Resources for Grades K-2 Activity – Backyard Safari

Every organism needs food, water, shelter, and space. A place that meets all these needs is called a habitat. Students will explore a nearby habitat—their backyard, schoolyard, or other outdoor setting—to look for signs of animals living there.

For the complete activity and more like this, purchase the Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide at Shop.PLT.org and/or attend a professional development training in your state.

Below are some supporting resources for this activity.

STUDENT PAGES

Download the copyright-free student pages that are included with this activity:

Safari Count (PDF)

Safari Site Survey (PDF)

STEM STRATEGIES

Engage students in real-world applications of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education.

Try these STEM Connections for this PLT activity:

RECOMMENDED READING

Expand your students’ learning and imaginations. Help students meet their reading goals, while building upon concepts learned in this activity, with the following children’s book recommendations:

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

The following tools and resources may be used to enhance the activity.

  • Seek by iNaturalist

    The Seek App uses image recognition technology to identify the plants and animals all around you. Earn badges for seeing different types of birds, amphibians, plants, and fungi and participate in monthly observation challenges.

  • Sound Map of the Forest

    Listen to the sounds of the forest with this interactive map by Timber Festival. This open-source library maps recorded sounds of woodlands and forests from all around the world. Tune into the sounds of nature with your students, then go outside and create a sound map together of the schoolyard or write a poem about what you hear.

  • Video Demo: Schoolyard Safari

    Watch the Schoolyard Safari Demonstration video (6 minutes). In PLT’s Schoolyard Safari, students go on a safari to explore a nearby habitat – the schoolyard – while looking for signs of animals living there. This video was developed by Anita Smith, a Maine PLT Facilitator.

  • Foldable Paper Microscopes

    Foldscope is a foldable microscope made mostly of paper that achieves the goal of being less than one U.S. dollar in parts to produce. These origami microscopes weigh less than 10 grams and provide the magnification power of your standard classroom microscope. Produced by Foldscope Instruments, the company’s mission is to produce low-cost scientific tools that globally expand access to science.

  • The Fresh Air App

    Download the Fresh Air – Hyperlocal Weather & NOAA Radar Map app to explore the weather around you using data from the U.S. NOAA Weather radar map. Visualize local temperature, precipitation, wind, and more with daily weather notifications. 

  • NestWatch Citizen Science Project

    NestWatch is a nest-monitoring project developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in collaboration with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and funded by the National Science Foundation. Sign up with your classroom to become a certified NestWatcher and help track the status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds including nesting, eggs laid, eggs hatched, and hatching survival. Record your observations on the NestWatch App. Data collected through this citizen science project is intended to study bird populations and how they may be changing as a result of climate change, habitat loss, and the introduction of invasive species. You can even create your own nest box trails to monitor birds more closely. NestWatch’s new free resource for middle school educators, called Thinking Outside the (Nest) Box, can help educators anywhere in the country create nest box trails for birds on school grounds in order to provide habitat and project-based learning.

  • Disneynature Explore

    The free Disneynature Explore application for iPads and iPhones combines an augmented reality experience with animal behavior gameplay to encourage young students (grades PreK-3) and their families to get outside and connect with nature. In the app, 3D images of animals appear in the camera’s viewer, providing students with “wild adventures” in their own backyard. For example, students can see their surroundings through a butterfly’s eyes, follow tracks with a bear to find its cub, and crack a nut like a chimpanzee.

  • Create a Schoolyard Wildlife Habitat

    The Schoolyard Habitat Project Guide from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service gives step-by-step recommendations for creating a wildlife habitat at site, based on on-the-ground experience from successful projects.

  • Find Nearby Trails and Parks

    AllTrails is a free app that helps users discover the outdoors. Use it to find a hiking path suitable for children, to search for local places to bike or fish, or to plan a national park visit.

  • Bird Sleuth

    The BirdSleuth Guidebook from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers step-by-step instructions to enable families, school groups, and others to get outdoors and connect with nature. Use this booklet in conjunction with PLT lessons, for example, go on a habitat scavenger hunt (Trees as Habitats), create a sound map (Sounds Around), and identify backyard species (Schoolyard Safari and Name That Tree). The BirdSleuth program helps K-12 students participate in citizen science bird projects by guiding them through several tasks, such as using online resources to find your state bird, looking for birds that fit into different groups, practicing bird counting and entering data online, extracting data from eBird about local birds, and taking action to improve bird habitat in your area.

