Create A Field Guide

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Lesson Summary:

Students create thier own unique IslandWood field guide through the week.  As you walk the trails and ecosystems around campus, get the students thinking abou the organisms living here by slowing down your pace and practicing close observations.  when they find something of interest have them pay close attention to the little details.  Talk about identifying marks and feature and start a converstation about what makes that organism intersting.  

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify organisms that they have seen or are likely to see at IslandWood.
  • Describe how each organism has a specific role in the ecosystem.
  • Become familiar with using a field guide to research organisms.
  • Explain how using field guides helps us to make close observations and provide evidence for our claims.


  • Students will be asked to slow down and observe their surroundings by employing their 5 senses. When students find an organism of interest, have them describe their observations and what biotic and abiotic factors each organism needs to survive. Is the organism a producer, consumer, or decomposer? What have we seen the most of? When they begin constructing their own field guide, they can consult published field guides and other resources available to supplement their own observations.
  • Student made field guide pages will indicate their comfort and familiarity of using a published field guide to do quality research. The ways in which students support or change their original claims using a published field guide will signify their understanding of the importance of supporting claims with quality evidence.
  • A closing discussion can help you gauge how students’ learning changed throughout the project.

Age Group: 4th grade and up

Venue(s): Art Studio, Learning Studios(An indoor space would be preferable for the actual making of the guides. The rest can be done outdoors)

Materials: - At least 2 sheets of white printer paper per student (more depending on how much time you want to spend working in it and how many extra pages they want for use when they return home)- Yarn- Hole punch- A variety of field guides (reptiles, amphibians, slugs, birds, plants, trees, etc.)- Pencils- Colored pencils- Crayons

Duration: 45 minutes minimum, but you can break it into several sessions so students can add to their field guides throughout the week.- This is a fun way to start or end a day.

The Lesson:


In your learning space, get all the materials needed in one space. Be sure to have several types of each field guide so everyone can use his or her own guide at the same time. It helps if you make a sample book so the students can get a visual of how to put it together.


Ask the students what plants and animals they’ve seen at home or at IslandWood. You could also start by saying “Remember when we saw that insert cool thing here on the trail earlier?” What do you wonder about that? What was it doing? Show an example of your own journal and tell the students that they will have the opportunity to make something similar in order to help them make closer observations of the natural world. Remind them to be on the lookout for organisms that interest them along the trail.


1. Fold your stack of paper in half (hamburger style). Punch holes in the margin (at least 3) to thread the yarn through. Cut a length of yarn about 24”. String the yarn through the holes to keep the pages together. Tie string at top or bottom to keep pages together. Trim ends.

2. Pass out pencils and field guides. Have students find their organism in the published field guides. After most students have 2-3 facts written down, put colored pencils and crayons out and have them draw the creature.

3. When students are finished, either at the end of the session or the end of the week, spread out their field guides and have the students walk around in a gallery walk.

4. After the gallery walk, gather students together and discuss observations of other students’ field guides and what they learned from their peers’ work.


After the gallery walk, facilitate a discussion about what the students learned from their peers’ field guides. How were they different? The same? How can they use these skills to get to know their home ecosystems?

Transfer of Learning:

With the extra blank pages, have the students brain storm where they can go looking for organismsadd to their field guides once they return home. Talk about where they can find field guides, books, or other quality resources to help identify and learn about the organisms they find.


This activity can be connected to E1T1, frozen birds, and leaf in a bag really easily. Have the students put their Leaf in a Bag,E1T1, or frozen bird specimen in their IslandWood Field Guide. This can be done as an introduction to a lesson or as a follow up.

Original idea by Hannah Wiesner, adapted and written by Margeaux Zwang on 3/13/17.