Education Home


Estuary Chesapeake

Exploring Nature

Wetland Ecology

Teachers' Corner


Contact Us




Grades: K-3
Group Capacity: 90 students
Time: At least 2 hours per 50 students
Cost: $15 per student

 Introduction | Content Standards | Program Activities |
Preparing | Training Workshops | Scheduling | Costs |

> Introduction

Exploring Nature provides age appropriate
environmental education experiences for
early elementary students to facilitate direct learning.

Do you remember your earliest nature experience? Exploring Nature's Classroom Through Outdoor Learning (Exploring Nature) was developed to create a positive nature experience for lower elementary school students. This program uses age appropriate hands-on activities, costumes, and colorful visual aids to involve and inspire younger students and help them to appreciate and respect the natural world. The educational materials and activities complement the natural environment. They will focus on water and land animals, plants, soil, and water in different ecosystems, and using your senses in nature. After participating in the activities and learning basic ecological concepts, students can see these concepts "in action" at SERC. This program facilitates direct learning about the environment for students.

> Field Trip Policies 


Return to Top

 > Content Standards

Next Generation Science Standards
Seining: (K-ESS3-1)(K-LS1-1)(2-LS4-1)(2-LS4-1)

Blue Crabs: (K-ESS3-1)(K-ESS3-3)(K-LS1-1)(1-LS1-2)(1-LS3-1)

Understanding Oysters: (K-ESS3-1)(K-LS1-1) (1-LS1-2)(1-LS3-1)(K-ESS3-3) (2-LS4-1)

Tools for Trees: (K-ESS3-3)(K-LS1-1)(2-LS4-1) (2-LS4-1)

Caterpillar Camouflage: (K-ESS3-3) (1-LS3-1) (1-LS1-2) (2-LS4-1)

Earthworm Explorations: (K-ESS2-2)(K-ESS3-3)(K-LS1-1) (1-LS1-2)(1-LS3-1)(2-LS4-1)

Maryland Content Standards
1.0 Skills & Processes: 1.3.1, 1.3.2, 1.3.4, 1.3.5, 1.3.6,
1.3.15, 1.3.16
3.0 Life Science: 3.3.1, 3.3.2, 3.3.6, 3.3.8, 3.3.9, 3.3.12,
4.0 Chemistry: 4.3.1, 4.3.5
6.0 Environmental Science: 6.3.2, 6.3.4, 6.3.5

Virginia Standards of Learning
Scientific Investigation: K.1, K.2, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1
Life Processes: K.6, 1.4, 1.5, 2.4, 3.4
Living Systems: 2.5, 3.5, 3.6
Earth Patterns: K.8, 1.8, 2.
Resources: K.10 


Return to Top


> Preparing

Exploring Nature’s Classroom is a staff/volunteer lead program. SERC will set up the stations before the group's arrival and our guides will take your students through the stations.

Choosing The Activities

The program coordinator will help design your visit to fit your time-frame and number of students. You can pick from...
Seining- Students will ask a question about the types of creatures that live in the shallow waters of the Bay. They will then help gather fish and invertebrates from a seine net and sort them based on their adaptations for moving (swimming, hopping, crawling). Students will then count their organisms and discuss what they found.

         Blue Crabs- Students will ask a question about what makes a blue crab well adapted for living in the Bay. They will meet a live blue crab and draw their own blue crab, using the live specimen, to help them learn the crab’s anatomy and adaptations for living in an aquatic environment.

Understanding Oysters- Students will ask a question about the types of creatures that rely on oysters (live oysters as well as their shells). They will then sort through a basket of oyster shells looking for fish and invertebrates that colonize a model reef. Students will sort and count their creatures and then try to explain what they found.

         Tools for Trees- Students will ask about how to measure and describe trees. They will start by learning the parts of a tree and different leaf shapes. They will then use tools, such as a DBH tape and calipers to measure trees and leaves. If there is time they will create their own tree and leaf key using crayon rubbing

       Caterpillar Camouflage- Students will ask about how caterpillars, and other creatures, keep from being eaten. They will learn about food webs, and how camouflage helps caterpillars hide. Students will then conduct a modeling activity (fun race) to “capture” and count colored pasta (pretend caterpillars) and discuss which colors were easiest to find in the grass (green, orange, white, or red). If there is time we will also create a simple pictograph and discuss how to read a pictograph

         Earthworm Explorations- Students will ask about how earthworms are adapted to live in soil. They will learn about the earthworms by getting hands-on with some live specimens and conducting some simple experiments about light and dark and moist and dry soils. As a literacy component we will also read aloud a short book about earthworms and their adaptations to living in soil.

When You Are At SERC

Education staff and docents will greet you at the bus and give an introduction to the students about the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and the activities of the day. While the teacher has selected the activities and is responsible for the day running smoothly, our education docents will prepare the materials and lead the activities.

Guidelines for Teachers

During the trip, you will “float” between activities; attend to first aid needs, and behavior issues. You will also conduct opening and closing circles with the entire class. Please report any broken or missing materials to docents.

Guidelines for Parent-Chaperones

You are “teacher’s aides” for the day. You are responsible for supervising students when activities break into smaller groups or stations, following directions from station leaders, and reporting all behavior issues, accidents and broken, or missing materials to station leaders.

As chaperones, your attitudes about the activities have a powerful influence on students. Studies show that students remember attitudes and feelings better than facts and figures. So have fun! Students will “catch” your enthusiasm.


Return to Top

> Scheduling

If you are interested in visiting SERC to participate in Exploring Nature's Classroom Through Outdoor Learning, please contact Karen Mcdonald at SERC's Education Department by email at

Return to Top

> Cost

 The cost for Exploring Nature's Classroom field trips in 2016 is $15 per student. Please pay when you arrive. There is no charge for teachers and chaperones. The Teachers' Corner has information on available grants that might help cover part of your field trip expenses. Please see our field trip policies here.

Return to Top