Informal Science

Science Lessons Outside of the Classroom

My post has alot of questions with one main topic. Does anyone have any field trip ideas or lesson plans that can be done outside of the classroom (both outside as in walking outside into nature right out the classroom door, and outside the classroom in different enviorments that you can take kids to on field trips?) Are certain places better for different age groups? What are ways that you can bring smaller kids outside without having them lose focus on the activity at hand? Lauren Cooke

Lauren Cooke
Lauren Cooke
1845 Activity Points

Hi Lauren, I think from your post questions that you must teach younger students. With that in mind, I found a couple of articles that you might find helpful. The first one is called Firsthand Nature Among the ideas in this article are thoughts on how to have students make pre-fieldtrip predictions and what to take with them when they go on their field trips.
A second article, Teaching Through Trade Books: Exploring Your Environment, has a lesson plan for K-3 rd graders called the Rainbow Hunt. It provides ideas on how to create field journals.
It will be great to find out how other teachers are taking their students outside to learn about nature firsthand.
Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
83493 Activity Points

Lauren,
I find tree studies are nice because you can "adopt a tree" and have the students observe changes throughout the year. You might like the article "Teaching Through Trade Books: Talking Trees."

Patty McGinnis
Patricia McGinnis
25410 Activity Points

Field trips are always great to get the students out of the class and get them learning with other senses then reading or listening to the teacher. Believe it or not I was told and I found out for myself that the best field trips are right on you school campus or in the near vicinity. It might take some extra research but relating environmental or life sciences to where the students live really boost understanding because they can relate it to their everyday life. I took a neighborhood walk with my students talking about the environment and my students really liked it and sometimes they come to me in class and tell me how something has changed in their neighborhood in relation to the science topic we discussed.

Michael Leslie
Michael Leslie
2110 Activity Points

Hi Lauren, Last spring I volunteered in a Kindergarten classroom and the kids went on a nature walk in the woods near the school. The point of the lesson was to identify signs of life/springtime and the kids got to take their own pictures that the teacher later made into a slideshow. They found caterpillars, sprouts emerging from the earth, and various other things in nature and it really captivated the kids' attention. They were so excited because each one of them got to take a picture of whatever they found so it made it personal to them. Then when they watched the slideshow the teacher made, they were so focused! I think a nature walk like this is a great way to introduce or elaborate on naturalistic topics and not just in Kindergarten. It's hands-on, gets the kids engaged, and including the kids' interests gets them motivated. Besides, now that it's fall you could go around looking for signs that winter is coming. Hope this helps you come up with some sort of idea!

Ashley Vogel
Ashley Vogel
2590 Activity Points

I just read an article in the latest NSTA Science & Children journal. It is about going outdoors to observe spiders and how they live. The lesson is set up to help children correct some misconceptions about spiders. I am attaching the article for you to read.

Attachments

The Spider Files (Journal Article)

Betty Paulsell
Betty Paulsell
48550 Activity Points

The other day in my science elementary education class, we did an activity where the teacher sent us out for about 30 minutes. During this time, we had to fill out a packet that she gave us. We had to write down 25 things that we saw outside that could be used as teaching topics and then, we had to draw 3 trees and 3 objects that we observed using a magnifying glass. Finally, we had to choose one of the topics we wrote down from the list of 25 and we had to write a short poem on it. Although I am a college student, I actually had fun with the assignment. So, you could do something similar to this because I am sure elementary students will enjoy this. But, if you were to do this, you should take the students to a small area where you can see all of them so that they do not run off somewhere and get off task. You should also narrow down the list of objects to about 15 because I found it a bit difficult to write down 25. This activity is good for letting the students explore on their own. In addition, the students get to use the magnifying glass, which is good because it includes a scientific tool in the activity. Then, after exploring, the students get to sit down and observe trees in depth while drawing them and they also get to explore very small objects in detail. So, I think this activity is interesting because the children get to explore independently and observe nature in detail. Most likely during this activity, they will discover things about nature that they did not know existed. Hopefully, there is an area near the school that is safe for the students to freely walk around and observe.

