A "Field Trip in a Box"

Background: The Nature in the Classroom curriculum provides a foundation for nature studies. By studying structure, function, adaptations and interactions among species, children will gain a new appreciation for and familiarity with the natural world around them. Knowing more about plants and animals is the first step towards caring more about the world around us. Whether it's a crow in the backyard, a squirrel in the park or a beetle on the playground, students will be inspired to ask—What is that animal doing and why? Where does it live and what does it eat? And ultimately—How do I fit into the natural world? These questions provide a basis for an awareness of nature and outdoor experiences that have declined as technology has permeated our daily lives.

In Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv inspired a widespread "call to nature" that has alerted parents and teachers to the importance of making time for children to play in nature. Ideally students would learn about local natural history by going on field trips to the Puget Sound's wide variety of parks and green spaces. However, budgets, time and liability concerns often limit the number and kinds of school-sponsored field trips. We have designed lessons, in consultation with the Tacoma School District, to provide students and teachers the opportunity to experience Puget Sound's natural history in their classrooms, and to give students the tools to become better and more informed observers of the world around them.

The curriculum's main themes explore the diversity and natural history of animals that make up our ecosystems (biodiversity). These lessons introduce students to the array of animals that inhabit the ecosystems around the Puget Sound and shows how they depend on each other to thrive. With a focus on honing observation skills, we hope to teach the value of taking time to look more closely at the world around us, and prepare students for the continued study of the natural world.

The Slater Museum of Natural History's goals are to preserve and provide a collection of specimens to be used for research, education and inspiration. We have one of the best regional collections of Pacific Northwest bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian and plant species.

Time Commitment: Nature in the Classroom contains three lessons requiring approximately 1.5 hours each. Learning extensions allow teachers to expand on a given topic depending on interest and time available. Lessons can also stand alone.

Suggested Uses: We've designed the lessons to be a "field trip in a box" so students can experience some of what the Slater has to offer without leaving their classrooms. Teachers can use the curriculum with other teachers, rotating through the three lessons so each class within a certain grade completes all of the lessons in one day. The curriculum can also be used by individual teachers presenting one lesson a day for three days, all three lessons in one day, or something in between.  We suggest starting with Lesson 1, which provides a foundation for observation skills.

Care and Handling: Many of the specimens are fragile and hard to replace. Before using them, please review the Specimen Use Guidelines (page 4) with your class. We recommend having at least two adults in the classroom while teaching these lessons to help oversee specimen handling.  We also do request that teachers complete a teacher training with a museum staff member prior to rental of any specimen kits.

Classroom Logistics: The lessons are designed to be taught in a regular classroom with a computer and projector that can run PowerPoint or access the Internet (for Lesson 3). Because there are several activities designed with many specimens and small groups of students, tables or desks grouped together (to act as one surface area) make it easier for students to share specimens and work together.

Find the Kit Reservation Form and other important lesson documents here.