Schoolyard Field Guide
Standards: 4.8 Humans and the Environment
Duration: 40 to 60 minutes
Vocabulary: field guide, exploration, local habitat
Summary: Students will write “field guide” styled entries about something from their school yard.
Objectives: Students will gain a deeper appreciation for nature in general and “their” natural place in particular. They will get more experience with using descriptive words and conveying their ideas to a reader. They will create a field guide for the school yard that can be shared by lower grades.
Materials: paper, pencils, clipboards
Writing is an excellent tool that helps people better experience and connect to nature. It helps us look closely at a place and our emotions, and—if we want—convey them to others.
People have been writing about the environment for a long time. One of the best ways to help conserve nature is by showing people why they should care, and we can only do that if we create a connection with nature. Many people create a connection with nature by learning about the specifics of certain plants, animals, fossils, fungi, or any number of things through field guides. Field guides include all of the necessary information a person needs to be able to identify a natural object and learn about where it comes from and what it does.
Take students on a walk around the school yard. Give them time to explore and find something that they find interesting to write about. It can be anything natural in the school yard–a certain flower, an insect, a rock formation, clouds–whatever most captures their attention!
Have students research their topic in depth with the goal of writing an entry for a School Yard Field Guide. Have them look at other field guides for examples of what kinds of information they need to include. If they are writing about an animal, for example, they should include the english name, the latin name, what it looks like, the area it lives in, what it eats, what kind of habitat it lives in, etc. Students should have time to research and practice writing this information.
Finally, students will put together their field guide pages–they can either draw a picture of their topic or take a picture themselves, but it should include a picture! They should feel free to use their creativity here.
After all of the pages are collected, they will be bound together into a Schoolyard Field Guide that other grades can use in order to better explore their school.
Ask students why they think writing about nature is important. Ask students if they feel any closer to the topic they chose because of writing the entry. What kind of things do you include in a story that you wouldn’t include in a field guide like this? Why is it important for their to be a difference?
Have students make copies of the field guide to send home to their parents or sell at a local fundraiser.
Have students add to the field guide throughout the year by choosing additional topics to write about.