Sample Animal and Plant Nametags
Use or adapt these materials provided by PLT state programs in Wyoming, Arkansas, and Washington to include species and ecosystems found in your area. Distribute these as flashcards or name tags to your students to research. Next, using the instructions provided in PLT’s Web of Life activity, have students create a “web of life” to show how all living things are connected to others, no matter how unrelated organisms may seem. For younger children, try these coloring pages.
Food Web, a Science Trek Video
PBS LearningMedia’s 4-minute video Food Web, from Idaho public TV’s Science Trek series for grades K-6, illustrates how energy from the sun moves through the food chain, the various factors that contribute to a food chain, and where humans fit into it. Support materials include a set of discussion questions and alignment to standards, including National Standards in Science Literacy and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Create a free account to see state standards, and to share this resource as a class assignment.
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.
Podcast Series: Learning About Green Careers
Learn more about the work of a tree conservation ecologist in this episode from the podcast series Planted: Finding your roots in STEM Careers. Dr. Silvia Alvarez-Clare works at The Morton Arboretum, located 25 miles west of Chicago. She collaborates with individuals and institutions all over the world to save the brandegee oak (Quercus brandegeei) from extinction. Dr. Alvarez-Clare talks about her career path and discovering her passion in tree conservation and shares how climate change is impacting tree life cycles
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.
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.
Endangered Species Success Stories
Success Stories is an interactive map of the United States that documents the 40-year impact the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has had on preventing species extinction. Students in grade levels 6-12 can use this interactive map to learn more about endangered species. Developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the success stories map celebrates the accomplishments of conservation efforts under ESA. Read more about species brought back from the brink of extinction such as the Canada Lynx (WY), Swallow-tailed kite (GA), and the Casey’s June beetle (CA).
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.
Are you looking for a fun and interactive way to teach your students about seeds? Why not have your students play the Seed Racers game? In this simple point and click style game, students learn about the types, features, and dispersal methods of many different kinds of seeds. Students work through multiple missions to collect seeds, all while learning about how seeds move from trees and other plants to new sites for germination and growth.
NatureWorks Video Series
Discover the natural world and the connections that make nature work in this 16-part video series for students in grades 3-6. Developed and produced by New Hampshire Public Television and the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, each episode is fifteen minutes long and helps students explore the ways living things interact with the environment. NatureWorks is designed to align with state and national science frameworks and standards and is a great way to introduce young people to the natural sciences.
Each video consists of five distinct segments: an instructional section, which covers basic concepts like habitat, adaptation and biomes; an interactive Q&A segment that explores the show topics in greater detail; a close-up segment focusing on a particular animal or plant; an Outdoor Trek featuring student reports; and a review which sums up material presented in the program.
Where is A? Where is Z? Under a rock? In a tree? Go outside and see. Invite children to use this pictorial guide to discover the alphabet in nature.
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.
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.
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!
Bryce Canyon Electronic Field Trip
Take an electronic field trip inside Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park. During this live, one-hour podcast, students will learn about the importance of the park, hunt for signs of land and aquatic dinosaurs, explore “hoodoos” (unique limestone formations), and see animals that live in this extreme environment.
Plant for the Planet Video
Inspired by Wangari Maathai, 9-year-old Felix Finkbeiner founded “Plant for the Planet” and has planted more than 500,000 trees in Germany which he says will help sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Watch Felix’s video, part of the Young Voices on Climate Change series, to learn about his efforts to plant trees for a healthier world.
Endangered Species Interactive Map
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has launched a web-based interactive map with information about endangered species success in every state: stories of species making strides towards recovery, audio interviews and podcasts with biologists about on-the-ground endangered species conservation, and more.
American Bird Conservancy Video: Go Birding, Save Species!
Enjoy this one-minute video featuring our favorite feathered friends. Can you identify all of these spectacular birds? Visit www.conservationbirding.org for the full species list. The video was created to showcase the American Bird Conservancy’s web site that enables birders to find birding routes and lodges that support habitat protection. Go birding to celebrate Earth Day!
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.
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.
Conservation Connect LIVE! Broadcasts
Connect your students with conservation professionals using the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s new broadcast series. Visit the FWS website to pick one of an existing dozen videos to use in your education and conservation programming. Approximately 8 additional videos will be added over the next 8 months. New broadcasts take place at 2pm Eastern Time on the third Wednesday of each month, but educators have access to the archives at any time!