Catherine Lee
Catherine Lee
2720 Activity Points

Catherine's ideas about a bit of an independent scavenger hunt is great. I do something to that degree by starting off in a small area of campus and expanding outward after students become used to the expectations. Safety and considerations to other classrooms on campus make for short "sidewalk" excursions before an off-campus event. I always start the year off with 3-5 of these visits around campus. We focus on a combination of birds, bugs, and plants. The great things about this year's activities are that you can always revisit topics of study when you're on campus between transitional opportunities. Fortunately, we've had new native species planted in our peace garden and we will be able to watch these plants and the fauna associated with them to flourish. We have also gone to our local nature conservancy for forest hikes to compare our urban campus with the the forest environment.

Lori Towata
Lori Towata
2805 Activity Points

Recently my class of fifth graders has started to learn about cells and more specifically the difference between plant cells and animal cells. One field trip that my college and I thought of was to go on a hike to one of Hawaii's many beautiful trails and have the students pick samples from different plants and to see if all of the plants share the same characteristics as we learned (cell walls, chloroplast)and hopefully get some animal cell samples. I think it would be a great way to use real life material.

Michael Leslie
Michael Leslie
2110 Activity Points

Lauren, I don't know if you are still seeking ideas concerning outdoor experiences. If you are, you may want to look at Science Beyond the Classroom. It is an NSTA Press book containing a collection of articles previously published in Science and Children. The sections include Beyond the Curriculum: Projects and Challenges; Beyond the School Building Walls: Using Local Sites; Beyond the School Day: Clubs and Expositions The Family: Take-Home Projects and Family Science Events; and Informal Institutions: Museums, Zoos and Other Field Trips. The book is on sale now in the NSTA Store.

Linda Froschauer
Linda Froschauer
1370 Activity Points

Hi All: I am attaching my informal science activities collection in the hopes it might spark an idea for a trip. I am also a docent at a local zoo and taking your students to the zoo is always a winner. Adah


Informal Science Experiences Collection
(27 items)
A Transforming Partnership
     -Journal Article
A Science Club Takes Action
     -Journal Article
Bringing Light onto Shadows
     -Journal Article

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101490 Activity Points

I teach kindergarten. With the arrival of the NGSS as a finished product, I am hoping to teach a science based curriculum next year. Our conversations here will help me to block out the new plan.
I have used the five senses as an inquiry in all seasons. We also have a vernal pool behind the school and we visit that several times a year. Pets In the Classroom and house plants have provided good observations as well.
Add to that a good document camera with a zoom feature and you have lots of options.
I look forward to more replies. Science

Gail Poulin
Gail Poulin
1420 Activity Points

Hey! Taking students outside is great at any age, but may be highly appreciated by the younger ones. If you set them on a task (to identify something, match a picture in their packet to an example in their real life environment, draw an example) they will keep focus. It is easier to help them when you have individuals who can aid you. When I have led nature walks through forests and tide pools, I have found that a group of 5-6 students to one adult, works ideally for all of those wonder questions :). If you need aid, look to parent volunteers :) Provide them with your desired outcome and student instruction and give them the opportunity to help you and build a relationship with you. :) Though the planning and preparing may be more time consuming, outdoors expeditions outside your classroom door or to a public park are well worth it! Have fun! - Elena

Elena Snow
Elena Snow
595 Activity Points

Hello, Simply taking students outside can be a great way to get some hands on science experiences. With the changing of the weather and seasons it be a great time to look at the plants and trees, and how the clouds was changing with different weather coming. I have been interning at the Maryland Science Center, where they offer a lot of opportunities for schools to come explore and learn through informal hands on science experiments.

Heather Powell
Heather Powell
1980 Activity Points

Online registration is now open for the "Bucket Buddies" elementary level collaborative project. In this project students will attempt to determine whether or not the same fresh water macroinvertebrates will be found in different locations, both around the country and around the world. Participating classes will collect samples from ponds near their schools and will use a variety of resources to identify the macroinvertebrates in the samples. The students will share their identifications with other project participants and they will use the collected data to answer the central question: Did classrooms sampling fresh water sources around the world find the same organisms? Finally, the students will publish their conclusions in a report which will be posted to the project web site. For more information, including project requirements and deadlines, go to http://ciese.org/curriculum/bucketproj/ There is no fee for project participation, but only registered classes will be allowed to submit their findings to the Student Gallery. Please feel free to contact me for more information. Carol Shields Project Leader -- Carol Shields Senior Curriculum and Professional Development Specialist CIESE Stevens Institute of Technology Castle Point on Hudson Hoboken NJ 08807 201-216-5070

