Environmental Education Curriculum

Outdoor Education Lesson Plans

Incorporate your Students Data Collection into the Standard Course of Study Throughout the Year

The Curriculum Guide is intended to be used as a supplement to your weekly data collection and as a way to engage students with their project throughout the school year. The lesson plans in the curriculum guide have been diligently created by past Project EXPLORE teacher participants. The lessons are correlated to the NC Standard Course of Study for grades K-5.

This guide can be used by Project EXPLORE participants, as well as by other educators who are looking for activities to connect to students’ outdoor observations. This curriculum was created over one year by meeting with Project EXPLORE teacher participants and developing and gathering lessons and resources to support your students Project EXPLORE research throughout the year.

Have a lesson you love? You can submit it to the ever-growing curriculum guide!

The Project EXPLORE Curriculum Guide aids teachers in integrating their students’ data collection and outdoor education into their day by:

  1. Providing hands on, interdisciplinary lessons by past Project EXPLORE participants
  2. Aligning lessons to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study
  3. Updating the lessons annually via teacher submissions
  4. Providing opportunities for students to utilize real and relevant data
  5. Providing a means for teachers to communicate with one another via a digital forum

This guide, in conjunction with the Project EXPLORE mini-grant, serves to aid teachers in increasing students interest in nature, science and science careers, as well as making science more accessible to all while reinforcing concepts and providing opportunities for children to take part in the scientific method and make positive change.


Project eBird

Students studying birds will collect and contribute data to Project eBird, a citizen science project created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Students will participate by learning how to identify bird species, collecting data about the birds they observe in their schoolyard, and sending the information to scientists who study bird populations and conservation. Students will have access to dynamic maps and graphs.

“My favorite part was seeing the birds with my binoculars. I thought it was cool! Plus I like getting up close to them, too.”
— 1st Grader


Nature’s Notebook

Students studying plants will collect and contribute data to the US National Phenology Network through their citizen science project, Nature’s Notebook. Phenology is nature’s calendar—when cherry trees bloom, when a robin builds its nest and when leaves turn color in the fall.  The US National Phenology Network analyzes the timing of these annual events in the context of weather events and seasonal changes.  This project involves a study of the different phases of trees by monitoring select trees in your schoolyard and recording when they flower, fruit, drop leaves, etc. Students will have access to dynamic maps and graphs?

“My favorite part was being able to go outside and do hands on projects. I also liked being able to learn more about different types of trees. It was a really fun project!”
— 7th Grader


Project Squirrel

Students studying squirrels will collect and contribute data to Project Squirrel. Project Squirrel is a long-term study affiliated with The Chicago Academy of Sciences, that partners with people to collect data about squirrel population density, diversity, and behavioral characteristics. These data can then be interpreted by researchers (and citizen scientists) who wish to learn more about local and regional ecology.  Students will hike around their schoolyard taking counts of the number of gray squirrels they observe and identify tree types. Students will also have the option to study Giving Up Densities, a measure of how much risk squirrels are willing to take to forage for food.  Classes will set sunflower seed foraging patches in strategic areas of their school yard and measure the leftover food to determine how food amounts play a role in the amount of risk a squirrel will take.

“My favorite part of this project was when we got to go outside and look around for squirrels. I also liked it when the Arboretum ladies came because I learned so much about the way squirrels live. I found this so cool. I hope do this in high school next year. I never would have thought that a tiny squirrel could be so cool.”
— 8th Grader

Ready to get started?