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3rd - 8th Grade Themes

  • Forest Fundamentals 
  • Wonderful Wetlands 
  • Avian Antics 
  • Prairie Ecology 
  • Wildlife Ecology

    Forest Fundamentals
    Forest are complex ecosystems teeming with life.  Join us to explore the dynamics of life in this remarkable habitat.  We will examine the soils in depth, discover the plants and animals that call the forest home, and take a look at how life is recycled on the forest floor.

    Please choose one or more of the following lessons:

    A Wild Walk -  Here's a chance for students to explore a forest habitat as we venture out into the nature preseve.  Students will meet some of the plants and examine their secrets.  Students will then search the area for creatures to find out where they live and what they eat.  Discover how plants and animals live together in their forest home.  Join us for an exciting woodland adventure!

    Treemendous Trees -  We all need trees.  They provide homes, food and other materials for people as well as wildlife.  In this outdoor exploration, students will learn about the parts of a tree such as roots, trunk, bark, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit.  We will compare the leaves and bark of various trees in our area and examine the similarities and differences between them.

    Soil Sampling - Soil is the lifeline for all natural terrestrial communities. Soil provides moisture and minerals for plants and food and shelter for animals.  Students will get down and dirty as they learn about the factors and organisms that influence formation of soils, discover the components of soil, and even meet some of the soil's fascinating residents.

    Woodland Creatures and their Homes - Piedmont forests are filled with a wonderful variety of plants and animals.  The trees and other plants create food and shelter for birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Students will build an appreciation for the variety of animals that live in the woods and develop an understanding of what a habitat is and how animals utilize their habitat.

    A Visit from the FBI - Students become official "FBI" Investigators during this program as they search a "crime scene" for clues about the mysterious causes of the breakdown of living things in nature. The destruction that the "FBI" (Fungus, Bacteria, and Invertebrates) has caused will be documented, the crime scene will be illustrated and a list of potential suspects will be compiled. After this experience, the word "recycling" will never seem the same again!

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    Wonderful Wetlands
    Wetlands play a vital role in the health of our planet. Wetlands act as filters for our water supply, protect us from floods, support countless species of wildlife, and even provide recreational opportunities for people. Students will explore the flora and fauna of a wetland area to better understand the many ways that people and wetlands are interdependent.

    Please choose one or more of the following lessons:

    Macro invertebrate Mayhem - In streams or ponds the presence or absence of certain organisms can reveal much about the quality of the water. These creatures make up the biotic index. Students will learn how certain macro invertebrate species can be indicators of water quality through hands-on activities. They will also travel to a stream or pond to look for macro invertebrates and determine water quality by using a biotic index.

    Aquatic Adaptations - Aquatic animals, along with terrestrial animals, have certain adaptations which allow them to survive in the environment in which they live. Students will learn how aquatic animals are adapted to their unique habitat through activities and explorations. They will build an understanding of how these animals use their adaptations to survive in an underwater world.

    Pollution Solution - Students will play a game to discover how the presence or absence of vegetation affects the movement of water over land and the amount of sediment it can pick up. They will use a role—play simulation to discuss ways that land can be used and developed to prevent polluted runoff.

    That's the Limit! (5th to 8th grade only) - S students will conduct scientific water quality tests to explore the meaning of "range of tolerance." Students will investigate what roles abiotic (nonliving) factors play in determining the physical and, indirectly, the biological characteristics of an aquatic ecosystem. Discussion will focus on how the abiotic factors affect the living aquatic community and the ways humans affect these factors.

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    Avian Antics
    Birds are found throughout the year in virtually every habitat, making them among the easiest organisms to study. From adaptations for flight and elaborate vocalizations to intricately weaved nests and vibrant colorations, birds are nothing short of amazing. Lessons in this theme build an understanding of bird behavior, habitats, migration, and characteristics that help us understand their role in the natural world and how they are important indicators of the health of our environment.

    Please choose one or more of the following lessons:

    Birding Basics - Observing and identifying birds is an easy, and sometimes addictive, skill to acquire. Birds come in many shapes, colors, and sizes, but careful observers can learn to recognize distinguishing features and characters that lead to identification. Students will be introduced to these special characteristics and observation techniques, then test their skills outdoors using binoculars and field guides as they search the area for birds.