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68515 Activity Points

Atlantis Remixed (ARX) is an international learning and teaching project that uses a 3D multi-user environments to immerse children, ages 9-16, in educational tasks. ARX combines strategies used in commercial games with lessons from educational research on learning and motivation. I have just started looking at this http://atlantisremixed.org/

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68515 Activity Points

Hello Lauren and all, I realize this comment comes 5 months after your original post but I thought I would share some of my experiences to answer some of your questions regarding walking/nature field trips and field trips off campus in general. As a preschool teacher in a low socio-economic area, it is often difficult to fund field trips to museums or other locations that might have activities geared towards curriculum that is currently being taught in my classroom. My colleagues and I are always looking for free field trips and think of ways we might "make it fit" with what we're teaching. Some of our favorite free field trip locations are grocery stores (or any other type of store close to school, so that we can walk instead of paying for a bus), nearby park, older kids playground, or even offices/rooms on our very own campus (e.g., admin, cafeteria, etc.). Because many of our locations do not feature fancy hands-on gadgets that you might find at a children's' discovery center, we teachers have to figure out a way we will keep our young students engaged while still tying things in to our curriculum. A couple of days before our field trip with the kids, my fellow teachers and I go to the location. We take pictures and write notes. We then print the pictures and create classroom maps. During the field trip, we use the maps as guides/scavenger hunts/etc. Our 3- to 5-year-olds are usually always engaged and are understanding how our field trip ties into what we are learning in class. One fun trip we do every year with our kids encourages them to use their five senses to explore their school environment. To start, we walk across the large field to the other side of campus, then, using our classroom maps of our school, we encourage our students to find landmarks that we've highlighted on our map to help us get back to our classroom. I always find that having a pre-made map and plan keeps young learners engaged and allows for field trips to be meaningful and real-life learning experiences.

Lilian Franklin
Lilian Franklin
945 Activity Points

I recently did some research on rain gardens and it seemed like an interesting project for 4-5 graders to work on at their school in an urban neighborhood. There are a lot of projects out there that incorporate the environment around us and I think it is a great idea to have students be hands on outside of the classroom.

Angela Cho
Angela Cho
1350 Activity Points

Hi Lauren, Kids love the outdoors; it gets them out of the classroom and allows them to see things you wouldn’t find inside of school. A few ideas I would suggest include observing plant life and the parts of a plant, observing the different types of rocks, and the students would love to go outdoors and observe insects during an insect unit! Going outdoors could even include something as simple as holding a weather discussion! Hope this helps. Brittany

Brittany Phillips
Brittany Phillips
515 Activity Points

Hi Lauren, Brittany is right, students do love learning outside of the classroom. Brittany mentioned some good ideas as well. Currently, I am working on a weather unit. I found a great cloud detection activity on Pinterest that involves going outside; here's the link: http://www.nature-watch.com/weather-window-cloud-identification-and-weather-prediction-activity-kit-p-44.html?cPath=142_143 Another idea for the weather unit is for the students to have a daily weather journal, where the students log what they weather is like everyday of the weather unit. Hope this helps! Good luck!

Ashley Behringer
Ashley Behringer
425 Activity Points

Hi, I have to agree with everyone here - students love to learn outdoors! Learning outside of the classroom is a great way for students to apply their knowledge to the real world. When I take my students outdoors for a science lesson, we usually are making observations. I like to tie in earth science and land forms when we go outdoors. My students will make observations about the mountain range and learn about its formation. What I have learned the key is to keeping students focused is making sure that they know what to do once we step out of the class. I try to make it fun, like we're going on a mission. They have several tasks to complete their mission. A timer also helps so they know how much time they have for the mission. Happy exploring to all those who teach outdoors!

