Monarch Butterflies (early fall) This introductory mini-lesson is an opportunity for me to introduce myself to the students and welcome them to this year’s Mother Nature’s Classroom program. I show the students live examples of monarch larvae, pupa, and butterflies. You have the option to raise and care for a monarch caterpillar in the classroom. Once your butterfly emerges from its chrysalis (usually about 10-14 days after becoming a pupa), we tag and release it so it can begin its migration to Mexico for the winter. The tagging activity is part of the MonarchWatch.org Citizen Science initiative.
Plant Race (winter) As a welcome back after winter break, I give each teacher a plant to care for in the classroom. Over the course of eight to ten weeks, students measure and record the plant’s growth and make observations about how it changes. We gather and tally the data each week and record it on a bar graph in the hall so the students can see how the different plants are doing. We track how tall they grow, how many leaves they get, how many blooms they produce, etc. The goal is to produce the biggest, most beautiful plant! Before spring break, winning classrooms will be announced.
Examining Seasonal Changes on a Shape Walk (fall) Students understand how changes in the sun’s energy affect the behavior of living things in the environment. Shapes are provided for students to carry or wear on yarn necklaces to match with items observed on a walk around the school grounds.
What Do Garden Animals Need from Their Environment? (fall) A hunt for garden animals helps students understand how animals rely on plants and their unique body parts to survive.
Sorting, Counting, and Comparing Seeds (winter) Seeds are used to practice sorting by size, shape and color, counting, and to apply the concepts of “biggest” and “smallest,” and “most” and “least.” We also practice telling the difference between seeds that are the “same” and “similar.”
Tracking Invertebrates (spring) Students use invertebrates found on the nature trail and temperature observations to understand animal behavior as winter changes to spring
Building Terrariums and Collecting Terrarium Animals – One lesson covers two activities for students to understand how animals depend on living and nonliving things to survive in their environment. (Spring)
Crustaceans in the Garden– Students understand how pillbug and sowbug characteristics help them live in their environment. (Fall or Spring)
Spider Web Hunt– Students understand the characteristics of spiders that help them to live, and practice math skills for organizing data while searching for spider webs. (Fall)
Trapping Energy– Students plant warm season seeds in the cool temperatures of early spring to observe how the principles of cold frames and greenhouses aid plant growth. (Spring)
Food Buyers and Sellers – Students understand from where their food comes by discussing sources for buying food and the kinds of jobs involved in providing food for us to buy. This lesson is paired with a seed-planting activity. (Late Spring)
How Do Living and Non-Living Things Interact? – Students look for living and nonliving things in the environment to understand that living things have an effect on nonliving things in the environment and that nonliving things in the environment affect living things. (Fall)
Reading Weather – Students will collect information about weather to understand weather instruments and readings and the impact of weather conditions on plants and animals in early spring. (Spring)
Planting a Salad in Early Spring – Students welcome spring by planting cool season seeds in their beds, learn that seed germination is dependent on conditions in the seed’s habitat, and learn what it means to garden organically. (mid- to late-March)
Harvest the Early Spring Garden – Students learn how to identify foods that are ready to harvest and the best harvest method. Students work together to harvest and clean the harvest and finish up by sampling foods they planted in March. (mid- to late-May)
Animals in Garden and Ground Habitats – Students understand that animals have traits that are learned and inherited and that help them survive in their environment. Observations from observations from the garden habitat are compared with those from the ground habitat understand unique traits required in each. (Fall)
Decomposition, Erosion, and Deposition – Students take a nature walk to record observations of processes that shape the surface of the Earth. (Fall or Spring)
Fossils – Experiment with making fossils to determine some of the necessary (living and nonliving) conditions for making fossils and to determine if similar conditions exist today. Materials used should include clay, dough, sand, mud, etc. Conditions should include moist, wet and dry. Representations of living organisms used should include those with hard body parts (exoskeletons, bones) and those with soft body parts (plants).
Tree Identification Using a Dichotomous Key – Students use a dichotomous key to identify trees and to understand the basics of how plants are classified. (Fall, Winter, or Spring)
Using Natural Resources Then and Now – Students understand how human use of natural resources has evolved and the impact of our use on Earth’s resources by making observations around the trail and surrounding school yard. (Spring)