What it is: The Smithsonian site is a wealth of outstanding activities and interactives. In the Walk in the Forest interactives, students are guided through a virtual forest where they do field research using the same scientific methods and tools that Smithsonian scientists use to monitor forest biodiversity. Students can act as dirt detectives, predicting which trees will thrive in each type of soil; learn about forest layers and the plants and animals that take up residence in each; identify a tree; observe seasonal changes; map the forest; and use amphibians as an indicator of the forest. Each of the interactives has the option of narration (audio) or non-narrated (students read through the interactive).
How to integrate A Walk in the Forest into the classroom: The interactive activities on A Walk in the Forest are very well made. They will have your students working and thinking like a scientist. The activities are meant to be completed by individual students, but if you don’t have access to a computer lab, they would also be excellent as a center on classroom computers or on the interactive whiteboard or projector connected computer. For whole class participation, send a team of scientists (your students) into the forest to investigate and collect data. Give each student a job to do on the forest adventure. For the students not at the board, create a field guide that they can fill out while they observe. As an extension activity, students can create an Animoto or Prezi about what they learned in the forest. They could also create a comic book style field guide about walking through a forest.
A Walk in the Forest is well suited to all elementary students. Independent readers can complete the activities without narration while emerging or struggling readers could have the interactive narrated.
Every year, we have an outdoor education program for our 5th graders. They spend a week in the mountains, in a forest, learning outside. If you do something similar, A Walk in the Forest is a great preparation activity for students. They can learn about the processes of collecting and analyzing data virtually before they do it in real life.
Tips: If you and your family are visiting national parks this summer, these are fun activities to do before hand that will transform your kids into scientists when they are exploring outdoors.
Please leave a comment and share how you are using A Walk in the Forest in your classroom.