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Ecology for Everyone

FREE Lessons

With minimal set up and materials needed, our Free Lessons are accessible, engaging, and ready to go!

They come complete with teacher guides and hands-on activities, covering topics for every season like Summer Soil Scoop and ECO Heroes! Lessons meet NGSS and Common Core Standards and come with everything needed to teach concepts and assess student learning. Free Lessons offer fun, engaging ways for students to build their identities as scientists while exploring nature, hands-on.

Download curriculum to share with students, use at home, or view on a mobile device as you explore outdoors! Use our lessons year round or explore them below, organized by season.

Clever Crows

In this lesson, students will learn about crows! Crows are a common sight in Oregon and across the country, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how special they are. Students learn about crows’ ecological importance and explore their fascinating intelligence.

 

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Fun with Fungi

In this lesson, students will learn about fungi and their role in the environment. You can take the lesson outdoors to collect mushrooms for spore prints or keep the learning inside with a drawing activity. Allow 15-20 minutes to deliver the content and another 20-60 minutes to collect your fungi. Please remember, do not eat any mushrooms you find!

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Conifer Classification

The Pacific Northwest is known for its abundance of conifers and winter is a great time to study them! In this lesson, students will learn the differences between conifers and broadleaf plants, the basics of conifer identification, and why not all cones are pine cones. Then, students have the choice to test their skills outside or use a dichotomous key to practice their identification skills indoors.

 

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Ocean Habitats

Designed for students of all ages with options to scale up or down. The ocean biome is the largest biome on the planet, containing a fascinating and diverse array of habitats. In this indoor lesson, students will learn about kelp forests, and other unique and often overlooked ocean habitats. Then, students will conduct their own research on a habitat of their choice and develop a sketch, illustration, model, diagram, or presentation (teacher’s choice) showing how energy moves through the habitat in a food web.

 

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Layers of the Forest

In this outdoor lesson, students observe the ecology of the forest; first, by learning about the layers of the forest (forest floor, herbaceous layer, shrub layer, understory, and canopy), then by participating in a “sit spot” and drawing activity. This activity is best done in a park with a forest or forest-like habitat, which may require planning in advance to identify the ideal location. Many city, county, and state parks, as well as areas like schoolyards, cemeteries, or perimeters of golf courses may have adequate forested areas to study.

 

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Spring

Summer

Fall

Winter

SPRING LESSONS

TIPS & TRICKS
FOR LEARNING OUTDOORS

ECO educators share their helpful tips and tricks to engage any young scientist while learning outdoors, help build a foundation for curiosity and connection to nature!

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide
  • Activity Sheet

SPRING

BINGO

Can you find something living in a puddle? Get outdoors and discover the wonders of spring while playing a fun ECO version of Bingo!

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Bingo Activity Sheet

BIRD-O

Although birds are common, they are anything but boring!
This Bingo game begins with a lesson on bird behavior to get students thinking about the different behaviors they might observe – preening to gliding to diving.

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide
  • Activity Sheet

NGSS Standards:

  • 3-LS4-2 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

  • MS-LS1-4 From Molecules to Organisms

NEST

 SWEET NEST

This lesson dives into the craft of nest-building by animals big and small. First, students will learn about why animals build nests and study examples of incredible nests around the world. Then, students have options to create a nest & more!

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide
  • Activity Sheet
  • Nest Sweet Nest Presentation

NGSS Standards:

  • 2-LS4-1 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
  • 3-LS3-2 Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
  • 4-LS1-1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
  • MS-LS1-4 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

EARTH DAY

PLEDGE

Designed for students of all ages. Originally from Earth Day 2020, this activity can be done any time of the year to get students thinking about how they can take action and make a difference for our planet.

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide
  • Activity Sheet

NGSS Standards:

  • 5-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.

  • 3-5-ETS1-2 Generate and compare multiple solutions to a problem based on how well they meet criteria and constraints of the design problem.

SALMON

STORIES

Students go over the remarkable life cycle of Pacific salmon and learn about their role in ecosystems as well as their importance to Indigenous communities, and steps we can take to protect salmon for future generations.

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide

NGSS Standards:

  • 3-LS1-1 From molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
    Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.
  • 5-ESS3-1 Earth and Human Activity
    Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
  • MS-LS2-4 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
    Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations

 

ELA Standards:

  • 6.RI.7 Integrate information presented in different media or formats as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

SUMMER LESSONS

LAYERS

OF THE FOREST

In this outdoor lesson, students observe the ecology of the forest; first, by learning about the layers of the forest, then by participating in a “sit spot” and drawing activity.

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide
  • Activity Sheet

NGSS Standards:

  • K-ESS3-1 Earth and Human Activity
  • 2-LS4-1 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
  • 5-LS2-1 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • MS-LS2-1 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • HS-LS2-6 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

PLANT

CHARACTERISTICS

Designed for students of all ages; includes extension activities. This investigation invites young botanists to distinguish between plants based on their characteristics, then use their observations to sketch what they find.

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide
  • Activity Sheet
  • Plant Characteristics Worksheet
  • ECO Instructional Video

NGSS Standards:

  • 4-LS1-1
  • MS-LS1-6

SUMMER

SOIL SCOOP

In this activity students will study the texture of soil by doing an experiment using soil samples found nearby. After learning what makes soil special and the makeup of soil, students will carry out an experiment and take note of their results.

