Alaska Sea Grant

Investigation 4 - Field Session

Investigation 4
Class Time Required 2-3 class periods plus 3-4 hours for field trip
Materials Needed
  • Magnifiers
  • Identification keys or guides specific to the area
  • Science notebooks
  • Beans or buttons for practice timed count
  • Bag of outdoor protected writing tools; pencils, colored pencils, small ruler
  • Thermometer
  • Small buckets and nets
  • Underwater viewers
  • Watch or stopwatch
  • Whistle or signal for gathering students
  • Digital camera
  • Snacks
  • Backpacks
  • Clipboards
  • Glue
  • Rubric for Investigation 4 Image
  • OWL chart from previous activity
Teacher Preparation
  • Choose field site and organize transportation, permissions, and adult volunteers.
  • Practice a timed count with students before the trip using visible objects that can be widely scattered.
  • Locate field guides and other tools for trip.
  • Obtain snacks and water bottles for students, with parent help.
  • Organize everything into backpacks for trip.
Prior Student Knowledge Observation and communication skills.
Vocabulary Characteristics, Habitat, Observation , Timed count

Science GLEs Addressed

1st and 2nd grade standards: SA1, SA3,SG2, SG4

3rd grade GLES: SA1.1, SA1.2, SA3.1, SG2.1, SG4.1

Overview: Using skills and background information they have developed through classroom experiences and the initial nature walk, students will go into the field to observe and measure local habitats. Students will begin by exploring the area, then do “timed counts” to get an idea of the observable organisms in the local environment. They will then focus individually on one small area to study. Students will participate in a "scientific conference," write and draw in their science notebooks and take digital photographs, eventually using the information to communicate their findings to classmates, school, community, and parents.

Focus Questions:

  • How do we find out information? How can we share information?
  • What are the animals in our local habitat?
  • How do we know? What are the signs/evidence?

Engagement: (30 minutes)

Show students the tools to be used during the field session: magnifiers, buckets, net, thermometer, science notebooks, and camera within a backpack, pulling them out one at a time. Have students brainstorm how they will use each tool. Have a conversation with students about how to care for animals they find. Use role play to demonstrate carefully holding and returning animals to their habitat, and to model how to notice specific traits of the habitat.

Science notebooks: Have students make predictions in their science notebooks prior to the field trip (the day before or morning before leaving). What type of habitat do they expect to see? What creatures might be living in that habitat? How do you know? What kind of evidence will we be looking for?

Exploration: (3-4 hours)

Prior to the field trip students will have a discussion of field trip etiquette and their habitat needs during the field trip (i.e., food, water, shelter).  Upon arrival at the field site, gather students together and give boundaries, reminders of etiquette, and a signal for gathering as a group (i.e., whistle). Let them know they will have 30 minutes to explore before a more focused activity begins.

Students will explore in the chosen freshwater or saltwater habitat (e.g. pond, stream, bog, marsh, beach), using skills of observation. They should notice animals and plants that are in the specific area. After 30 minutes, bring students back together to share what they found. They may use thermometers to compare the temperature of the aquatic habitat on the field trip with that in the classroom.

Encourage them to share habitat descriptions, names of specific species identified, and other observations. Guide students to ask more questions: What else do they now wonder about? What will they be exploring during the next observational period of time? How will they find out more information?

Science notebooks: After the initial discovery/awareness time, have students again draw one animal or plant they noticed. What is significant about where it is? Describe and draw the habitat. If students do not take their science notebooks into the field, they can use a clipboard and paper instead, and cut and glue their drawings and descriptions into their notebooks once they are back in the classroom.

Guide students to choose one area in which to gather data using a timed count of a selected species. When given a starting signal, students will count every individual of that species they can count in 5 minutes. After the signal to stop, students go to their science notebooks to record the information they found.

Students will be instructed to choose one small area to draw, write, and describe a specific habitat. Labels, descriptions, and data (size, color, shape, etc.) will be encouraged. Let students know they will be sharing their information with other students around Alaska.

Visit each student to assist with documentation of local habitat through a digital photo, recording number of photo taken, or other information to allow students to access their photo back in the classroom.

Science notebooks: After the timed counts, students will have time to go back and draw more creatures and their habitats. Students could draw species they counted during the measurement activity or other creature they noticed. Expect students to draw three more creatures and their habitat. Be sure to use labels or other descriptors to document animal or plant. Students could begin to share their drawings with each other as they finish.

Have group gather together before going back to bus. Ask for a quick share—one feature of the habitat they noticed that supports an animal (e.g., insect, worm) they could see.

Explanation: (40 minutes)

Gather the group for a “scientific conference.” Students will act as groups of “scientists” who will report on their findings to the rest of the group. It is fun if the lead educators are quirky conference reporters during this conference, so that key questions can be asked to 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.

Additional activities. Have students share their science notebooks and general information and observations, as well as specific information from the trip. Ask them to make comparisons of data, notice contrasts, and share observations of the area used to gather data. Graphs can be made to organize data and make possible connections to habitat from data.

Ask students to document the local habitat in their science notebooks.  Students will glue in a copy of the photo and then write a description of the habitat. (This will be used for Web sharing.)

Complete the OWL chart at this time—what did we find out about local habitats? What other questions do we have? Help students connect book and classroom learning with the field session experiences.

Briefly review habitat and the needs of living things. Ask children to draw and write about the creature from the timed count and the habitat where it lives, adding labels, questions, and observations, using science notebooks. They should include characteristics of the animal that help it survive.