  • Color the World!

    Coloringnature.org offers more than 500 realistically illustrated coloring pages that can be downloaded and printed for use in PreK-8 classrooms. Choose from categories such as amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, insects, animal homes, biomes and habitats, and trees. Consider pairing the pages with PLT activities as diagrams, models, or assessment tools.

  • USGS Water Science School

    This U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Water Science School website offers information on many aspects of water, along with pictures, data, maps, and an interactive center where you can share your opinions and test your water knowledge.

  • Schoolyard Safari Bingo Card

    Have students embark on an individual or group scavenger hunt using this photo-based, Bingo-style card, created specifically for PLT’s Schoolyard Safari activity. 

  • Secret Lives of Wild Animals

    This National Science Foundation website looks at new technologies being used to observe animals in their natural environments. See video clips and stories about the technology used for tracking white-tailed deer, ocelots, agoutis, dragonflies, zebras, and seals.

  • Earth from Space

    This Smithsonian Institution website provides students (and teachers!) access to views of conditions and events on earth that are nearly impossible to document from the Earth’s surface. The site proves interactive; explaining how satellite imagery is gathered and used to better understand the world around us.

  • Tips for Taking Students Outside

    Friends of the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center has put together some short, simple, and practical recommendations to help effectively incorporate use of an outdoor classroom. Suggestions include finding an experienced mentor, scheduling a set time for taking students outdoors, and examining learning standards to see what are best taught outside.

  • iNaturalist

    iNaturalist is a species identification app that allows users to record their observations of living things by way of taking photos and appending GPS coordinates to their discoveries. Each user has their own profile and can follow others to keep a tab of what others are posting, or share what they have photographed. The app also facilitates connections with thousands of scientists to help users identify the species they have observed.

    Another exciting aspect of iNaturalist is that users can contribute their photos and data and participate in a number of citizen science projects. You can find a list of some of these projects here or click on “find your location” using this map to see the observations in your area. You can also develop your own for your school or local community!

  • Ordinary Extraordinary Junco

    Introduce yourself to one of North America’s most common groups of songbirds, the Juncos. Readily observed in backyards, city parks, and forests alike, these little gray birds—sometimes called “Snowbirds”—can be easily overlooked. But for scientists who study animal behavior, ecology, and evolutionary biology, the Junco is a rockstar. Use these video shorts from The Junco Project and a pair of binoculars to get outside and make some Junco friends!

  • Encounters: Wild Explorer

    The public radio program Encounters: Radio Experiences in the North explores the natural history of Alaska and the Far North. An accompanying website offers K-12 teachers links to the episodes as well as resources, such as slideshows, videos, and sound clips, introducing the animals and habitats of the regions: beavers, bears, caribou, humpback whales, boreal forests, moose, and others.

  • The Secret Life of Trees

    This animated presentation for students in grades 3-5 explains in detail how an acorn becomes a tree. The audio is available in English and Spanish.

  • Schoolyard Habitat Program

    This US Fish & Wildlife Service initiative helps teachers and students create wildlife habitats at their schools. Their Schoolyard Habitat Project Guide offers teaching and learning opportunities in many discipline areas and provides opportunities for long-term data collection. Additionally, schools and organizations serving K-12 students may apply for grants of up to $8,000.

  • WildLab Bird

    A free app that can be downloaded onto any Apple device (try iBird Lite for Android). Use WildLab Bird to learn the basics of bird identification. This application uses audio, photographs, maps, and the process of elimination to help identify over 200 bird species. Sightings can also be entered into a national bird watching database for comparison. 

  • Dawn Publications – If You Love Honey

    “If you love honey, then you must love honeybees” so says Dawn Publications’ children’s book, If You Love Honey.  If You Love Honey takes readers on an exploration through the benefits and beauty that prevail through the relationships of living, breathing organisms that co-exist in nature. The colorful illustrations and simple concepts help young minds foster curiosity and develop an appreciation for nature. This book explores the importance of oak trees, mushrooms, soil, earthworms, and more. Be sure to check out the end of the book for fun facts about pollinators, seed spreaders, and beneficial insects.