the crows cawed at anyone wearing that mask. Similarly, that scientist once tagged crows without a mask and now, he gets cawed at wherever he goes by crows he didn t even tag. These actions show that crows recognize people by their faces and that crows communicate with each other. In another article, peanuts were soaked in poison and as soon as the first crow died from eating the poisoned peanut, all the crows left and no crows came back, proving that they can spread information quickly. Using all the things I learned from these articles, I created my game for crows.

Have you ever wondered how well dogs can actually smell? Or which breed can smell the best? That is what I am trying to figure out in this experiment.

The materials you need to do this are a timer to time how long it takes the dog to find the treats, assorted cups and boxes to cover the treats with, and different breeds of dogs. Make sure you have a young dog and an old dog from each breed. You will also need different types of dog treats. Do the experiment in a large field with tall grass so the dogs have to use their sense of smell and their sense of sight. It has to be a place the dogs have never been before. Use the same type of treats for each breed because some treats have a stronger scent than others.

Doing this experiment takes many steps. First you let the dog smell the treat. After that go and hide the treat far away under a cup or box. Don’t let the dog see you hide the treat. Then let the dog smell around and look for the treat. Time how long it takes the dog to find the treat. Then repeat these steps with the other breeds. Make sure the treat is the same length away from the dogs each time you test a different breed. Once you’ve tested them all with the same treats try using different treats. Then record all the times of the dogs for the first treat you used and compare. Whichever breed has the fastest average time can smell the best.

To get the best results you could vary this experiment. You would have to vary the dog breeds. You could change the treats to see if it makes the dog’s time longer or shorter. Use old dogs and puppies from each breed so you could see if their sense of smell dulls as they get older. Use more than one dog from each breed is better because it might be that the particular dog is a bad smeller. You could also vary this experiment to see if the dogs could follow a trail of treats by leaving a trail of small treats that leads to a big treat.

I came up with my idea by observing my dog and seeing how she smells to find treats. Whenever she drops a treat or we throw one for her she sniffs around to find it. I also thought of my idea by watching the video on the Kids Science Challenge website. At first I was going to make a toy using a dog’s sense of smell but I changed it into an experiment. I am interested to find out which dog can really smell the best.

Wonder Window Washers

I propose designing a competitive, interactive game between elephants and zoo guests. In the elephant compound, there would be an area set up with two giant windows. In front of the windows would be multicolor tubes of bathtub paints. Kids could decorate the windows with all kinds of creative designs, then move to a protected area. Then they could then guess or hypothesize on a computer, which elephant they think will win. Then zoo keepers would bring out two elephants and roll out two gigantic barrels of water. The elephants would each go to a barrel, suck up as much water as possible in their trunk, and then power spray the windows as fast as they can. The elephant who sprays all the paint off first, would be the winner and would receive a special treat. Eventually, the elephants would come to understand the connection between spraying the water and earning the prize, just like they do in the circus. For the elephants, the game would be a great way to exercise their mind and body and keep their trunks clean. For zoo guests, it would be a great way to learn cool things about elephants such as their water power and strength and intellectual abilities. It would also provide a fun and safe way to interact with the animals.

I came up with this idea by thinking about animals that have special talents or characteristics and how they could use them differently than they currently do. I was also thinking about what would be cool or interesting to see at a zoo as a young person.