Alaska Sea Grant

Investigation 4 - Field Trip Session

Class Time Required

One preparatory class session
1-2 hours field trip
1-2 follow-up class sessions

Materials Needed
  • Science notebooks
  • Close and closer pagesImage
  • Biologist’s backpacks with tools and field equipment
  • Extra clothing
  • Snack
  • Survey tape cut into one-meter lengths
  • Tarp for shelter at field site in case of bad weather
  • 11 X 14 construction paper
  • colored pencils
  • Field guides
  • Identification charts
  • Chart paper
Teacher Preparation Read all materials.
Find and visit the field site.
Arrange permission and transportation.
Invite additional adults.
Gather supplies.
Dress appropriately.
Prior Student Knowledge All prior discussion and research are essential for the field session.

boundary, claim, data collection, documentation, evidence , field session, identification, safety

Science GLEs Addressed

A1, A2, A3, C2, C3, G3

Investigation 4Overview: This 3-day investigation includes a 1-3 hour field trip. Students make predictions about where they will find plants and animals, and go to a field site to explore and test their predictions. After having time to explore, students conduct a detailed investigation of “one small square” at the field site. Back in the classroom, they share their findings and then make a detailed representation of their research “square” using drawings, notes, and labels.

Focus Question:

  • How can we find the plants and animals of our beach or river environment?

Engagement (1 class period):
Dress for the part and review the uses of the “biologist’s backpack.” Remind children that they will be using the biologist’s backpack and not the subsistence backpack for this field session because they will not be gathering foods to eat. They will be scientists, gathering information and observations to write down and learn from. Explain where the class will be going for the field trip. Ask the students: “How can we find plants and animals in our aquatic environment?” “How do you know what is there?” “What tools can we use?” “What helps us identify different characteristics?”

Ask children what they expect to see on the field trip, and what they might see if they use a magnifying glass to get a closer view. Have them draw and write their predictions in their science notebooks. For the close-up view, they may use a close and closer page that has been glued into their notebook.

Have students share their thinking, drawing, and writing with each other. This can be done in partners, small groups, or in the large group taking turns. After students have shared with each other, brainstorm about where they will look for the plants or animals they have predicted they will see. Encourage students to explain their thinking by asking questions such as: “Why would you look there?” “What do we know about this plant or animal?”
Explain that there will be boundaries set for where they may explore and that those will be pointed out when they arrive at the field site. Have children brainstorm ways to be safe on a field trip. These will include:
•    Have a partner
•    Stay within boundaries
•    Watch where you step
•    Be able to see the “gathering area” from wherever you are

Exploration (1-3 hours):
Travel to the field session area by bus, cars, or foot. Review safety rules and boundaries, and allow students to explore for 20-30 minutes. They will use all of their experiences and knowledge from the previous investigations to explore the local area. They will be looking, sharing, and identifying plants and animals.

After the initial exploration, students will gather together for organized exploration. Using science notebooks, survey tape, and possibly cameras, students will make detailed notes and technical drawings on “one small square” in the field area.

You may want to include a comparison with a second field site (e.g. low intertidal and upper intertidal or river bank and river’s edge) to enable students to compare between “squares”. This is a very important concept when learning animal-habitat associations in coastal marine and freshwater environments.

Explanation (20-30minutes):

Back in the classroom, guide a debrief session of the field trip. Ask: “What did we find out?” “How can we share this information?” “How did we gather information?” “What kind of ways can we use this information to inform others?” “What else could be done with this information?” “How will we continue to learn about the local aquatic plants and animals in our area?”

Students can share in a variety of ways. Pairs could be organized to share their findings. Students could first share with one other student, and then find two more partners with whom to share findings OR the whole group could come back together and then pair up.

Make sure that students have an opportunity to share their “one small square” using the science notebook entry, so scientific thinking can be supported. Encourage children to discuss the plants and animals they have found, and their thinking about why they differ from an area another student may have sketched and documented. The goal is to have students share their thinking and understanding of what they have found.

Elaboration (30 minutes):
Students will use the page from their science notebook to create a larger, 11 x 14 page. They will use colored pencils to draw a more detailed example of their “one small square” to share with the audience during the final celebration . As children transfer, draw, and color their entry, encourage them to use field guides and identification charts to label the local plants and animals accurately. If a camera was used to document each small square, photographs may be provided as additional visual information. Children will use their science notebook drawings and notes, adding labels and details of color, shape, size, and texture. Students will share their detailed drawings with each other, first through pair sharing as they finish and later as a whole group in a Scientific Symposium format. Emphasis will be made on similarities of data as well as differences, and a chart can be created to compile the data. Identify the various areas that were used to collect data during the field session, and discuss how the findings changed from one area to the next. What kinds of animals and/or plants were found in each area?

Encourage children to make predictions about what might be found in a different aquatic environment. For example, if the class is from Southeast Alaska and exploring at the beach, have them think about what might be found in a freshwater environment. Focus not on specific naming of plants and animals, but on how the information would be found. What resources could we use to gather that information? In what way would our field session differ? In what way would it stay the same? Emphasize information about how scientists gather information about different environments all over the state.