Lauren Nishimoto
Lauren Lee
990 Activity Points

you can take the children a park, aquarium, or a nature conservancy or other outdoor facility. i think its a very good idea because Such trips offer children the chance to get up close with nature, animals and other elements of the natural world. These trips often provide wonderful souvenir opportunities as well for the students.

D B
Dionne Octavius
6395 Activity Points

This is a great question! Taking children outside of the classroom is a wonderful way to get them engaged in their learning. Going places like the zoo, aquariums, and parks are always good field trips to take with students. I went with a group of first graders to the recycling center in our city to learn about the importance of recycling. Afterwards, we took all the kids to the zoo and donated the money we had earned from recycling to their facility. Teaching your students about the environment and the importance of giving back is easily demonstrated in your town. There are a lot of good suggestions on your post so I hope you find some that really work. As for me, I think I will try a couple out myself! Good luck!

Micki Bowman
Micki Bowman
1020 Activity Points

This is a great question! Taking children outside of the classroom is a wonderful way to get them engaged in their learning. Going places like the zoo, aquariums, and parks are always good field trips to take with students. I went with a group of first graders to the recycling center in our city to learn about the importance of recycling. Afterwards, we took all the kids to the zoo and donated the money we had earned from recycling to their facility. Teaching your students about the environment and the importance of giving back is easily demonstrated in your town. There are a lot of good suggestions on your post so I hope you find some that really work. As for me, I think I will try a couple out myself! Good luck!

Micki Bowman
Micki Bowman
1020 Activity Points

You may want to check out NSTA author Steve Rich. He has a new book out called Bringing Outdoor Science In that involves students in conducting nature-related activities.

Patty McGinnis
Patricia McGinnis
25410 Activity Points

Hi there. I had a successful lesson with the solar system recently. I teach 5th grade, and I made a size and distance model for the students to see. I just made a model using string with labels to mark off the proportional distances of the planets to the sun. I let them walk along the string to simulate traveling from planet to planet through space. I also had spheres that I measured to make them proportional to the planets (ping pong ball, grain of sand, basketball, etc.) and let the students see them and imagine them in space. It also helped to be outside so we had space to "act out" the planets. I had the students rotate and orbit each other to simulate the planets in the solar system. The greatest benefit from taking my class outside was that they were able to move around and have some physical space to work in. We live in Hawaii so we also go on beach and ocean field trips. For example, the 5th graders went on a whale watching tour and a reef walk to explore the sealife. As long as you can show your students something relevant to them (and of course to your standards), your class should enjoy it and be engaged. Just make sure that you have it all planned out because it can also work against you and turn into something chaotic instead.

Jonelle Renti Cruz
Jonelle Renti Cruz
615 Activity Points

Hi there. I had a successful lesson with the solar system recently. I teach 5th grade, and I made a size and distance model for the students to see. I just made a model using string with labels to mark off the proportional distances of the planets to the sun. I let them walk along the string to simulate traveling from planet to planet through space. I also had spheres that I measured to make them proportional to the planets (ping pong ball, grain of sand, basketball, etc.) and let the students see them and imagine them in space. It also helped to be outside so we had space to "act out" the planets. I had the students rotate and orbit each other to simulate the planets in the solar system. The greatest benefit from taking my class outside was that they were able to move around and have some physical space to work in. We live in Hawaii so we also go on beach and ocean field trips. For example, the 5th graders went on a whale watching tour and a reef walk to explore the sealife. As long as you can show your students something relevant to them (and of course to your standards), your class should enjoy it and be engaged. Just make sure that you have it all planned out because it can also work against you and turn into something chaotic instead.

Jonelle Renti Cruz
Jonelle Renti Cruz
615 Activity Points

Hi All: As a retired seasoned science teacher I now volunteer at our local zoo. I am a docent where I and usually a partner docent go out into the zoo and bring a live animal or biofact such as bones, skulls, or other interactive activity that we present to the visitors at the zoo in the mornings. These activities are meant to engage young children and adults and above all educate them about conservation, habitat needs and more. Lots of school groups come out and we enhance their visits. Anyone can volunteer and get trained to be a docent or volunteer at some location even if they work because those same activities are offered to families who tend to be their during the weekends. In most towns their are botanical gardens and other institutions that provide outdoor classrooms for children and families as well. Adah

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101490 Activity Points

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