GO IN DEPTH

The Kid's Guide to Exploring Nature

What You Need

Materials

  • Classroom copies of The Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Paper
  • Pencils, pens
  • Digital cameras (optional)
 
The Kid's Guide to Exploring Nature

Purpose

To learn more about ecosystems by engaging in hands-on activities.


Context

This lesson is based on the book The Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature, by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Educators. This book is one of the winners of the 2015 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science BooksSB&F (Science Books & Films) is a project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

This illustrated guide calls on children to look closely at the world around them through 24 activities that invite readers to explore the complex ecosystems of plants and animals in the woods, at the beach, and in a city park. Detailed, scientifically based drawings help young scientists identify hundreds of North American plants and animals, while dozens of fun projects include keeping a journal, conducting field experiments, and exploring nature with all five senses. The activities are organized by season and the book also includes summaries of common careers, such as nature educator and field biologist.

Since the activities in the book are organized by season, students will work in groups and be asked to study certain sections of the book. They will then use the activities in these sections to help them explore the world around them. You can use this lesson at any time during the school year by basing the activities you choose to do with your students on the section in which they are found in the book.

Students at this grade level should have opportunities to enrich their growing knowledge of the diversity of life on the planet and they should have opportunities to do so through hands-on activities. You can use these activities to capitalize on your students’ curiosity about the natural world and to move them gradually toward ideas that make sense out of nature.

Ideas in this lesson are also related to concepts found in these Common Core State Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.2 
    Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3 
    Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.10 
    By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Motivation

Using The Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature, your students will get to be nature explorers in this lesson. To help them get ready for some of the activities in this lesson, it might first be a good idea to review with them what an ecosystem is—especially since several different ecosystems are covered in the book.

Students should use their Exploring Nature student esheet to go to and watch Ecosystems, from Scholastic. This short video provides a basic review of what an ecosystem is. Once students have had a chance to view this video, they should answer these questions on their Exploring Nature student sheet:

  • What is an ecosystem?
    • (It is a community of animals and plants interacting with their environment.)
  • What does abiotic mean? Provide some examples of abiotic factors in an ecosystem.
    • (Abiotic means nonliving. Some examples are rain, sunlight, minerals in the soil, and temperature.)
  • What does biotic mean? Provide some examples of biotic factors in an ecosystem.
    • (Biotic means living. Some examples are plants, animals, and bacteria.)
  • Describe the relationship of the different factors in an ecosystem. How do they interact?
    • (Plants are producers and they provide food for the animals, which are consumers. In turn the animals give off carbon dioxide, which helps the plants. Bacteria are important because they are decomposers and help break down dead plants and animals.)

Now students should use their copies of the book to read the opening chapter, which discusses what it’s like to be a naturalist. Once they’ve finished reading this chapter, hold a discussion with them covering how to be a naturalist and where they can explore. You should touch on these points:

Be a Naturalist

  • Be quiet and still sometimes
  • Find a sit spot
  • Make comparisons
  • Ask questions
  • Keep a journal

Where to Explore

  • City
  • Woods
  • Meadow
  • Woodland Edge
  • Lake or Pond
  • Beach

Explain to students that in this lesson they will have a chance to engage in some hands-on activities to be nature explorers!


Development

For this part of the lesson, you should use the book to engage your students in some hands-on activities. The book is divided into four main chapters: Exploring Spring, Exploring Summer, Exploring Autumn, and Exploring Winter. Within each of these chapters are sections dealing with different ecosystems, like ponds, woods, beaches, and even cities. The sections all contain information about the plant and animal life that would be found in a particular ecosystem during a given season. This information is followed up with suggestions for activities that can be done with your students.

In this section are some suggestions for how you can lead each chapter of the book. There also are student sheets and teacher sheets that provide information and suggestions on how to do one of the activities from each chapter of the book.

Each chapter opens with a scavenger hunt. You could do this with your students and either follow the suggestions in the book or come up with your own “signs” of the season that you want your students to find. If you choose to do the scavenger hunts with your students, you could use a science app to help you with that activity. The Active Explorer App allows you to set up “Quests” for your students to look for things that you want them to find. Once they find the items, they can take pictures of them with their mobile device and upload them to a computer and use them to create posters, comics, slide shows, and other fun SmartWork.

