Academic journal article Science and Children

Creature Connections

Academic journal article Science and Children

Creature Connections

Article excerpt

Most children want to help wildlife and save the planet. But as educators, how can we turn this enthusiasm for action into educational opportunities to practice science-process skills and acquire science content standards? One helpful program is Pennies for the Planet, a successful kid-powered nationwide campaign which helps save wild places and wildlife. Every year, classrooms across the country learn about featured critical conservation projects, collect pennies to fund their protection, and get involved in local service-learning projects focused on science and conservation. An integral part of program participation is learning about the featured habitats, and the methods scientists are using to protect and restore them. Read more about the program on the poster in this issue.

Pennies for the Planet provides an educator's guide with background information on the current year's conservation projects, reproducible activity pages, and classroom activity ideas. While learning life science concepts, students learn about the specific species they are helping, which makes the campaign more meaningful for them. In addition, the activities allow students to explore how to apply what they have learned in new situations. For example, after participating in Pennies for the Planet, students in our school pushed for a recycling program. Our school is the only school in the district that now recycles plastic bottles, cardboard, paper, and cans.

Take It Outside

Despite its name, you don't have to collect coins to participate in Pennies for the Planet. You can take part in the program and learn more about conservation efforts in the three featured regions and get ideas about what students can do in their own communities. The educator's guide, reproducible activities, and "Dive into the Science" in-depth classroom activities are available for download on the Pennies for the Planet website (see Internet Resource). The following "Spot It! Scavenger Hunt" activity fits in well with units on classification, ecosystems, and biodiversity. A number of critical-thinking and science-process skills are highlighted in the activity, too. Students are asked to predict what they will find, make observations, and infer proper classification based on what they see. The activity also allows students to connect with nature by exploring the outdoor environment. Students are encouraged to explore their local environment and learn more about the animals and plants that live there and better understand the relationships that exist in nature instead of just reading and seeing it in a book.


Spot It! Scavenger Hunt


* Identify local species and identify their key characteristics.

* Describe connections between species and their habitats.

* Describe ways people are connected to the natural world.

Grade Level: Grades 3-6

Process Skills: Observation, classification, inference, prediction

Adaptation: For younger students or those with special needs, reduce the number of item descriptions on the reproducible sheet or supplement it with pictures (for example, a photograph of an insect larva).


Besides gathering up the materials listed above, find a place to have the scavenger hunt, obtain access to it, and arrange for transport if necessary. A nearby park, nature center, or school yard can all work. It's best to visit the site ahead of time and consider the number of students participating, how much space the group needs, and decide on the physical boundaries. Also make yourself aware of any potential hazards in the area, like barbed wire fences, water bodies, or poisonous plants. Either make sure students know to avoid them or choose an area free of them. Having extra adult supervisors along helps restrict students to the designated search area and avoid hazards. The activity usually takes most of three class periods--one to prepare, one for the scavenger hunt, and another to discuss and analyze findings. …

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