Author:
Sandy Benton
Subject:
Earth and Space Science, English Language Arts, Environmental Literacy and Sustainability, Life Science, Social Studies
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Level:
Lower Primary, Upper Primary
Grade:
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Tags:
  • Inquiry-based Learning
  • Outdoor Learning
  • Outdoor Learning Experiences
  • Phenology
  • Place-based Education
  • Place-based Learning
  • Primary Source
    License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
    Language:
    English
    Media Formats:
    Text/HTML

    Education Standards

    Quarter 2 Outdoor School-wide (K-5) Inquiry Mini-Unit

    Overview

    The following six OERS for grades K-5 are designed for teachers to use the outdoor spaces around their schools for learning with the goals of connecting students with their sense of place and well-being. Together, the six experiences comprise a school-wide mini-unit in which each grade level explore an Investigative Question.  Collectively, each Investigative Question leads the entire student body in considering the Essential Question of the mini-unit.  A school leadership team identified the Wisconsin Standards for Environmental Literacy and Sustainability (ELS) to be addressed at every grade level and developed an Essential Question to be explored.

    Wisconsin Green Schools Network FIELD coaches provided teachers with an introduction to outdoor, place-based inquiry learning, unpacked ELS, and met with grade level teams to co-create inquiry questions (called Investigative Questions in the lessons that follow) for their students to investigate outside each quarter. These OERs were co-taught with teachers and FIELD coaches and were refined during co-reflection.

    Mini-lesson Essential Question

    How do our cultural systems relate to the natural environment? (ELS2)

    Kindergarten

    Investigative Question (specific to this outdoor experience):

    How can I appreciate being in nature across the seasons? How do seasonal changes affect us and the plants and animals in the environment/ nature?

    Learning Targets:

    I can notice and describe seasonal changes.

    Success Measures: (The student will know they are successful if they can):

    Students will use their senses to notice seasonal changes. They will be able to describe those changes to their peers.

    Materials Needed: Read aloud book about winter, chart paper and markers

    Set up ahead of time: none

    Children are prepared and will bring outdoors: Dress for the weather.

    CONNECT (5 minutes in classroom)

    Review of what we observed in the fall during our outdoor exploration. (Might need significant prompting).  Record what students say on chart paper so that at the end of the lesson, they share their winter observations, contrasting memories of the fall with observations of winter.

    Read winter themed book aloud. Discuss what students observed, or learned, about winter through the text.

    Preview the learning experience:

    We are going to go outside to observe what has changed since fall.  We remember seeing colorful leaves on the tree… will we see colorful leaves today? We remember finding insects and slugs… will we see insects and slugs today? We remember finding dandelions growing in the green grass… what will the grass look like today? We remember hearing… birds/ lawnmower/ wind… what will we hear today? 

    Review senses. We will use our senses of seeing, hearing, smelling and touching to observe. 

    Go over outdoor learning expectations: stay on the path, look with eyes, walk, stay together so we can discuss and share what we are observing, stay within the boundaries, and leave snow on the ground.

    EXPLORE (20 minutes outdoors)

    Get dressed for the weather outside. 

    Walk to either outside of building or to prairie. 

    Set boundaries for exploration. 

    Tell students that they will explore, independently or with a friend(s) for 15-20 minutes. Meet with students as they explore. Use questioning to move students to explore more deeply.

    Return to the classroom. 

    Formative Assessment: Observe student behaviors; and listen to students' comments and observations during discussions.

    ENGAGE (10 minutes)

    Reflection: Invite students to share their noticings, either in pairs or with the whole group. DIscuss what has changed from fall to winter.

    Discuss what students do differently during the winter. For example, they might go sledding and wear warmer clothes. They probably cannot play outside as long after school because it gets dark early.

    Review and Closure: Review the learning target-

    I can notice and describe seasonal changes.

    First Grade

    Investigative Questions (specific to this outdoor experience): How are plants, animals and people surviving winter?

    Learning Targets: I can describe a change that occurs in a plant or animal that helps it survive the winter.