One way to organize the overall communication part of the unit is to set up a "scientific symposium" for the culmination of the unit. Students can display information, artwork, books, and exhibits from their lessons. Invite parents, community members, and/or other classes to come, view, and listen. All through the unit the teacher should call each discussion and/or investigation of information a “mini-symposium” letting children know that their final information will be shared at the scientific symposium. In this way, children will be expected to offer a piece of science information for the symposium, emphasizing that everyone’s thinking would be important to the whole process.

Gather students together for the scientific symposium. Students will act as groups of “scientists” who will report their findings to the rest of the group. It is fun if the lead educators are quirky reporters during this activity, so that key questions can be asked of the scientists: “How did you come about these findings?” and, to a member of the‘audience’: “How would you have gone about answering this question?” In particular, it is key to prod students to ask and answer their own questions about the data they are collecting and the merits of their methodology.

A science notebook rubric could be used to determine if students have included the date, a picture, labels, words, and best work. Look at student work, and have children evaluate their own work to decide if they have drawn the details of their prediction well enough that another student can identify the plant or animal they expect to see. They can also reflect on their field experience and evaluate the usability and quality of the data they collected.

Teacher Preparation:

Tips from Teachers

If you worry about science notebooks getting wet or dropped into the water, you might have children pick their squares, study them with a magnifying glass and then have a parent helper snap a picture of it. You can then leave the detailed drawing for the classroom using the picture and their memories.

When the large 11" x 14" squares are displayed, ask students to organize them by beach location and/or tide zones.

Read through the investigation, the Teacher Background , and the Field Trip Information.
Explore to determine a suitable site for the field trip to a beach, riverbank, or other aquatic area. Determine the boundaries for the area, possible bathroom facilities, and where you might be able to set up a tarp shelter. Note the plants and animals that you see as you explore the site.

Arrange for permission and transportation for the field trip. Invite and support parent volunteers, guest naturalists and scientists, and Native culture bearers and/or elders to come along on the field session.

Gather supplies needed for the field session: backpacks, buckets, nets, field guides, identification charts, survey tape, and science notebooks. Add extras that match the area where you will be going, such as a tide book. Dress appropriately for your environment and climate conditions.

During the follow-up session, have science notebooks available. Ask some students with detailed drawings to share their entries as a way to model how to add details, labels, and explanations for local plants and animals.

Curricular Connections:
The activities in this investigation support literacy through writing and drawing.
Adding details, line, shape, and shading to drawings helps students develop skills in art.
Physical education can be supported as students walk to and around the field site.
As an added Environmental Education activity, students can use bags to clean up the litter in the field area, and as a social studies activity they could study the traditional use of plants and animals in the field session area.

Materials Needed for Investigation 4:

Student Handouts
Science notebooks
Close and closer pages for notebooks Image
Items for Group Display Chart Paper
Material Items

Biologists Backpacks containing:

  • Magnifying glass or hand lens
  • Notebook, clipboard/Rite in the Rain paper
  • Pencil
  • Camera
  • Tide book
  • Identification charts
  • Field guide books (marine or freshwater)
  • Measuring tape or ruler,
  • Thermometer
  • Maps and/or aerial photo if available
  • Sampling jars
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Cell phone or VHF radio
Extra clothing
Water bottles
Survey tape cut into one-meter lengths
11 x 14 construction paper
Colored pencils
Science notebooks
Writing tools (pencils, colored pencils)
Small rulers
Digital camera
Facility/Equipment Requirements

Field site at a beach or riverbank
A tarp for shelter

Alaska Science Grade Level Expectations Addressed:

Standards Addressed

In Investigation 4, First Grade students begin to build toward these K-12 Alaska Science Standards:

Science as Inquiry and Process
(A1) develop an understanding of the processes of science used to investigate problems, design and conduct repeatable scientific investigations, and defend scientific arguments.

(A2) develop an understanding that the processes of science require integrity, logical reasoning, skepticism, openness, communication, and peer review.

(A3) develop an understanding that culture, local knowledge, history, and interaction with the environment contribute to the development of scientific knowledge, and local applications provide opportunity for understanding scientific concepts and global issues.

Concepts of Life Science
(C2) develop an understanding of the structure, function, behavior, development, life cycles, and diversity of living organisms.

(C3) develop an understanding that all organisms are linked to each other and their physical environments through the transfer and transformation of matter and energy.

History and Nature of Science
(G3) develop an understanding that scientific knowledge is ongoing and subject to change as new evidence becomes available through experimental and/or observational confirmation(s).

Essential Question:

  • What kinds of plants and animals live in or near the water?

Enduring Understandings:

  • Plants and animals can be sorted into groups based on different characteristics.

  • People use the plants and animals of the seas and rivers in different ways.

Alaska Sea Grant University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Department of Education and Early Development NOAA