Ecological Science for Elementary Grades





Letters sent by lawmakers to agencies in an attempt to direct money to projects in their home districts.

While none of these requests is legally binding, agencies are loath to antagonize the legislators who approve their budgets, especially when they have added extra money with a specific project in mind. And unlike official earmarks, these indirect allocations are not explicitly tied to particular lawmakers in the text of legislation.



Arcady, or Arcadia, a mountainous region in central Greece, was represented in Greek and Roman mythology as an earthly paradise. It was the land of Pan, the god of woods, fields, and flocks.

Cut off from the rest of Greece by mountains, the people of ancient Arcady could pursue their simple way of life, based on agriculture and herding, without interruption or influence from the outside world. But the land fell into decay after being conquered by the Romans.

The image of Arcady as an ideal state of peace and simplicity has been used by poets and artists through the ages. Ancient authors such as Theocritus and Virgil* sang its praises. It appears in later works of literature such as Arcadia by the Italian poet Sanazaro and The Shepherd's Calendar by English poet Edmund Spenser. However, another English poet, William Cowper, attacked the idea of using Arcadia to symbolize an ideal state that never really existed, especially for poor country people.


Trees Don't Grow on Money!



In this proposed unit of study the students would be working with the Cumberland Island Natural Seashore located in Camden County. This barrier island is a major nesting ground for loggerhead sea turtles. The students would work with the island biologists in identifying and counting nests in the spring and if possible work with the biologists in July and August in counting the baby sea turtles when they hatch. The students would document the nest building sites on a map and measure the distance to the high tide markers as well as the distance to the low tide line on the beach. If possible the students would observe the nest building activity and document this with video and digital cameras. The students would then graph the data onto a table to compare the nest sites based on the distance from the waterlines and compare and contrast the different nesting sites. The students could then hypothesize why the nest sites are located where they are and make theories as to how and why the mother sea turtle choose the nesting sites.

Some questions that the students might come up with to guide their investigations might be: Was making this nest this a learned or inherited trait of the sea turtle?
Was the mother sea turtle born on Cumberland Island?
How did the mother sea turtle find her nesting site?

If the students were able to continue their work into the summer then the students could be present for the birth of the nests that were located. The students could then form theories as to why the baby sea turtles know where to go when they reach the surface of the nest. The students could also observe the productivity of the nests and count the number of hatchlings that were born.

The students could also research and compare the number of located nests to past years to identify any patterns that may form over the years. To continue the investigations the students would also research the weather t of the last five years to determine if the was any correlation to the number of nests each year and make predictions about future nest numbers based on the past information.

Cumberland Island is a great place for this type of investigation as the University of Georgia has biologists working the sea turtles and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife has personnel assigned to this type of investigation.

The Georgia Standards that would be addressed in this activity would include:
S5CS1. Students will be aware of the importance of curiosity, honesty, openness, and skepticism in science and will exhibit these traits in their own efforts to understand how the world works.
S5CS3. Students will use tools and instruments for observing, measuring, and manipulating objects in scientific activities.
c. Use computers, cameras and recording devices for capturing information.
S5L2. Students will recognize that offspring can resemble parents in inherited traits and learned behaviors.
a. Compare and contrast the characteristics of learned behaviors and of inherited traits.


Georgia Department of Education (2006). Georgia Performance Standards. Retrieved November24, 2010 from https://www.georgiastandards.org/Standards/Georgia%20Performance%20Standards /FifthGradeApprove d7-12-2004.pdf.




Every year the students in Grand Prairie ISD are given the opportunity to take learning out of the classroom and venture to the Grand Prairie Nature Center. This school run nature center gives students first hand experiences with collecting and analyzing data in their local ecosystem. One activity that we do with the fourth grade students is take temperature data points from different sections of the river. Students are given thermometers and data collection materials so that they can test the water temperature at several predetermined points in the river. As they collect temperatures, they are also looking for plant life, animal life, and pollution in or near the river. With all of this first-hand data collected, students then return to the nature center to compare and contrast their findings with classmates. In small groups, students will generate hypotheses on why there is more plant/animal life in certain portions of the river and less in others. They will relate temperature findings to river depth, location, pollution, and plant/animal populations.

