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Nature Center Lessons & Activities

Need more ideas? Visit my Pages for Adopt-An-Insect Unit, Biology Lesson Plans, & Environmental Education Lesson Plan links for other great ideas.

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Explore Zone (T. Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
During this activity, my students take a trip to the Nature Center to find examples of living and nonliving things. I allow them ten minutes to list as many items as possible. The students count the number of items that are from the plant kingdom, animal kingdom, and those that are nonliving. They are challenged to choose three items from each category and describe their roles in the environment of the Nature Center. Students also describe interactions between various organisms and identify those with one parent and two parents.

Student Worksheet - Explore Zone (pdf)


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Nature Squares (T. Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
This activity uses large nature squares (or grids) and encourages students to observe and record the items in their square area. Students should be allowed 30 - 40 minutes to detail as many observations as possible - animals, plants, rocks, etc. Once their observations are complete, they should answer the questions on the back of their worksheet related to biotic (living things) and abiotic (nonliving things) and the roles they play in the environment.

Student Worksheet - Nature Squares (pdf)


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Nature A to Z (T. Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
Challenge your students to create an alphabetical list of living things that can be found in your area. After students have compiled an assortment of items to complete their lists, challenge them to develop a system to organize the items. Another idea is to have students create an ABC Nature Journal. Students create a page for each letter (A, B, C, and so on) and provide a detailed description of the item(s) as well as photographs or diagrams.

Student Worksheet - Nature A to Z (pdf)


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Use Your Senses (T. Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
This activity challenges students to interact with the natural world through observations and activities involving their senses. Give students 30 seconds (or a minute) to list as many items as they can in the first section. Allow time to share their observations with their classmates. Students earn points for “original” observations or those that no one else recorded. Repeat the same procedure for the remaining sections.

Student Worksheet - Use Your Senses (pdf)


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Unnatural Nature Hunt (T. Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
Want a fun activity to increase mapping skills and challenge the powers of observation? This quick activity will be a hit with your students. Before doing this project, you will need to “hide” several items in your schoolyard or nature area. Take care not to place them in a location that invites the students to damage the area. I always like to use fishing line to hang a few items from tree branches. Instruct students that there are items hidden in the area (mention the boundaries) and allow them 20 - 30 minutes to explore and record their finds. During this activity, your students will notice much more than the items you've hidden! It's a great way to open their eyes to all that your schoolyard or nature area has to investigate.

Student Worksheet: Unnatural Nature Hunt (pdf)
NOTE: I divided our Nature Center into four areas (A,B,C,D) and had the students create a map of the garden. They used the clues provided and their powers of observation to find each item and mark its secret location on their maps.
Answers to riddles: Area A - Green crayon, eraser, and scissors, Area B - Compass, chalk, and paperclip, Area C - Test tube and pencil, Area D - Magnifying glass and ruler.

Another idea .... Last fall, I selected items that corresponded to the terms we had discussed during our ecology lessons, such as a dark green crayon for camoflauge, bright red bouncy ball for flash coloration, flower-shaped eraser for mimicry, fork for body armor (spikes or spines), and a dirty sock for odor/poisons. During the post-lesson discussion, I challenged the kids to identify the defense mechanism illustrated by each item and allowed time for them to develop a list of animals and plants that used the different defenses to protect them from predation.


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Name That Seed (T. Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
To prepare for this lab you will need seed samples from 10-15 plants. If you have a nature area available, allow students to collect their own seed samples. Challenge students to create their own dichotomous key to help them identify each seed. Students can trade their keys with classmates to assess their seed key and get feedback. If your students are not familiar with dichotomous keys, try the Silly Science (pdf) lab I have prepared. Directions for the lab are listed on the General Science lesson page.


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Totally Trees (T. Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
A scavenger hunt used by our 5th grade teachers to reinforce key terms during their annual tree project using the Living Tree Collection After the students have collected the specimens for each characteristic, dry the samples and use them to create a display. The display should include each specimen, characteristic displayed, and the name of the tree.

NOTE: During the spring of 2000, a local Boy Scout and fellow scouts created the Living Tree Collection by adding over 30 varieties of trees to our schoolyard. Visit the Nature Center to learn more about our Outdoor Classroom!

Student Worksheet - Totally Trees (pdf)


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Techie Tree ID (T. Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
For this activity you will need to prepare 10-12 leaf samples. A list of internet sites for tree identification has been provided on the Kid Zone Archive document. Students use the online keys to help them identify the leaf samples. If your students are not familiar with dichotomous keys, try the Silly Science (pdf) lab I have prepared. Directions for the lab are listed on the Earth Science lesson page.


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Adopt-A-Tree (T. Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
Have students keep a journal charting growth changes and seasonal observations for the trees in your schoolyard or at a local park. Each season, students should determine the height of their adopted tree, measure the circumference of the trunk, and note any changes since their last visit. Compile the data sheets in a special folder to track the changes over a period of time.

Student Worksheet - Adopt-A-Tree Certificate (pdf)
New version ... Adopt-A-Tree (pdf) - This new version includes leaf and bark rubbings as well as latitude and longitude determined using a GPS receiver.

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Tree Treasures Game (T. Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)
For this activity, have your students search magazines and newspapers looking for the items listed on the cards, which are products of trees. The students should glue or tape each picture to the card. If no picture is available, students may draw a diagram for that item. After all the cards are completed, attach one card to the back of each student with a clothespin - make sure they don't know which card they have. Challenge the students to identify the item on their card by asking their classmates yes or no questions.

Activity Cards - What am I? (pdf)
Also available ... Ready-to-use Tree Treasures cards - just print, cut apart, and play the game! 

Also visit the Environmental Education Lesson Plan links!

I have also incorporated many Worksheets detailing the plant and animal world from a great resource book ...
Life Science
by Daryl Vriesenga
Published by Instructional Fair (#IF8756), Grand Rapids, MI
ISBN #: 0-88012-828-3


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© 1999-2024
The Science Spot was developed in March 1999 by Tracy Tomm Science Teacher @ Havana Junior High, Havana, IL.  Activities, lessons, & worksheets available on any page of this web site are intended for use by a single teacher in his/her classroom or to share at educational conferences.  Reproduction for commercial use or profit is not permitted without the consent of Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm. Visit my Frequently Asked Questions page for more details.