Elaboration (20-30 minutes)

Help students use their digital photos and the information they collected during their individual focused exploration, to produce a small poster for a hall display or a posting on the statewide “At Home in the Water” forum on this web site.

Evaluation (40 Minutes)

Assess class responses during the OWL discussion.
Use a rubric to assess depth of understanding shown in students’ descriptions of the “timed count” animal.

Teacher Preparation

Tips from Teachers

If possible, bring a portable shelter or umbrellas if it is a rainy day. This will help keep student writing and drawing dry.

Choose field site and organize transportation, permissions, and adult volunteers including scientists and naturalists if possible.

Science notebooks will be used to record information through drawings and written observations during the field session. Initial observations will be made once timed counts are complete. Students will share what they found, quantities of creatures as well as data about weather, location, time, etc.

Notebooks will also be used to describe the habitat of the digital photo taken by the students. Having lots of information will enable students to use this list to write a summary of their habitat.

If notebooks will not be taken into the field, gather clipboards, pencils and paper (Rite-in-the-Rain paper is ideal) for each student.

Scout out the site at similar time of day or tide, prior to the field trip. Scope out bathroom needs, areas to gather the group, potential dangers and natural boundaries to set up ahead of time. Shelter may be necessary for poor weather - consider having a tarp set up. Choose possible areas for timed counts and determine which specific species will be appropriate for successful counting.

Practice a timed count in the classroom with students before the field trip using visible objects that can be widely scattered (e.g., beans, buttons, etc. in the gym).

Locate field guides (beachcombers guide, insect guide) and other tools for trip, making sure there are plenty for small groups or pairs.

Organize everything into backpacks for trip.

Obtain snacks and water bottles for students, with parent help.

On the morning of field trip, gather the backpacks with the tools, science notebooks, snacks and water bottles.

Curricular Connections

Math. Timed counts provide opportunities for practicing reading and adding time.

Language Arts. Writing and communication skills are practiced throughout the investigation.

Ideas for adapting to different local environment or context:
For freshwater:

  • River environment: Look at essential ingredients of the habitat such as cutbanks that provide shade and plants that offer nutrients to aquatic animals of that habitat.
  • Creek or stream: Look at places where the water flows or pools, other areas where there may be only mud or gravel. How would this change from season to season?
  • Lake: What do we notice around the lake? By the edge of the lake? In the lake? This is where a net and bucket may be very valuable!
  • Puddle: Is this noticeable all year long? What can we find out about a puddle that might not have water year-round?
  • Beaches – Do we see different types of animals on the upper, middle, and lower parts of the beach? Do different animals live in areas with mud or sand or where there are small rocks or big rocky areas?
  • Tidepools – Notice the different types of animals within a tide pool. Watch for awhile to see if any of the animals are hard to see (camouflauged).

Materials Needed for Investigation 4:

Student Handouts
  • Science notebooks


Items for Group Display

Investigation 4 Rubric, if desired

Material Items
  • Magnifiers
  • Identification keys or guides specific to the area
  • Beans or buttons for practice timed count
  • Bag of outdoor protected writing tools; pencils, colored pencils, small ruler
  • Thermometer
  • Small buckets and nets
  • Underwater viewers (see Teacher Background)
  • Watch or stopwatch
  • Whistle or signal for gathering students
  • Digital camera
  • Snacks, etc. for field trip
  • Backpacks for field trip
  • Clipboards
  • Glue
Facility/Equipment Requirements

Appropriate location for field trip.

Alaska Science Standards and Grade Level Expectations Addressed:

1st and 2nd Grade Standards addressed:
A1 - Science as Inquiry and Process
SA Students develop an understanding of the processes and applications of scientific inquiry.
SA1 Students develop an understanding of the processes of science used to investigate problems, design and conduct repeatable scientific investigations, and defend scientific arguments.
SA3 Students develop an understanding that culture, local knowledge, history, and interaction with the environment contribute to the development of scientific knowledge, and that local applications provide opportunity for understanding scientific concepts and global issues.

G1 – History and Nature of Science
SG Students develop an understanding of the history and nature of science.
SG2 Students develop an understanding that the advancement of scientific knowledge embraces innovation and requires empirical evidence, repeatable investigations, logical arguments, and critical review in striving for the best possible explanations of the natural world.
SG4 Students develop an understanding that advancements in science depend on curiosity, creativity, imagination, and a broad knowledge base.

3rd Grade GLEs Addressed:
The student develops an understanding of the processes of science by:
[3] SA1.1 asking questions, predicting, observing, describing, measuring, classifying, making generalizations, inferring and communicating.
[3] SA1.2 observing and describing their world to answer simple questions.

The student demonstrates an understanding that interactions with the environment provide an opportunity for understanding scientific concepts by:
[3] SA3.1 observing local conditions that determine which plants and/or animals survive. (L)

The student demonstrates an understanding of the bases of the advancement of scientific knowledge by:
[3] SG2.1 comparing the results of multiple observations of a single local event. (L)

The student demonstrates an understanding that advancements in science depend on curiosity, creativity, imagination, and a broad knowledge base by:
[3] SG4.1 asking questions about the natural world.

Essential Question:

  • Who lives where and why?

Enduring Understandings:

  • Living things have certain characteristics that help them survive.
  • Living things need food, water, oxygen, and shelter to survive.
  • Science is a way to help us answer questions about the world around us.
Alaska Sea Grant University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Department of Education and Early Development NOAA