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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

NatureMapping: Molding Young Scientists During the School Day

Students contribute to the scientific community by observing the life around them.
By Jenny Parma, Curriculum by Diane Petersen and Karen Dvornich

Editor's Note: Since we first reported this story, NatureMapping moved from the University of Washington to become an independent foundation, which gave the program more freedom to integrate student field research projects and the latest technology for data collection and analyses.  The Adopt-a-Farmer Project has been going strong for more than a decade, and now every grade in the Waterville Elementary School participates. Click here for an interactive map of all NatureMapping projects.

NatureMapping is a program that provides workshops and resources to help students collect and analyze scientific field data, inspiring young scientists through class projects and field trips.

Here, we provide material from NatureMapping that includes lesson plans for students, as well as information for administrators creating similar after-school programs. The material includes

Keeping Track:

A lizard carries a radio transmitter on its back.

Credit: Edutopia

Use the information on our site, or you can learn about partnering with NatureMapping groups in their Teacher's Corner. Groups have formed in Arkansas, California, Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Who This Material Is Best For

These resources are helpful for

  • K-8 teachers, especially science educators.
  • school administrators who want to initiate a similar model.
  • K-8 students, but much of it is adaptable to other grade levels.

How to Use This Material

The materials (lessons, videos and tips, articles, and contacts) can be viewed in any order. There is no need to do the lessons sequentially. Everything is customizable to your teaching style and academic requirements.

There are seven lessons for teaching students which we suggest you first skim to fully understand the resources needed, expectations, and time commitment. Each lesson takes about three-to-five one-hour class sessions, and each follows the same pattern: The lesson starts with steps for teaching the material and concludes with a practical activity and assessment. Links to other lesson plans and downloadable materials are available throughout the lessons.

Although the lessons are focused on material for teaching students, the Articles, Videos and Tips, and Contacts sections also include materials for administrators, such as getting started establishing a field-science program or building community relationships.

What NatureMapping Is About, and Why We Picked It

Started in 1992, NatureMapping grew from the big idea of developing an international biodiversity database for use by scientists and the public. And who better to add to it than students? Across the world, students, teachers, and communities are working together to identify and record species in their areas to contribute to the database, which in turn gives scientists a tool for research and conservation efforts. NatureMapping teaches students about science while making a real contribution to the field.

Through third-party assessment of NatureMapping, there is a verifiable track record of connecting the scientific community with young students and improving student communication and presentation skills. We've found that this model can be adapted for many different age groups and environments, inspiring students with various backgrounds and education levels to learn about nature.

What NatureMapping Is Designed to Teach Students

These resources will help students develop skills in

  • species identification, taxonomy, and biodiversity through field work.
  • basic measurement, observation, note taking, mapping, and drawing.
  • estimations, size-distance relationships, and data analysis.
  • global-positioning-system tracking and data analysis.

Background Information

This material, provided by NatureMapping, is funded in part by a generous grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

To learn more about successful full-time learning, read "Reforming the School Day: The Evolution of Full-Time-Learning Programs."

Comments (2)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Trisha Surakus's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This would also link to Lewis & Clark curriculum. A veteran teacher had students draw flora and fauna to help students understand the forms of communication and processes of the Lewis and Clark exploration. As students have been raised in the digital age these exercises help increase their understandings of historical realities. Cross Curriculum

Karen Dvornich's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

That is a very good idea. Students can draw flora and fauna that also occur in your school's region. We use "sit spots". Students go to a site, their sit spot, and spend a minimum of 15 minutes drawing and writing in their journal something around them. You can focus on plants one time or insects another time. The students begin to get a sense of place, especially when they have to think what their sit spot looked like during the Lewis and Clark expedition.

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