From IslandWood Education Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Lesson Summary

This lesson will increase students’ understanding of their community's complex nature, by taking on the role of a scientist collecting observations.

Enduring Understanding:

U1 Learning can be joyful, empowering and inspire a sense of wonder
U2 Environment and community require many interconnected systems
U3 Working well together enhances stewardship and a sense of community

Knowledge and Skills developed:

K2 Students will know that in a given place some organisms thrive and some don’t.
K3 Students will know that organisms interact in various ways.
K4 Students will know that changes in an organism’s habitat are sometimes beneficial and sometimes harmful.

K5 Students will know that systems are made up of subsystems and have inputs and outputs.

S1 OBSERVING: Five Senses and emotional
S2 COLLECTING AND RECORDING: Quantitative and Qualitative data, using varied tools
S3 PREDICTING, ANALYZING, INTERPRETING AND REPRESENTING: information using creative, scientific, and verbal approaches.
S4 APPLYING what has been learned to new situations.

Age group: 4th-6th Venue/s: Lower loop
Marsh loop
Anywhere you can find tracks, plants and water.

Materials: See materials section

Time: 1-2hrs

Set up: 15 minutes


Why would we want to study our ecosystem/watershed?
We want to study this place so we can understand what members of the ecosystem/watershed are present and then make predictions on how they help it function.
Has anyone ever heard of stone soup story? In the story an old lady wants to make soup but only has a stone. Does that sound like a good soup. Well help came along from her friends and they began to add things. Before they knew it the had an amazing soup. The moral is that you can't make stone soup with just a stone you need lots of things. Just like our ecosystem/watershed we need lots of things to make it healthy.
So, knowing that a healthy ecosystem/watershed has lots of parts, how could we study our it? Should we just look at one part? Can one person see everything that is going on in our Ecosystem/watershed? By working together we investigate different parts of the ecosystem/watershed because everyone sees different things and then bring them all of our observations together to make an excellent soup.

Does anyone know what the suffix "Ologist" means? Can anyone think of a word that ends with "ologist"? It means someone who studies something. During this lesson you will be taking on the role of an "ologist" to study this ecosystem/watershed. “Ologists” are scientist that make observations and develop questions based on their observations. Have any of you had experiences being an “ologist”?

The core lesson:

Today we are going to use our observations skills to record observations just like scientist do to understand the ecosystem/watershed. What kind of observations do you think a biologist would record? How do they record it? Most scientists record all of their observation on paper in detail. Let’s take a look at this leaf. What do you observe that should be recorded? Scientist need to be able to look at their notes and have no questions as to what they observed when they are back in the lab. To help organize your observations and data you can create a chart on an open page in your journals. You can have a columns for location, observations/data, and drawing (Draw picture on white board).

Each one of you is going to be part of a smaller team with an “ologist” role. Each smaller team is part of a larger team of “ologists”, because one scientist couldn’t possible make all the observations to account for all of the members of the ecosystem/watershed.

What kind of things do you think we should study in this ecosystem/watershed? Today were going to focus on plants, weather, animals, and water.

After we have collected all of the observation we are going to group back up and compile and share our observations.

While explaining each “ologist” also explain how to use each tool/instrument, except maybe for the hydrologist for sake of time.


A person who studies plants is called a botanist. What kind of observation would a botanist collect? The different kinds of plant they find, what they look like, and where they found them. What kind of tools do you think a botanist would use? A magnifying glass and a field guide is what I’ve brought with me today. I would like you to record your observation in your journals on page 38. Next to each found plant describe its location and draw a picture of it. If you need more room there are plenty of blank pages in your journals for more detailed descriptions.


What do you call a person who studies the weather? A meteorologist. What kind of observation do you think a meteorologist would record? Temperature, cloud cover, wind, precipitation are the four variables that were going to look at today. As meteorologist page 8 and 9 provide a chart for recording your observation neatly. Notice on page 9 that there are examples of how to record different wind speeds and cloud cover. What kind of tools do you think a meteorologist would use? A thermometer, anemometer (measures wind speed, but check the beaufort scale as a reference on page 9), and your "owl eyes" (being observant).