    Success Measures: (The student will know they are successful if they can): Share one change that happens to a plant, animal or human to help it survive winter.

    Materials Needed: plastic tarp, slideshow of Wisconsin plants and animals

    Set up ahead of time:  create a short slideshow of Wisconsin plants and animals (see EEKwi.org for ideas)

    Children are prepared and will bring outdoors: dress for the weather

    CONNECT (10 minutes indoors)

    Say: Remember the prairie in the fall? Remember us in the fall?  Show slideshow of plants and animals, and kids dressed for fall. 

    We are going to go outside to the prairie. I wonder if it will be the same or different from when we were out in the fall. If it will look the same or different, sound the same or different, feel and smell the same or different,  What do you predict? What will be the same and different in the prairie now that it is winter, not fall. 

    We predict that there will be some things that are the same, and a lot of things that are different. 

    Today we are going to go out to the prairie and notice what is the same and different from our last trip out there in the fall. When we are outside, we are going to explore with a partner. We will take turns with our partner, leading them to something we think is interesting in some way. We will walk together. When the first person notices something they want their partner to experience, they lead their partner to it and encourage them to observe it with their senses. After you have noticed this together, you will switch and it will be the other person’s turn to take the lead. 

    We will then come together to share our noticings about what is the same and different in the prairie. 

    Group students as partners before going outside. 

    While walking outdoors ask students to discuss the following questions with their parters. Give them time to discuss before giving the next question:

    • What do you think plants, animals and people do so they can survive winter? 
    • What is different now? 
    • What do you notice that we do differently in the fall to now?

     

    EXPLORE (10 minutes)

    Walk to prairie. In prairie remind partners that they will be taking turns leading the investigation of what is the same and different. Explore for 10 minutes

    Formative Assessment: Observe student behaviors; and listen to students' comments and observations during discussions.


    ENGAGE (10 minutes, outdoors)

    Reflection: 

    Gather class together on tarp, if temperature/ weather allows. Sharing noticings from partner work/ camera. Teacher, if possible, records observations. Could make a t-chart of same and different. 

    Say: This is really different outside now! 

    Why do you think things are so different? 

    What do we do during the winter that helps us be comfortable even though it is so cold outside? What do you think about animals and plants? Do you think they do anything different, do they change, in order to be able to live through winter? 

    Give time for students to think and share.

    Say: Let's think about that. Animals and plants would need to be able to get all of their needs met. They would need to be able to have enough food, and water. They would need a shelter or a way to stay warm. 

    We wear warmer clothes when we go outside and maybe eat more food so our internal heaters also keep our bodies warm. How do you think plants and animals survive the winter?

    Have students share and consider each other's ideas. Provide questions prompts to guide thinking as needed.

    Review and Closure:Review the learning target-I can describe a change that occurs in a plant or animal that helps it survive the winter.

    Second Grade

    The ground must be snow-covered for this lesson.

    Investigative Questions (specific to this outdoor experience): 

    How does air and weather affect living things (plants, animals (insects!), people)? 

    Learning Targets: I can identify how a lot of snow impacts our community.

    Success Measures: (The student will know they are successful if they can): 

    Identify several ways that snow impacts the natural and cultural communities. 

    Materials Needed: Messner, K. (2011). Over and Under the Snow; outdoor thermometers, chart paper and markers

    Set up ahead of time: Teacher background info: https://northernwoodlands.org/outside_story/article/subnivean-shelter-snow

    Children are prepared and will bring outdoors: Dress for the weather, journal and pencil

     

    CONNECT (10 minutes, indoors)

    Lead a discussion: How does lots of snow affect our human community? How does it affect the natural community- plants and animals? 

    Say; Let's listen to a book called Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner and see if the author includes some of the ideas we thought of as a class. Pay attention to some other ways that animals are affected by snow.

    Preview the lesson:

    • go outside to look for animal life over and under the snow
    • take temperatures over, in, and under the snow
    • think about whether the snow helps or hinders what the animal wants to do
    • record finding in our journals
    • discuss what we found

    EXPLORE (20 minutes, outdoors)

    Walk to prairie. Look for evidence of animal life- for example tracks, holes, tunnels, paths, scat, wing prints, bits of food. If find a hole, possibly dig down to see if it is an entryway to a tunnel system. 

