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Science - 3rd Grade
Standard 2 Objective 2
Students use a plot map to study the plants and animals living in a small area of their environment.
For each team of 2-3 students
In this activity, students will closely examine a small area of the school ground (or other local environment) in order to discover what kinds of plants and animals live there. Student should be encouraged to look for ways in which the nonliving elements in the environment (sunlight, soil, air, water, and temperature) provide the living organisms with food, water, space, and shelter.
Most small critters that will be encountered around your school are harmless, but before taking student outside, be sure they understand that they should not touch bees or wasps or other bugs of which they are unsure.
1. Use a Science Process and Thinking Skills
2. Manifest Science Interests and Attitudes
4. Communicate Effectively Using Science Language and Reasoning
Pre-Assessment/Invitation to Learn
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.
Tell the class they are going to practice their observation skills by examining a section of the classroom closely and taking notes on what they find. To do this they will need to change their perspective. Ask if students have seen the movies "A Bug's Life" or "Honey I Shrunk the Kids". In those movies, the world was shown from the perspective of someone very small. Discuss with the class how that perspective was different from their perspective of the world. Encourage the students to try to get down to the level of a bug and look at the environment as the bug would.
Divide the classroom into sections and assign each team of 3-5 students a section to explore. You may wish to set some limits or ground rules such as:
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.
Ask students to pick one organism that they found in their study plot and list the things it needs to survive. Have them explain how the organism gets the things it needs from the environment where it lives.