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Gulf of Maine Research Institute


5th, 6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, English Language Arts, Social-Emotional Learning

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plan, 11-15 class periods
  • Activity - Outdoors
  • Scientific Papers or Reports
  • Video, 1 minute, 59 seconds
  • Assessment
  • Worksheet

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Northeast, Maine


Google Docs

Ecosystem Observer

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  • This outdoor learning module guides students through observing, recording, and presenting ecosystem observations in their area through a multi-lesson project.
  • Students will select a topic, make multiple observations on that topic, then create a nature note to present their findings.
  • There are downloadable teacher guides and student pages for each step of the project, including a student noteboook that guides them through the entire process.
Teaching Tips


  • There are many opportunities for student choice throughout this learning module, so students will feel like they have some autonomy in their learning.
  • The opportunity to submit their nature notes to "Findings in the Field" gives students an authentic purpose for their work, especially if they also participate in the citizen science projects.

Additional Prerequisites

  • It may be beneficial to discuss with students what plants and animal species you have locally.
  • You will need to request access to the resources on stunk bugs and dragonflies provided on page 6 of the teacher guide.
  • For the Building Background Knowledge step, students may need explicit instruction for how to use books, field guides, or the Internet to research their topic. They may also need to be reminded to save their sources and that Google is not a source, but a search engine containing many sources.


  • To introduce more independent students to scientific observation, groups or pairs of students can go through stations reading multiple nature notes together, then record and discuss what most nature notes have in common.
  • Students who struggle with finding something to observe can practice recording what they experience with their five senses (remind students not to taste anything, for safety).
  • After completing this lesson, time to return to the observation spot can be incorporated into a daily, weekly, or monthly class routine.
  • It may be helpful to create an anchor chart with students about safety measures that need to be taken while observing outside. This chart can hang in the room year-round.
Scientist Notes
This learning module from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute gets students out in nature, making observations, formulating questions and hypotheses, and drafting a Nature Note in either video, visual, or written form. This resource features an excellent teacher’s guide with clear instructions and numerous examples linked to show what a good Nature Note looks like. The student notebook has simple instructions and space for students to plan, record and organize their ecosystem observations. Once students have created their Nature Note, a clear rubric and feedback form help to guide students through the peer review of each other’s work, giving students hands-on experience with the peer review process that is so important in scientific research. This resource is superb for getting students to open their eyes and ears to make observations out in their local environment and then compile these findings into a coherent Nature Note. This resource is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • English Language Arts
    • Reading: Informational Text (K-12)
      • RI.5.10 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at grade level text complexity or above, with scaffolding as needed.
      • RI.6.5 Analyze how a particular sentence, paragraph, chapter, or section fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the ideas.
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • SL.7.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
      • SL.8.5 Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
    • Writing (K-12)
      • W.5.6 With some guidance and support from adults and peers, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of two pages in a single sitting.
      • W.5.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, metacognition/self-correction, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
      • W.6.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
      • W.6.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate.
      • W.7.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, voice, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
      • W.7.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
      • W.8.5 With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
  • Science
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 5-ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
      • MS-LS2-2. Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
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