Who knows what a hydrologist would study? Yeah water. As a hydrologist you will be looking at the health of the water around us. What kind of things do you think we might want to know that would tell us about the health of this ecosystem/watershed? What kind of tools do you think a hydrologist would want to use to assess the health of the water? I've brought with me today a thermometer, turbidity tube, 500 mL beaker, and pH strip indicators. There is a page in your journal that has a chart and some additional information that I would like you to use to record your observations and on the next page there is some information that can help you interpret the observation that you make.

You might want to explain the details of this “ologist” after the groups split up. You can find how to use the tools/instruments in the background section of this lesson or by looking here.


The final “Ologist” will be looking at all of the animals around us. As a zoologist you will be inventorying the animals you observe around you. Now, in 30 minutes do you think you could see all of the animals around here? Probably not. So how might you know what animals live around here? By tracks, nests, homes, woodpecker holes, etc... So as a zoologist you may want to record these signs if you see them. A blank page in your journal is a good location to record these. A good way to record them is to create a chart with the location, time, size, and drawing of the observation.

Once you have explained the entire “ologist” activity you can either let the students pick their groups or divide them equally. Have at least two per team. Make sure to give students some boundaries and a re-group time/coyote howl.

(Check out the track making materials we have.)


What did you expect to find? What did you find? What did you notice that was interesting or surprised you from of this ecosystem or watershed? What do those things tell you about the health of this ecosystem/watershed? How do you know that? What other things do we still not know?

Make sure at least each group reports on what they found. Using a jig-saw method (taking one person from each “ologist” to form two or three teams) to share information, can work well to engage every student. Each group should be able to come up with three questions about what collectively they found or another option would be to make a map based on their observations. Each group should be able to make this statement: “ We now know ________ about the location, but we still don't know _______.”

Have the hydrologist explain the tools/instruments they used and what they told them about the health of the water either to the whole group or within the smaller groups.

Check to see that students were able to effectively make observations and record them in their journals, so that someone else would be able to create a map or mental image of the area.

Summative Assessment Indicated:

Students create a map showing their observations’ locations and the connections that they observed.


Students create a story or play depicting their observations and those interactions.


Students create a natural history guide or species account of this ecosystem. 


Students develop a hypothesis that can be tested to further their understanding of the ecological systems.

Safety Considerations:

You should only attempt this if you can trust your kids by themselves, since they may not be enough adults to follow each group. Students should not be sent further than the instructor’s sight. Around IW the marsh cut-off loop, lower loop, by the Boy Scout bench on the marsh loop, and Mac's Pond are great locations for this lesson.

Make sure you brief your students on stinging nettle and wasp's nest before letting them venture out.

Material List for each "Ologist"


  • Magnifying glass
  • Field guide (Pojar is a little to detailed for students, try some of the more pictured based ones)


  • Thermometer
  •  Anemometer


  • Turbidity tube
  • 500ml Beaker
  • pH paper and scale
  • Thermometer


  • Binoculars
  • Field guides (birds, mammals (includes signs), insects, amphibians, and reptiles)

Background information

Temperature is a measure of how much heat is a in a substance. First take an air reading for comparison. Next, with the 500mL beaker collect a water sample noting its source so that more water can be obtained from the same location. Place the thermometer in the beaker and allow a minute to pass before recording the temperature. In the mean time the hydrologist can be making observations like the color, smell, and substrate at the collection site.

Turbidity is a measure of the cloudiness of a fluid, caused by suspended particles. For this measurement, pour the sample water into the tube until you can no longer see the image at the bottom of the tube anymore. record the number indicator on the side of tube (make notice of the increments and how they differ from other liquid measurement instruments). NTU stands for nephelometric turbidity units. Explaining this unit of measure and how to interpret it is important.

pH is a number describing the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. Using the pH strips place them in water half way so that the paper becomes moist. Remove from the water and give about 1 minute for any color change to occur. Match the color to the color key enclosed with the strips. Record the corresponding number in the journal and review the pH scale on the next page.

Created by Mike Stefancic on 04/09.