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        Your Own Backyard

        Students are introduced to a variety of environments, discuss the environmental features of the area where they live, and take a field trip to explore a local environment.

        Lesson Summary


        Earth has many different kinds of environments, each with its own natural features. This lesson introduces students to a variety of environments through multimedia resources. Students begin by discussing the environmental features of the area where they live then take a field trip to explore a local environment. They then watch videos of four different types of environments and compare and contrast their features. In the final activity, students talk about interesting places they have visited and discuss them in terms of their geologic features.


        • Understand that Earth's surface has diverse features
        • Explain that Earth's surface is made up of rocks, soil, and water, and is surrounded by the gases of the atmosphere
        • Recognize that rocks come in many different shapes and sizes (for example, boulders, pebbles, and sand)

        Grade Level: K-2

        Suggested Time

        Three class periods

        Multimedia Resources


        • For each student:
            • Different Environments PDF Image
            • Sheet of white construction paper
            • Clipboard
            • Set of colored pencils or crayons
        • Pencil sharpener (if using pencils)
        • Overhead projector
        • Five large sheets of chart paper
        • Colored markers

        Before the Lesson

          • Select a field trip location where students will be able to observe the natural environment. The location should have some form of the environmental features that students will be looking for — rocks, soil, water, and air (or evidence of it) — as well as space for students to sit down and sketch their observations. If there is no visible water in your chosen location, be prepared to help students locate water in less obvious locations, such as in clouds, the ground, or plant life.


          • Choose a date for the field trip. A week before the outing, send home a parent letter explaining the lesson. Attach a permission form if you plan to leave school grounds. Also, include information about the "Check for Understanding" assignment, in which students will be asked to describe an outdoor place that they have visited. This can be any place — from a vacation to a distant location to a local trip to a park or a neighbor's yard. The family should help the student gather pictures and/or artifacts from the trip, or encourage him or her to draw a picture of the place. Finally, students will need to dress appropriately for the field trip environment, with only extreme weather conditions postponing the activity.


          • You may want to recruit three or four adults (parents, other teachers, or school staff) to accompany your class on the trip. Each adult can help carry and distribute materials to students at the selected location. They should also carry a clipboard and paper to take notes for students as they dictate some of their observations.


          • Before the field trip, prepare the construction paper for students to use for note-taking and/or drawing during the field trip. Divide each sheet into four sections. Label the sections Rocks, Soil, Water, and Air .


          • Prepare four sheets of chart paper for the video-viewing activity. Draw a line down the center of each sheet. Write the heading Alike at the top of one column and Different at the top of the other.


        The Lesson

        Part I: Exploring Your Environment

        1. Introduce the lesson by telling students that Earth has many unique natural features, such as mountains and deserts. Ask students to name some of the features where they live. After a short discussion, tell students that they are going to go outside and explore the local environment.

        2. Take students to the field trip location you have chosen. Explain that they will now look at four natural features that are found in their surrounding environment: rocks, soil, water, and air. Distribute materials to each student (clipboard, construction paper, and colored pencils and/or crayons). Then divide the class into groups of four. In each group, assign a different environmental feature to each student. Encourage them to look carefully at their assigned feature and record their observations in the appropriate box on their paper. They can use the colored pencils and/or crayons to illustrate what they have seen, or do a natural drawing using things found in nature. Allow sufficient time for the students to create a picture of what they see. They can also dictate their descriptions to you or another adult to help them record their observations. As they focus on their environmental feature, ask students to consider the related questions below. They should try to incorporate the answers into their drawings or dictated descriptions.

        1. Rocks: Describe the rocks that you see. Are they large or small? Are they soft or hard? What color are they?
        2. Soil: Describe the soil. What color is it? Is it covered in grass or other plants? Are there any living creatures on top of the soil, such as ants? Try digging in the soil with a stick. Is it easy or hard to dig? Is there anything in the soil, such as rocks or living things?
        3. Water: Describe any water in the location. Is it visible? If so, what color is it? If not, where is it hidden? Where is it coming from? What kinds of objects or living things do you see in the water?
        4. Air: Describe any signs of air that you can see or feel. In other words, is there wind (moving air)? Is there anything floating or flying in the air, such as clouds or birds? Is the air warm or cold?

        3. After the students have finished recording their observations, have them come together in their groups of four and take turns sharing their findings. As they listen to their classmates, the students should illustrate or have the adults help them record the new information in the remaining three boxes on their paper.

        Part II: Exploring Different Environments

        4. Tell students that they will now watch videos about some very different environments on Earth. As they watch each video, they should think about which features are similar to and different from the ones they saw on their field trip. Show students each of the videos listed below. At the end of each video, have students name the features that were similar to or different from the ones they saw on their field trip. Record student responses on a separate sheet of chart paper for each video. Label each chart accordingly.

        1. An Everglades Visit QuickTime Video
        2. A Visit to Yellowstone QuickTime Video
        3. Coral Kid QuickTime Video
        4. Antarctica: A Challenging Work Day QuickTime Video

        5. Display the four charts of student responses. You may also want to project the Different EnvironmentsPDF Image on a screen in front of the class. Ask students to think about what all of the environments have in common. Using another sheet of chart paper labeled, "What Do These Environments Have in Common?" record the students' responses. Students should conclude that the environments all contain rocks, soil, water, and the gases of the atmosphere, as well as a variety of living things.

        6. At the end of the lesson, tell students that for the next class, they will need to bring in pictures and/or artifacts of an outdoor environment that they have visited. You can also elect to have students draw a picture at home or during class. If students need help coming up with ideas, tell them to think of a place they have gone, such as a vacation spot, a local park, a neighbor's yard, or a beach.

        Check for Understanding

        1. Have students begin by sharing their pictures, artifacts, or drawings of their chosen place. Then ask them to think about that place in terms of the rocks, soil, water, and air it contains. To help students process the information, have them organize themselves according to the characteristics of each Earth material. For example: Think about the water in your chosen place.
          1. If the place you visited had fresh water, stand in a group on one side of the room.
          2. If the place had salt water, stand in a group in the middle of the room.
          3. If the place had no visible water, stand on the other side of the room.
          4. What type of environment were you in (e.g., desert, rainforest, swamp, ocean)?
        2. Repeat this process for the other Earth materials - rocks, soil, and air. Examples of the types of environments students may list for each include the following:
          1. Rocks: mountains beach, desert
          2. Soil: beach, forest, farmland, plain
          3. Air: rainy, snowy, windy or calm, blue sky or cloudy. (Air is often a challenging concept for this age level. You may want to show them the Air Is Matter Flash Image if they need help understanding the fact that air is all around us.)

        The Digital Library for Earth System Education ( offers access to additional resources on this topic.


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