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End the Year with an Outdoor Classroom

Jill Daniels
Science Department Head
Geneva School of Boerne
Boerne, TX

May/June 2016

Spring is in the air, and if your students are like mine, they're just itching to be outside. The outdoor classroom is the perfect way to help students maintain focus as the school year winds down.

Plan your final quarter with several outdoor activities and announce the dates to your students. You can also use the outdoor classroom as a reward for positive behavior indoors. 


Animal observation activity

A creek near our school attracts several different species of ducks, so I have my students develop an inquiry lab to study the behavior of the ducks. For example, the students developed a lab to determine if the ducks prefer certain grains over others. 

If you do not have a pond or creek nearby to observe ducks and other waterfowl, consider using different kinds of bird seed and compare which species of birds prefer which seeds. An extension of this activity is to observe and record the perching and feeding behavior of different bird species. Questions to consider:

  • Where do the birds feed when on the feeder? Below the feeder?
  • How long do the birds spend feeding?
  • Do certain species only show up when other species are not present?


Macroinvertebrate study

What better time to study macroinvertebrates than in the spring? Ponds, marshes, creeks, and lakes provide opportunities to study invertebrates. All you need is a field guide, sampling nets, container for sample water, and small containers to sort out organisms.

After identifying the macroinvertebrates in the body of water, your students can explore how macroinvertebrate diversity is used as a bioindicator to determine how healthy any water source is.


Wildflower activity

Have students walk around the school grounds or a nearby park to find a variety of flowers, identify their names using a field guide, and create a table to list the characteristics of each flower. (See the sample data table below.)

Evolution

Once the table is complete, have students create a cladogram of the flower samples. They can tape the flower down in place of the flower name for the cladogram.


Anatomy

Select a wildflower to dissect. Have students tape individual parts (petal, sepal, filament, etc.) to a sheet of paper and label each part.



Parts of the wildflower


Sample data table for wildflower activity

Flower

Lobed leaf

Unlobed
leaf

Parallel vein pattern

Branching
vein pattern

Petals in multiples of 3

Petals in multiples of 4, 5, etc.

Monocot vs. Dicot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pollination

Flower shape and coloration offer a way to learn about the mutualistic relationship between plants and animals. By examining the characteristics, colors, and shape of the flowers, students can predict the type of pollination each flower performs and the most likely pollinator of that species. Have your students predict the specific pollinator that pollinates their flower. Students can then check their prediction through online research.


More activities

For more fun ways to learn in the great outdoors, you can plan field trips to the zoo, botanical gardens, or nature parks, or invite local experts to present to your class. 

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