Class nature poster: What can we find outside?

DNR forester and landowner walking in landowner's woodlands

Overview

Do you know what kinds of plants and natural items are in your schoolyard? We can find, collect, and observe all sorts of items every season! While you may not know the names of your local flora and fauna, you can use your senses to observe characteristics and your creativity to develop descriptive names.

Level

Grades 3 and up

Subjects

Science, Language Arts, Visual Arts

Skills

Identifying Attributes and Components, Observing, Ordering and Arranging, Organizing Information

Time considerations

Part A: 15 minutes
Part B: 45 minutes

Materials

  • Large sheets of white paper (the back of an existing poster works well) or cardboard—one for each group of kids
  • Clear contact paper
  • Scissors
  • Sharpie pens
  • Optional: Sand pails or collection bags (younger ages),  garbage bag for collecting litter, field guides

Safety

Know what poison ivy looks like and avoid it. All parts of poison ivy plants are toxic all times of the year.

Objectives

  • Students learn proper techniques for collecting natural items without harming the environment.
  • Students will use their senses to observe and describe natural objects.
  • Students will arrange, label, and display natural objects in creative and aesthetically pleasing ways.

Doing the activity

Part A

  • Tell your class that we will be going outside to collect nature items. Ask the children to name some of the things they might find (leaves, twigs, bark, buds, seeds, scat, litter, etc.). List these items on the board.
  • Ask the students to list good rules for collecting items they find outside.
  • Guide them towards these general guidelines, but try to get the kids to come up with these guidelines themselves:
  • Collect items no bigger than your hand.
  • Don’t collect live animals or whole live plants.
  • It’s OK to pick a few leaves, but don’t uproot plants.
  • It’s OK to pick up pieces of bark and twigs that are on the ground, but don’t remove them from a living tree.
  • It’s OK to pick up garbage and bring it to a central collection place (garbage bag). Don’t let young kids pick up glass.
  • Don’t touch scat – but show it to other people if it’s interesting!
  • Know where the plants with burs ("stickers") are located. Avoid those areas. If kids get burs on clothes, tell them to put the burs in the garbage bag. (Burs are seeds-don’t throw them on the ground unless you want more bur plants there later.)

Part B

  • Go outside. Give the students their boundaries.
  • Tell the students to collect 1 to 3 items each. Younger students may want to use collection bags or sand pails to collect their items.
  • Ask each child to closely observe each item using all appropriate senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste). Ask the students to use these descriptive observations and give the object a name (such as Crinkle Leaf, Red Bark, etc.).
  • Back in the classroom, group the students into smaller groups (up to 10 students each) and have them arrange their favorite items on a piece of large paper. Have students label with a Sharpie pen each item on the paper with the name they created.
  • After students finish arranging and labeling their items, cover each poster with clear contact paper. Students should give the poster a title, such as "Things We Found in the Woods" or "Things We Found in the Backyard."
  • Display the posters around the room. In future class periods, you can challenge older students to research the objects’ real names using field guides or other tools.
  • Repeat activity for each season and see what changes!

Tips:  You can do this activity any time of the year.  Make sure items are dry before covering with contact paper.
Smaller groups of kids (10 kids or fewer per “poster”) work better than larger groups.