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide
  • Activity Sheet
  • Summer Soil Scoop Presentation

NGSS Standards:

  • 2-PS1-1. Matter and Its Interactions
  • 5-PS1-3. Matter and Its Interactions
  • HS-ESS2-5 Earth’s Systems

BIOMIMICRY

In this lesson, students will learn what biomimicry is by examining a handful of examples. Then, students have the opportunity to innovate on their own and develop a plan that draws inspiration from nature.

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Worksheet
  • Activity Sheet
  • ECO Instructional Video

NGSS Standards:

  • K-ESS3-3 Earth and Human Activity
  • 5-LS2-1 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • HS-LS2-6 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

FALL LESSONS

SIGNS OF FALL

OBSERVATIONS

 This activity blends ecology and social-emotional learning (SEL), encouraging students to observe the changes in nature as well as the changes they are experiencing within themselves.

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide
  • Activity Sheet
  • ECO Instructional Video

NGSS Standards:

  • 3-LS1-1 From molecules to Organisms:
    Structures and Processes
  • MS-LS1-6 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

ROCK

PROPERTIES

What makes rocks unique, and how can we investigate the rocks we find in the Pacific Northwest to understand more about them? This lesson will invite students to observe rocks and conduct investigations to determine their characteristics.

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide
  • ECO instructional video
  • Rock Properties Test Descriptions Activity Sheet
  • Rock Properties Investigation Sheet (K-3rd grade version)
  • Rock Properties Investigation Sheet (4-8th grade version)

NGSS Standards:

  • 1-PS4-3 Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information
  • 2-PS1-1 Matter and Its Interactions
  • 3-LS4-1 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
  • 5-PS1-3 Matter and Its Interactions

OCEAN

HABITATS

The ocean biome is the largest biome on the planet, containing a fascinating and diverse array of habitats. In this indoor lesson, students will learn about kelp forests, and other unique and often overlooked habitats found in the ocean. 

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide
  • Activity Sheet
  • Ocean Habitats Presentation

NGSS Standards:

  • 2-LS4-1 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
  • 5-LS2-1 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • MS-LS1-6 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
  • MS-LS2-3 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • HS-LS2-4 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

DEAR

NATURE

This writing activity invites students to find a “sit spot” and engage with nature, wherever they are. Then, students practice gratitude through letter writing, with thought-provoking, scalable prompts to guide them through the process.

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Worksheet
  • Activity Sheet
  • ECO Instructional Video

NGSS Standards:

  • K-ESS3-3 Earth and Human Activity
  • 5-LS2-1 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • HS-LS2-6 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

WINTER LESSONS

SCAVENGER HUNT

 

Students view a virtual presentation, then bring an activity sheet outdoors, looking for a variety of natural objects that can be found and studied during the winter.

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide
  • Activity Sheet
  • ECO Instructional Presentation

NGSS Standards:

  • 2-LS4-1 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

ECO

HEROES

 

This social studies lesson encourages students to research and report on diverse environmental and social justice heroes who have made a positive impact on our planet.

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide
  • ECO instructional video
  • Rock Properties Test Descriptions Activity Sheet
  • Rock Properties Investigation Sheet (K-3rd grade version)
  • Rock Properties Investigation Sheet (4-8th grade version)

NGSS Standards:

  • NGSS K-ESS3-3 Earth and Human Activity
  • 5-ESS3-1 Earth and Human Activity
  • Social Science Analysis 5.26
  • Historical Thinking 5.24
  • Geography 5.11
  • Geography HS.50

COLD WEATHER

ANIMALS PT. 1

In part one of this lesson series, students are introduced to ectothermic animals, or animals that rely on external sources of heat to stay warm. 

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide
  • Activity Sheet
  • Ectotherms Presentation

NGSS Standards:

  • 2-LS4-1 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
  • 3-LS3-2 Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
  • 4-LS1-1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
  • MS-LS1-4 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

COLD WEATHER

ANIMALS PT. 2

In part two of this lesson series, students are introduced to endothermic animals, or “warm-blooded” animals that maintain a regular body temperature internally.

Materials & Benchmarks
Included with lesson:

  • Teacher Guide
  • Activity Sheet
  • Endotherms Prestentation

NGSS Standards:

  • 2-LS4-1 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
  • 3-LS3-2 Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
  • 4-LS1-1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
  • MS-LS1-4 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

CLASSES

Ecology for everyone

Teacher Approved

Meet standards and benchmarks for everyday lessons while expanding upon classic curriculum. While our lessons are fun and engaging, they meet academic requirements and allow you to take a breath. Let ECO help make science lessons easy! It can be used as a pre or post lesson before an ECO visit or field trip too!

Partner Ready

Free ECO Lessons can accompany content taught by a partner organization or land management agency, such as the Oregon State Parks Rangers. Outdoor Schools may use them as additions to field studies curriculum. We’d love for our lessons to enhance the great work you already do!

Learn Anywhere

Families who homeschool or do distance learning may choose to access our Free ECO Lessons and virtual activities. All lessons can easily include multiple age groups to allow for whole family learning as well. Take ECO lessons on vacation, into the backyard, and out into the wild!