    Take temperature of the air above, in, and the air under the snow.

    ENGAGE (15 minutes, indoors)

    Reflection: Head indoors and reflect on what they saw.

    Make a t-chart and discuss ways snow is helpful and not helpful to people, animals, and plants in our community.  

    Review and Closure:Review the learning target-I can identify how a lot of snow impacts our community.

     

    Third Grade

    Investigative Questions (specific to this outdoor experience): What kinds of plants live here and why? What are the structures and properties of plants that grow in the prairie?

    Learning Targets: I can notice and identify reasons for the changes in the prairie during winter.

    Success Measures: (The student will know they are successful if they can): Students will draw a picture of a plant including identifying characteristics and will use these drawings to describe plant structures and properties in conversation.

    Materials Needed: Something to record on such as drawing paper or science journal; pencils. 

    Set up ahead of time:ig picture sensory experience recording on a data sheet. 

    Children are prepared and will bring outdoors: dress for the weather; pencils, notebooks or paper

     

    CONNECT (5 minutes, indoors)

    Have students open their sit spot journals and read and view what they recorded last time.

    Teach students the strategy of making Five-10 finger observation- make one observation (using any sense) for each finger on both hands= 10 observations all together. Practice by making observations while sitting in the classroom. Remind students to use all senses except for taste.

    Preview learning experiences:

    • visit the sit spots
    • make 5-10 finger observations: Five-10 finger observation- make one observation (using any sense) for each finger on both hands= 10 observations all together.

    Ask students to think about how things will be different in their spots. What will still be there? What might no longer be there? What things will be there but changed? What new things might be there? More importantly, think about what may have caused these changes.

    EXPLORE (20 minutes, outdoors)

    Ask students to locate same spot (or try to) .

    If they say it isn’t looking familiar, i don’t remember, ask Why is that?

    Prompt students with: What do you notice? What is different? What signs of animals or plants? How has it changed? 

    Formative Assessment: Ask students to share an observation or two. Ask students to explain why the changes may have occurred and to provide evidence to support their explanations.

     

    ENGAGE (10 minutes)

    Reflection:

    Return to the classroom to record observations in their journals. Possible prompts include: 

    •  I observed… 
    • This was different from… 
    • I think this happens because.. 

    Share in pairs first and then as a class.

    Review and Closure:Review the learning target-

    I can notice and identify reasons for the changes in the prairie during winter.

    Fourth Grade

    Investigative Questions (specific to this outdoor experience): How do we use water? How does our use of the water affect the environment of our city, school community, etc? How does water change as fall changes into winter and how does that affect us?

    Learning Targets: I can observe the school grounds for evidence of water in all three states, and I can analyze the interdependence of humans and water in the environment.

    Success Measures: (The student will know they are successful if they can): 

    Materials Needed: (one copy per student pair) Project WET Guide  "Incredible Journey--Water Journey Map" p. 161; plastic binder page (one per copy of "Water Journey Map"

    Set up ahead of time: copies run and placed in plastic binder pages

    Children are prepared and will bring outdoors: Dress for the weather

    CONNECT (10 minutes, indoors)

    Begin with a brief mindfulness experience where students follow the journey of a water drop in their inds while teacher reads or tells a mindfulness story such as Mindfulness & Breathing Script.

    Talk about the ways that water changes form and location and that today we will be going outdoors to look for evidence of water being present on and around our school grounds.

    Share the learning target.

    Have students turn and talk; hold a brief discussion.

    Preview the experience of the day:

    • Go outside and will do a Walk and Talk with several partners, making observations about the presence of water
    • Come back indoors to reflect on our learning.

     

    EXPLORE (20 minutes, outdoors)

    Where do we see water, or evidence that water has been here on the school grounds? Remind students to think about all the three states of matter.

    Students walk and talk with teacher leading.

    Stop and discuss.  Talk about evidence that water has been present (visible run-off, gulleys or channels, plants that are present). Give students the "Incredible Journey--Water Journey Map" for pairs.