Exploring Spring
Once students have learned some more about pigeons, you can lead them in the nature activity Birds of Many Feathers in the book on page 26. This activity encourages students to carefully observe some pigeons and notice the similarities and differences among them.

Space has been provided on the student sheet for students to record their observations. Ask them to share what they have observed with the class and hold a class discussion about what they learned.

Exploring Summer
Even though it may not be summer while you’re still in school, you could do some of the summer activities with your students in the late spring. On a nice, sunny day, why not take your students outside to explore the insects they could find around the school by going on a grassland safari using the activity found on page 72 in the book? First have students read about the various kinds of grasses they may find in the Grass Like You’ve Never Seen chapter (pages 71-73) and answer the questions on their student sheet. Then, lead them in the nature activity of observing the different kinds of insects they see on the grass.

Space has been provided on the student sheet for students to record their observations. Ask them to share what they have observed with the class and hold a class discussion about what they learned.

Exploring Autumn
As the days begin to shorten and the weather turns cooler, you can take you students outside to explore some of the changes that are going on around them. You may want to take the time to get them to think about more than just the short-term changes that are happening, though. The activity, Become a Forest Sleuth, on page 94, can help your students think about changes that happen in ecosystems over longer periods of time.

Before students head out to observe some of these kinds of changes, they can first read What Happened Here? on pages 93-95 and answer the questions on their student sheet. They can use the space provided on their student sheet to record their observations.

Exploring Winter
Even as the weather turns colder, it could be a nice change for you and your students to venture outside and explore an ecosystem. One activity your students can do at school or at home is to observe the birds that are in your area during the winter months. The activity, Help Research Birds, can even help researchers with Project FeederWatch, which is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North America. In order to participate in the survey, students would need to join at Feederwatch.org. It is free to join and once they have joined, they can get information about how to set up a feeder and how to keep count of the birds they see.

Before doing the activity, students should first read Snow Days, pages 107-109, in the book and answer the questions on their student sheet. They can then record their observations in the space provided on the student sheet. 

Read More

Assessment

Since this lesson is so general in scope, you may want to wind up the lesson by going back over what an ecosystem is and what is found there with your students. You could go back over the discussion questions from the Motivation and see if your students have anything to add now that they’ve had a chance to spend more time in various ecosystems:

  • What is an ecosystem?
    • (It is a community of animals and plants interacting with their environment.)
  • What does abiotic mean? Provide some examples of abiotic factors in an ecosystem.
    • (Abiotic means nonliving. Some examples are rain, sunlight, minerals in the soil, and temperature.)
  • What does biotic mean? Provide some examples of biotic factors in an ecosystem.
    • (Biotic means living. Some examples are plants, animals, and bacteria.)
  • Describe the relationship of the different factors in an ecosystem. How do they interact?
    • (Plants are producers and they provide food for the animals, which are consumers. In turn the animals give off carbon dioxide, which helps the plants. Bacteria are important because they are decomposers and help break down dead plants and animals.)

In addition to this discussion, if you and your students managed to do each of the activities from the four different seasons, your students could take the work they’ve done and put it together into a booklet, PowerPoint, or a video. They could then share their work with the whole class and discuss what they have learned from the activities.


Extensions

You can extend the concepts in this lesson by leading your students through these other Science NetLinks lessons:


You also could follow up this lesson by doing some of the other activities found in The Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature. Also, if you happen to live near a botanic garden, you could plan a field trip to it so your students can take part in the activities conducted by the garden’s staff.

Another activity you can do using The Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature book would be to have your students study the various careers that are profiled in the book. They could pick one of the types of naturalists profiled and do more research on that career.


Funder Info
Subaru
Science NetLinks is proud to have Subaru as a funder of this project.

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Lesson Details

Grades Themes Type Project 2061 Benchmarks National Science Standards
AAAS