At this point, community partners would be brought in to discuss the water runoff system in the community and possible causes of pollution to the river. The nature center coordinator would also be there to assist students in developing and building on their hypotheses. This joint partnership between community leaders and field experts will provide the richest educational experience for the students while they work through the inquiry process.

A way to integrate technology into the activity would be for the small groups to create a river blog. Students could create an online posting of their findings that could be added to weekly. This blog would allow for community support in a school based project. This blog delivers a tangible audience for the students which provides purpose and direction in the river activity.

This type of learning activity addresses several academic standards in the areas of science and technology.

1. TEKS Scientific investigation and reasoning:
The student conducts classroom and outdoor investigations, following home and school safety procedures and environmentally appropriate and ethical practices. The student is expected to:
(A) demonstrate safe practices and the use of safety equipment as described in the Texas Safety Standards during classroom and outdoor investigations.

2. TEKS Scientific investigation and reasoning:
The student uses scientific inquiry methods during laboratory and outdoor investigations. The student is expected to:
(A) plan and implement descriptive investigations, including asking well-defined questions, making inferences, and selecting and using appropriate equipment or technology to answer his/her questions;
(B) collect and record data by observing and measuring, using the metric system, and using descriptive words and numerals such as labeled drawings, writing, and concept maps;
(C) construct simple tables, charts, bar graphs, and maps using tools and current technology to organize, examine, and evaluate data;
(D) analyze data and interpret patterns to construct reasonable explanations from data that can be observed and measured;
(E) perform repeated investigations to increase the reliability of results; and
(F) communicate valid, oral, and written results supported by data.

3. TEKS Technology Communication:
The student formats digital information for appropriate and effective communication.


Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (2008-2010). Texas Educational Agency. Retrieved November 23, 2010 from, http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index.aspx




I (and my entire grade level team) have a central theme of water, and we wrap a lot of our science on that theme. When we moved into a brand new building a year and a half ago, we also got a new detainment pond on our school grounds. I had heard that our pond had been planted as a native wetland, and wrote a small grant to get us some water testing equipment. After I got the equipment, I taught my students to do the tests and we started visiting the pond regularly to collect both qualitative and quantitative observations. I am hoping that our current study (after I get back from medical leave) will develop into a complete inquiry project for each student, or at least pairs of students.

This project ties in to our outdoor education trip to camp for a week, because we test the Snoqualmie River and other waterways there and make comparisons. We begin to look at salmon habitat, and then at about this time of year we partner with a local non-profit group that does in-school classes and field experiences at two local streams, again running similar tests. Our grade raises salmon in a cold tank, and then in the spring we release those salmon in the same streams we surveyed earlier.

All of this, from the mountains at camp to “our” streams that run directly into Puget Sound, has a profound impact on our students. At camp, they see the actual water they will be drinking three weeks later. At the streams, they see the salmon redds that can be disturbed by their own carelessness. They see dog walkers by those streams, even their own dogs, and they realize what happens if they do not pick up behind them. The water ties it all together, all year long.

The pond study in particular addresses most parts of our state science standards. It addresses EALR 1, 2, and 3, which are Systems, Inquiry, and Application. EALR is content area information, and the project covers a lot of that as well.

Students bring in the data they collect, and we post the data on Excel spreadsheets. Over time, this information will take shape and allow them to see trends that connect to local weather as well.

I think if I were allowed, I would only work on this, all day every day. We generate so much excitement.


Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (2009). Online grade level standards Retrieved November 24, 2010, from http://standards.ospi.k12.wa.us/ContentListByGrade.aspx?subject=10,PE&gl=30


Students at my school would look forward to a field trip to explore their surroundings. With a large numbers of people in our community selling timber and clearing land, students are curious about the impact displaced wildlife will have on their future. Many students noticed an increased number of squirrels and deer on our school campus. They also mentioned the high number of dead animals they noticed along the highways. One day in class, we discussed how the extinction of one animal system could affect other animals in our eco-system. Students are genuinely concerned about animals in their community and they voiced concern about the need to cut timber to offset the economic woes in their community. They realize that the rapid demise of their eco-system will, sooner or later, impact their lifestyle.

As a health teacher, we discuss how the environment influences our health behaviors and decisions, as well as, why teenagers should become advocates for change. A project that I feel could incorporate ecology and health while giving students an opportunity to use 21st century skills would be recording the impact of tree cutting on the environment and wildlife habitat.

We would start our project with a field trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina where the tourism industry has made created an ecological disaster area. Much of the coast is eroding because of hurricanes and the remaining coastal area is being developed for residential or commercial purposes. Student will compare our local timber cutting impact on wildlife with that of the Outer Banks. Students will identify wildlife that is dependent upon each environment and advocate for solutions for decreasing tree cutting. Students will use spreadsheets to document data they obtain through Internet and local wildlife offices. Our local wildlife offices teach lessons about tree conservation. I would arrange a class for students to help reinforce the concepts of this lesson. Students will create a cause and effect table as well as predict the future of wildlife habitats if the current rate of tree cutting continues.

Students will also relate the impact of economy on environmental health. Using health literacy skills, students will determine their role in saving the environment and protecting their local ecology. Students will design a public service announcement that promotes healthy environment choices and alternatives to tree cutting. A primary goal of the field trip would be to show students that people in our community are not alone in their quest to offset financial hardships. I want students to come away with a sense of urgency to save our environment and to protect wildlife. I also want to raise the social conscienceness of my students by teaching them ways to improve their lives without destroying the environment that they will need for the future.

This lesson would fulfill North Carolina Standard Course of Study Competency Goal 5:
“The learner will develop an understanding of the ecological relationships among organisms” (Learn NC, 2010).
This goal includes Objective 5.01:
Investigate and analyze the interrelationships among organisms, populations, communities, and ecosystems to include techniques of field ecology, abiotic and biotic factors, and carrying capacity (Learn NC, 2010).




I teach in the Pacific Northwest, and with that being said, and the fact that currently I am teaching ecosystems to my 5th graders, I would like to have them be able to take their inquiries a step further and focus on bird watching within their community. What better way than to have them participate in a bird watching national annual event! The purpose is get kids to start thinking about all of the species of birds within their local community especially the types of birds in the area during the winter months. The Washington State Science Standard is EALR 2: Inquiry-Planning Investigations: Students know that scientists plan and conduct different kinds of investigations, depending on the questions they are trying to answer. Types of investigations include systematic observations, and descriptions, field studies, models, and open-ended explorations, as well as controlled experiments. (4-5 INQB).

As Tillery, Enger, and Ross stated, "If numbers of a particular kind of organism in a community increase or decrease significantly, there will be a ripple effect through the community." (2008, p 565).
This fact helps us realize that we must take a look at really protecting these habitats, and when students get the opportunity to observe, collect data, analyze, and compare results with other students and other communities, it gives them a reality of their environment. Our responsibility as educators is to teach them when using computer technology is important and to help them get involved in the environment around them.

The best way to get them thinking about the species within their area, is that I am planning on having them participate in the Annual Great Backyard Bird Count from Friday, February 18th-Monday, February 21st. You can find all the information about this on the website, www.birdsource.org/gbbc. I will prepare them for this event by having them make a bird feeder out of a well-cleaned carton or 2 liter bottle, and have them smooth out the edges with a nail file, to teach them about how birds can be harmed easily by sharp edges, and to think about how to prepare a bird feeder for their backyard that will attract birds of all kinds. Birds especially like black oil safflower seeds, so I plan to have all materials in the class ready to put their feeders together. There is a tally sheet on that website that helps students try to tally correct species, and if they don't know the species that website helps kids find the species as close to accuracy as possible. They submit their daily tallies and observations to the website each of the 4 days. After the weekend project is over, students may even win prizes, such as binoculars and books on birds in their area, and how to protect bird wild life and habitats. This site gives an introduction video that you can show in your classroom to help them understand the whole process of bird watching and this annual event-step by step.

