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Main Curriculum Tie:
Background For Teachers:
Intended Learning Outcomes:
Suggest to the class that sometimes we don't look very closely at the environments around us. Because of our inattention, we miss many of the interesting things going on around us. Suggest that there may be things in the classroom that no one has noticed. Often these things go unnoticed because they are small or in an out-of-the-way place. Sometimes we don't notice things because they have always been there and we simply don't pay any attention to them.
Provide students with hand lenses and a notebook or clipboard. Tell them to use drawings and written notes to record what they find.
After the teams have explored, allow them to share with the class what they discovered. Tell the class that these kinds of observations are similar to what a type of scientist called a naturalist does. Discuss the work of Jane Goodall or other naturalists.
Most small critters that will be encountered around your school are harmless, but before taking students outside, be sure they understand that they should not touch bees or wasps or other bugs of which they are unsure.
1. Choose an area close to the school for your class to study. An area that is out of the way such as a side or front lawn area where students do not play will work best. Flower beds, shrubs, and/or trees will provide more variation for your class to explore. Fields, parks, or churches close to the school may also work as a study area.
2. Divide the class into teams of 2 or 3. Explain that each team will be doing a thorough study of a small section of a local environment. They will classify everything they find in their area as living or nonliving and record that they see on Plot Study Journal Pages (pdf). Observations may be recorded using both words and drawings. It will probably be necessary to have students estimate the numbers of some plants and animals they find in their area. Work with students on sampling techniques, such as counting numbers in a smaller area and then multiplying by the number of smaller areas in the larger area.
4. Once outside each team of students should find a place to lay out their study plot. They will do this by measuring off 1 square meter, marking the corners with a golf tee, and wrapping the string around the tees to enclose their plot. Encourage students to try to find a area that is not all lawn, such as under a bush or tree, a place where there are a few rocks or sticks, a flower bed, along a fence where the grass is longer, etc.
5. Explain that scientists often study he environment by making observations and carefully recording what they see. If students do not know the name of a particular plant or animal have them write a description (for example: fuzzy-leaf plant, or long bug with lots of legs).
6. Set a few rules that should be followed during the activity. They may include:
7. You may want to give students a time period of at least 15 minutes that they must observe their areas. Often students will search their area over quickly and feel they have seen everything there is to see. Encourage them to just sit and watch for a while, to get close and systematically search the whole area.
9. After students have finished their observations have pairs display their Plot Study Journal Pages and discuss and compare what they learned. The following questions may be helpful:
Language Arts -
Students may wish to observe a plot at home. Provide them with strings, golf tees, and journal pages to use at home. Encourage students to ask family members to help them learn the names of the organisms they find in their plots. Have students compare their home plots to their school plots and share with the class any interesting organisms or nonliving things they find.
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