A City in the Forest
How is a forest like a city? This 4-minute video, A City in a Forest from PBS Plum Landing, explores a child’s perspective of a forest and what they see living and growing on trees—from the top of the canopy, to their roots in the ground, to dead trees lying on the forest floor. Aligned to several Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) standards, use this video to teach your students about ecosystems and engage them in conversations about their own community and urban forests. This video is one of many resources offered by PBS Kids through Plum Landing, a multi-platform, indoor-outdoor, science exploration adventure for kids.
Adopt a Tree Journal
Encourage children to “adopt” a nearby tree. It could be a tree in their backyard, in a city park, on a street in their neighborhood, or at school. Ask students to keep a journal about their tree they have “adopted” to study. Share or adapt this Adopt a Tree Journal, suitable for grades 1-4, with your students. This 28-page guide, developed by Minnesota PLT with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, provides students a template to record and analyze information they collect over time. Use it to help children really get to know about that special tree in their lives over the course of a school year, or a semester. Pages include:
- ART: Drawing a tree from different perspectives.
- SCIENCE: Making scientific observations about a tree’s leaves, twigs, and fruits. Looking for animal clues around a tree.
- MATH: Measuring perimeter (circumference) around a tree trunk.
- MATH: Measuring crown spread and learning about averages.
- ELA: Applying different poetic forms writing about their tree.
Poster: Animals at Risk from Climate Change
Animals at Risk from Climate Change is an educational poster developed by the Global Education Project. The poster presents a succinct overview of the fundamental impacts of greenhouse gases and features 25 animals currently at risk because of climate change. Through illustrations, symbols and brief explanatory text, learn about the biological traits and environmental conditions that cause a species to be susceptible to climate change. This 24″ x 30″ poster is available in folded, flat, and laminated formats.
PHYLO: The Ecosystem Trading Card Game
A study 20 years ago found that British kids were better at identifying Pokemon than real wildlife. So a Canadian professor of teaching has crowdsourced ideas and created a competitive card game that teaches kids about ecosystems.
Learn more about this scientific Pokemon-type card game called Phylo: The Ecosystem Trading Card Game. Download rules and a starter deck for free and watch this video to learn how to play.
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.
Junior Ranger Activity Book
In 2016, the National Park Service (NPS) celebrated a milestone birthday, 100 years! In celebration of its centennial, NPS created the Centennial Junior Ranger Activity Book. Explore the history of the National Park Service and complete fun activities with this printable book. While this book is geared for 4th grade students, all are welcome to enjoy.
Go Plant a Tree!
In this short video from PBS Plum Landing, see how students work with a local arborist to plant a tree in their community. Underneath the video, you’ll find some simple conversation starting questions and additional resources to inspire your students.
Living with Wildlife: Snags
What is a snag? How do dead and dying trees benefit the ecosystem? Learn how dead trees can actually provide more habitats for wildlife than when they are alive with Snags—The Wildlife Tree, published by Washington state Department of Fish & Wildlife. The article highlights species that use snag trees to survive, what kinds of trees make the best snags, and how to create a snag tree for wildlife. For more species fact sheets and ways to attract wildlife to your yard, check out this Living with Wildlife series.
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.
Schoolyard Habitat Guide
This guide provides the basic steps needed to restore and/or create wildlife habitat. It is designed so that students complete several tasks that will lead to establishing a forest, meadow, or wetland on school grounds. The projects can range in size from a small 20’ by 20’ area to an acre or more. These steps were developed from the experiences of several schools that have completed similar projects. The process incorporates critical thinking and decision-making skills while challenging students in reading, writing, science, mathematics, and language arts. You can download the entire PDF online for free from the US Fish & Wildlife Service Website.
US Fish and Wildlife’s Neighborhood Explorers Game for 8-11 year olds allows students to take an interest in their own backyards. Students learn about nature as they complete games in the Neighborhood Explorers (NX) clubhouse and earn points for observing nature in person. Students are asked to record observations of bugs, birds, and other wildlife found in their own backyards. Students then submit their findings online and can compare statistics and generate reports. The website also offers ideas for conservation activities that students can do at home.
Tree Flip-Up Diagram
This is an enlarged version of the same diagram from Activity 21: Adopt a Tree
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.
Mission Geography supplies remote sensing lesson plans, made available by NASA.
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!
Leafsnap is a free app that can be downloaded onto the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad (Andriod version in development). Leafsnap uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from individual leaf photographs you take in the field. This application contains high-resolution images of bark, flowers, fruit, seeds, and more. Currently Leafsnap specializes in tree species found in the Northeastern United States, but expansion to include all US regions is underway.
Arkive’s Wildlife Images
At this award-winning website from Wildscreen USA, teachers can access more than 40,000 digital wildlife images and 6,000 wildlife films. Images can be searched either by species or geography or by type of image. In addition, the site’s education pages include resources for teaching animal classification along with educational games.
ARKive’s “Survival” App
Use your mobile device to race against the clock in a battle for survival! Tap, drag, scroll, swipe and pinch your way through a series of quick-fire mini-games to reveal the identity of some of the world’s most endangered animals. Full of real-life photographs, this fun and educational application tests speed, agility, endurance and intelligence, essential skills needed to become a Top Survivor.
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.
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.
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.
A free app that can be downloaded onto Apple or Android devices. This is a good tool for teachers and classrooms. Easily create bar, line and pie charts that you can customize, save and e-mail or upload. The charts you create can be saved using multiple color schemes and in multiple sizes. The app also works without an internet connection.
Forests, by Cathryn Sill
Look to Forests by Cathryn Sill to introduce early learners to forest habitats and the organisms found there. Each page presents one sentence describing a particular forest habitat: boreal forest, tropical rain forest, cloud forest, temperate rain forest, deciduous forest, or tropical dry forest. Each description is accompanied by a realistic illustration. The afterward also contains more information about each habitat, which might be helpful for educators. This book supports Next Generation Science Standard 2-LS4-1 (ISBN: 9781561457342, Grades preK-3).
Birding Competitions for Young People
The Race 4 Birds Foundation is a new nonprofit organization that formed to promote and support youth birding. The Race 4 Birds competition challenges youth participants to identify and quantify the number of birds sighted within 24 hours. The site offers a planning guide, detailed instructions, and resources to help get students involved and excited.
PBS Kids Plum Landing
A PBS KIDS environmental science project, PBS PLUM LANDING offers educators fun and engaging resources to get kids outside and connected to nature. Encourage kids to explore their local water systems, find out what happens to life in the desert, and investigate nature’s sounds and smells. Download PLUM LANDING’s free summer camp resources, including interactive games and videos. Furthermore, all of PLUM’s lesson plans are Next Generation Science (NGSS) standards aligned and easy for educators to plug and play throughout their summer programming.
Paper Plate Habitat
Florida PLT has created a Paper Plate Habitat template to be used in conjunction with the exploration of microhabitats. This document contains a list of materials, instructions, and images necessary for students to create their own Paper Plate Habitats and begin exploring the life and interrelationships found within.