The website I found that gives a good step-by-step bird feeder plan for your classroom or at home with your own kids is the American Museum of Natural History's website on biodiversity. Great site for kids and teachers: http://www.amnh.org/ology/index.php?channel=biodiversity#. Another site that I like to use is the Washington Biodiversity Project website: http://www.biodiversity.wa.gov/education/forkids.html.

When this weekend project is finished, students will be graded on their daily research findings, and how well they researched the birds they counted to find some or all of the species. Students will also write a persuasive essay on why bird watching and species protection is so important to the world we live in. For the technology piece, students will take their outcomes and present a power point slide show to explain to the class their bird watching findings and report all the species they found, including what was surprising, how they discovered the species and where, and what was surprising to them and interesting throughout the weekend project. In the spring, students will have another opportunity to share their bird watching report with the class to compare different species found during the spring months.


American Museum of Natural History (2010). Retrieved November 25, 2010, from http://www.amnh.org/ology/index.php?channel=biodiversity#

The Great Backyard Bird Count (2010). Retrieved November 25, 2010, from http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/

Tillery, B., Enger, E., & Ross, F. (2008) Integrated science (4th ed.) New York, NY: McGraw-Hill

Washington Biodiversity Project (2010). Retrieved November 25, 2010, from http://www.biodiversity.wa.gov/education/forkids.html

Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (2009). Online grade level standards Retrieved November 25, 2010, from http://standards.ospi.k12.wa.us/ContentListByGrade.aspx?subject=10,PE&gl=30




The ability of an ecosystem’s inhabitants to locate food is a life sustaining characteristic. Unless the organism is at the top of the food chain, evasive abilities, including camouflaged coloring are important to the animals’ chances for survival. On the other hand, in order to counteract these defense mechanisms, the predator must rely on its senses to detect its prey.
The following activity is a nice introduction to the concept of adaptive coloring which is also connected to the larger idea of evolution. It offers the students the opportunity to simulate both the predators’ actions as well as the prey’s defensive strategies in an outdoor venue. One team (berries) will create a color (read food) trail in a local park or outdoor site. Using pieces of red, blue, yellow, green and brown colored wool, or straws or common objects, the first group will place these “tasty morsels” on either side of the predetermined trail. Although hidden in plain sight and within easy reach the second group of student bears, the student berries will try to put the colored objects against a similarly colored background (green wool on a green leaf, etc.). This should test the observational skills of the bears.
As the bears discover the hidden berries, they take note but do not remove them. Later they will address the questions: “Were some of the colors easier to spot than others?” “Did some students spot more berries than other?” If so, compare and contrast the techniques used. After this first round, the teams exchange roles (UNESCO-UNEP International Environmental Education Program, no date).
As a follow up activity the students can apply their technological skills by transferring their reactions to the activity on a blog site. They might also create an "Eye Spy" type poster with various organisms using their coloration to hide among the natural flora and landscape. This can be copied and posted on the school website.

Science Learning Standards addressed:

Learn and contribute productively as individuals and as members of groups.

Express and interpret information and ideas.

Recognize and apply connections of important information and ideas within and among learning areas.


UNESCO-UNEP International Environmental Education Program. (No date). Retrieved on November 23, 2010 from the website: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0009/000963/096345eo.pdf




Rainforests are Green!


Rainforests even recycle their own rain. As water evaporates from the forest back to the air, it forms clouds over the canopy. Later the clouds will rain once again over the forests.




ll h vv