    Resume Wand Talk resumes. Stop and discuss.

    Provide investigative questions:

    How do we use water? How does our use of the water affect the environment of our city, school community, etc? How does water change as fall changes into winter and how does that affect us? 

    Formative Assessment: Listen to student conversations.

    ENGAGE (5 minutes, outdoors)

    Reflection: Bring students to the school doors to discuss.  Final question: What did you learn today and what helped you learn it.

    Review and Closure:Review the learning target-I can observe the school grounds for evidence of water in all three states, and I can analyze the interdependence of humans and water in the environment.

    Collect student handouts.

    Fifth Grade

    Investigative Questions (specific to this outdoor experience): What are the different components of the natural school's community?  Create a map showing the physical environment to someone who has never been to our school.

    Learning Targets: 

    I can discuss how the school community has changed over time and create an argument based on evidence of the school's past natural environment.

    Success Measures: (The student will know they are successful if they can): Describe differences that they can see in aerial photos of the school community and what they observe while walking around the school grounds.

    Materials Needed: Color copies of aerial photos of the school community (one packet per group of 3 students): 2005201020142017; plastic binder sheets, sticky notes, pencils

    Set up ahead of time: Run packets of aerial photos single-sided); write the year on the front of each image; place each photo in a plastic binder sheet; assemble photos chronologically; staple the plastic sheets to form a packet, so that each team has one of each photos; pull Google Maps up on projector and have document camera available; group students in teams of three.

    Children are prepared and will bring outdoors: Dress for the weather

    CONNECT (10 minutes, indoors)

    Ask students to think about ways that we can know how a community has changed over time.

    Have students turn and talk to share their ideas.  Listen in and share with the class some of the ideas that you are hearing.

    Share that one way historians learn about a place is to study historic photos, images and maps. Today we are going to use aerial photos to see how our school community has changed over time.

    Share an aerial photo on the document camera and compare the image with what students know to be different as of today, compared to a Google Map satellite view.

    Discuss the differences.

    Preview the learning experience:

    • Teams will be given a set of historic images to examine and discuss similarities and differences of what they see in the community; discuss what differences they notice; think about why these differences exist

    • we will come in, and discuss our findings.

    • we will write a claim, evidence, and reasons for trends of change.

    • close with a gallery walk

    State the learing target. Introduce inquiry based question: How has our school community changed over the past decade? Why do you think these changes have occurred?

     

    EXPLORE (20 minutes, outdoors)

     

    Instruct students to explore the school community with their team while examining historic photos and images to compare the community in the past to the community in its current time.  Demonstrate how to use the images and to find landmarks present in the image and still present while standing on the school grounds. Compare what they are viewing from the ground with what is visible in that same area on the image.

    Lead teams to all four corners of the school grounds to make observations and to discuss them with team members.

    Formative Assessment: Ask students to share an observation or two. Ask students to explain why the changes may have occurred and to provide evidence to support their explanations.

     

    ENGAGE (15 minutes, indoors)

    Tell students that they will work in teams, using sticky notes to write claim, reason, evidence (one per sticky note) and on what they observed on their images. Students should arrange the sticky notes in a the order in which they think the argument should flow.

    Example claims: There are more challenges to this community now than there were 20 years ago.

    Reasoning: A growing population of people brings more houses; more roads; less wildlife; smaller food production areas

    Evidence from images: smaller fields, farms are gone, more houses and a school

    Give students time to write and organize their arguments.

    Reflection: On a signal, have students do a Gallery Walk, reading the claims, reasons, and evidence. 

    Bring the class together as a group to talk about the most compelling claims, reasons, and evidence that they read. 

    Ask students to think about what and how they learned during the experience.

    Formative Assessment: Listen to student conversations; read sticky notes

    Review and Closure:Review the learning target- can discuss how the school community has changed over time and create an argument based on evidence of the school's past natural environment.

    Have students stack sticky notes, in order, and have one team member place them in their desks. The sticky notes will be used the following day to write an argument on what the trends are in the school's natural community