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Lesson Plan #:AELP-ECL000
Author: Loretta Pollock, Swanson Elementary, Palmer, AK Date: May 1994

Grade Level(s): 1, 2


  • Science/Ecology

OVERVIEW: In today’s world of high consumption it is important to keep people in touch with the earth and its diverse life forms. As long as one’s senses are involved, much can be learned by even the youngest child. If we allow children the opportunity to experience nature, and let them see our own enthusiasm, they will be on their way to a lifelong appreciation of our natural surroundings. If we give them direction in their observations, they may become the natural scientists and caretakers of tomorrow’s world.


The purpose of this woods and pond unit is to involve children with nature in a living, experiencing way. The activities are designed to give children a hands-on approach to learning about their natural surroundings. Following the seasons through a multitude of changes throughout three quarters of the year gives continuity to the unit and increases their awareness of the important part that nature plays in our lives. Children who have the opportunity to be involved in this way gain knowledge and show their appreciation for the multitude of life forms in their care for the area in which they are encountered.


After completion of the activities in this unit, children will be able to demonstrate the following skills and understandings:

  • Recognize that the pond/woods environments are ecosystems and state some of the differences in the two ecosystems.
  • Identify three of the trees in the area by their leaves and bark characteristics.
  • Recognize three shrubs by their growing manner and fruit.
  • Identify by common name three animals and plants in or near the pond.
  • Identify three changes in the two ecosystems over a span months.
  • ACTIVITIES: These activities are only a few which can be used to involve children in nature in a real way. Instead of teaching an ecosystem unit, plant unit, or animal unit in isolation, the use of a local natural area ties all of these things together in a meaningful way for the children. It also gives the science curriculum continuity over time. Hopefully they will spark your imagination and you will come up with lots of other ideas for involving children with our natural world.

  • Take the children on many pond and woods walks to the same area to observe and identify plants and animals spanning the seasons. Do drawing and writing activities with the children both in the field and back in the classroom. Keep an ecosystem book.
  • After the children observe small pond creatures, bring back a few to the classroom for further observation. Be sure to bring back the pond water with them. Have the students observe some pond water under a microscope the first day, second day, and fourth day after bringing into a warm building. They make comparisons and note differences in both kind and number of organisms. Using prepared, colored slides of tiny pond creatures, have children look through the microscope and then on a four inch circle, draw what they observe through the microscope. Mounted all together, this is a very effective display.
  • On at least one woods walk, do hug-a-tree activities. In this activity children are blindfolded and led to a tree by another child and returned to a starting point after careful use of their sense of touch. Free of the blindfold, they are to find the tree they have hugged. Gather leaves and make leaf prints with the students after comparisons as to size, color, smell and feel. In a tall mature forest, ask the children to lie on the ground on their backs. With eyes shut, they are to be very still and just feel and hear the woods around them. With eyes open, but still on their backs, they look up to the tops of the trees and quietly observe. (A breezy day is very effective for this activity.)
  • Invite you local Forest Service Greenhouse person to come with samples of seedling trees to talk to your children. Most will give each child a seedling to take home and plant.

    All listed above.


    This unit involves children in learning activities that require the use of all their senses. Taking them out into nature is the most likely way to insure their learning and appreciation of this wonderful world, our earth. Collect their art, writing and record keeping and display it at your school’s science fare, hang it in the hallways, decorate you classroom with it. The children’s new knowledge will show up in creative art and writing projects, and all across the curriculum.

    May 1994

    These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops.