Outdoor activity

3. Journey Through Earth

In the style of Jules Verne’s book Journey to the Center of the Earth, take your students on a walk, using sidewalk chalk to mark the boundaries between the different layers inside our planet. After you pass through each layer, tell your students about the layer of the Earth they just traveled through. This lesson was developed by Eric Muller of the Exploratorium Teachers’ Institute. Here you will find a student handout for taking notes during the walk, a teacher cheat sheet and some assessment ideas. Download a detailed lesson plan for this activity from Eric Muller’s website, originally published in The Science Teacher, September 1995.

Caldecott Tunnel - Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan
Classroom Introduction

  1. There are 2 pieces of information that are useful to review with students in the classroom before going on this field trip.

6. Topo Tour

Once students understand the basics of how to read and create a topographic map (see From Maps to Models lesson), students will study and label a topographic map of their local watershed. They will identify the creek closest to their school and mark the boundaries of their watershed. In the process, they practice recognizing hills, ridges, valleys, stream beds and other geographical features on a topographic map. Finally, students take their maps and walk a part of their watershed, matching their maps to their real world surroundings. If a walk through your neighborhood is not possible, the lesson can be conducted without the watershed walk. The watershed walk portion of this lesson may be combined with the Sediment Study Project.

7. Habitat Survey


In this activity, students finally get to apply their skills of soil analysis and observation to a 1 meter by 1 meter area of the schoolyard, restoration site, or creek bank. Teams of students get down and dirty exploring the soil, vegetation, and insect life in their microhabitat. Students practice using the soil analysis tools they learned previously and also practice using field guides to identify plants and insects. Upon returning to the classroom, they compare their results with other groups to see the differences and similarities between their microhabitats. This is a superb activity to use before and after a habitat restoration project or simply to track changes in a habitat throughout the year. I used this investigation to introduce the idea of native vs. non-native species and to begin a debate about invasive species. My students really “got it” when they examined our adopted restoration area and discovered that there was a monoculture of invasive, non-native English ivy all across our site. They visited our adopted site 3-4 times throughout the year pulling ivy and planting native plants. When all was said and done, they repeated this investigation in the spring to discover exactly the magnitude of the change they made on the environment – and to find that the native plants recruited a wider variety of insects than they had seen at that site in the fall.