    Feathers, Songs, Wings and Things - How does a feather work? Do birds have hollow bones? Why so many different kinds of beaks? What makes a song so special? Students will examine these and other questions as they discover the world of avian adaptations and behaviors. Activities focus on flight and communication while illustrating what makes birds so unique.

    A Habitat for Birds - Birds occupy a diversity of habitats and fill a variety of ecological niches.  But just as humans have basic needs for survival, so do birds. From their elaborate nests to their specialized diets, birds are dependant on quality habitats for their survival. Through an exploration of nests, territories, and predation, students will learn what it takes to carve out a niche and how birds can survive in so many different environments.

    Migration Madness - Birds are not the only animals that migrate, but their journeys are among the most challenging and intriguing in the world. Through engaging activities and simulations, students will become migrating birds and experience first-hand the obstacles and risks of migration. Students will gain a better understanding of why birds migrate, what habitats are important to them during their journeys, and how biologists learn about their travels.

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    Prairie Ecology
    Explore the hidden and exciting ecology of the Piedmont Prairie. We will study soils, read the landscape, understand the process of restoration and learn about the human connections with prairies of the Carolinas.


    Please choose one or more of the following lessons:

    Piedmont Prairie Soils (6th to 8th grade only) - Certain types of soils provide habitat and support for different kinds of organisms. The Piedmont Prairie soils are significant in sustaining this unique ecosystem. In this lesson, we will dig deep into the prairie and discover its soil types, how they got there and how they support the life of grasses and forbs.

    Restoring our Prairies - Recent interest in Piedmont Prairie restoration has been driven by current scientific research, endangered species restoration, and improvements to wildlife habitat. In this lesson, students will look at many concepts related to prairie restoration to gain an understanding of the importance of this habitat in our own ecosystem. The students will also have the opportunity to work hands-on with many of the species found in the Piedmont Prairie to give them an up-close and personal view of prairie habitat.

    Reading the Landscape (5th to 8th grade only) - Through observation, one can read a landscape and be able to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for that place. This place could be anywhere: a forest, wetland, prairie, schoolyard or backyard. In this lesson, the basics of building observational skills and getting to know a landscape are introduced with the Piedmont Prairie, a unique ecosystem in the Carolinas that is being restored locally. We will explore and document the signs, from flora to fauna that indicate a prairie ecosystem.

    Survival on the Prairie - Life equals survival. On the Piedmont Prairie survival is about adapting to the ever-changing environment. Plants, animals and humans need to deal with vast landscapes, fires, and harsh conditions. In this lesson, students will explore the ways in which plants, animals and humans have made the Piedmont Prairie their home.

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    Wildlife Ecology
    Plants and animals interact in many fascinating and intricate ways. This theme delves into those interactions by focusing on food webs, interdependency between plants and animals, the factors effecting population sizes, benefits of alternate life cycles, and adaptations used to interact with one's environment.

    Please choose one or more of the following lessons:

    Web of Life - Students will be introduced to some of the producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, and decomposers of a community food web. Then, through several engaging activities, they will investigate the many different ways plants and animals are connected to each other and how all organisms seamlessly work together to form an interdependent ecosystem.

    Pollination Ecology - Plants and animals are intimately tied together in many ways. From seed dispersal to pollination, plants depend on animals as much as animals depend on them. Students will investigate the ways in which a flower can attract certain pollinators, and learn about why plants need to be pollinated in the first place.

    Population Dynamics - How many bears can live in a forest? What resources do anima is need to survive? Through exciting games and scientific exploration, students will learn about limiting factors that affect the size and health of animal populations in our area.

    Life Cycles - How do tadpoles turn into frogs? Why do caterpillars create a cocoon or a chrysalis? Learn the answers to these questions and more as we discover the secrets of metamorphosis. Students will learn about the intriguing life cycles of insects, amphibians and other animals during this interactive program.

    Animal Adaptations - Fins, feet, flippers, and tails! From gathering food to escaping predators, these useful characteristics allow their owners to make the most of their environments. Students will investigate the ways that behavioral and physical adaptations enable animals to survive in an ecosystem.

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