Look closely and you will see that a vacant lot is not so vacant! Plants of all kinds thrive in vacant lots, along with a host of animals such as insects, birds, and mammals. In this activity, a nearby vacant lot, overgrown strip, or a landscaped area will provide a rich laboratory for students to examine elements of an ecosystem.
This is one of 96 activities that can be found in PLT’s PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide. To get the activity, attend a training either in person or online and receive PLT’s PreK-8 Guide. Below are some supporting resources for this activity.
Every month we carefully select new tools and resources that enhance PLT’s lessons. These include educational apps, videos, posters, interactive websites, careers information, and teacher-generated materials. Browse a chronological listing below:
Detroit Parks Coloring Pages
Learn what makes a city park great, such as local wildlife, spaces for public enjoyment and community activities, with this Detroit Parks Coloring Book. Use these coloring pages (available for download, print, and color) for students to explore the parks around the city of Detroit, Michigan. Then, discuss with students ways your community might conserve and enhance its public spaces with the help of PLT activities and have them investigate organizations, like the non-profit Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, that work to support community public spaces.
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.
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.
Agents of Discovery
Agents of Discovery gets students moving with an augmented reality, geo-triggered app. Students play the role of a top-secret Agent to help solve mysteries of science, culture, technology, and nature. Download the app and mission with WiFi or data and then use the app offline outdoors. Agents of Discovery includes missions all across North America. Find one near you to learn why bumblebees buzz, beavers build dams, and more about the natural world.
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 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.
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.
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.
A free app that can be downloaded onto Apple devices. This story production tool can be used to create a personal story and enhance it by adding your own drawings, audio, and animation. The illustrations can be moved, expanded, reduced, or rotated with touch, and you can record your own voice as narrator.
Have students mastered their basic shapes? If so, try having them put different shapes together to create shape bugs and spiders!