Outdoor Education Curriculum


Description: Adopt-a-Watershed is an integrated K–12 science curriculum that uses a local watershed as the focal point for learning. Each grade-specific watershed unit offers classroom activities and resources, field studies, restoration projects, and community action projects. Resource lists, equipment information, masters for handouts, and supplemental lesson plans from other sources are also provided. At the K–3 level for the purposes of this compendium, Animals, Trees, and What Is a Watershed? were reviewed.

  • In Animals (1996 revised, 190 p., $50.00) 13 lessons on watershed wildlife are followed by a long-term deer or butterfly population study, a restoration project, and development of a watershed animals mural.
  • In Trees (1998 revised, 162 p., $60.00) 17 lessons on tree growth and change, scale and structure are followed by a field trip to study trees and tree succession in the watershed, and development of a tree mural. This unit is accompanied by NatureScope: Trees.
  • In What Is a Watershed? (1998 revised, 134 p., $37.00) ten lessons focus the living and non-living components of watersheds. Tree planting in a local watershed is a focal point of this unit.

Provided by: Adopt-A-Watershed
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Aquatic Habitats, GEMS Teacher’s Guide

Description: Two GEMS guides were reviewed at this grade-group level. Adapted from the Marine Activities, Resources & Education (MARE) program of Lawrence Hall of Science. Aquatic Habitats (1998, 136 p., $16.00) is based on the development of desktop ponds, observed and monitored over several weeks among students in grades 2–6. Natural processes, aquatic life behavior, adaptations, and life cycles are witnessed as students systematically add one type of organism, such as fish, to the system. Through activities and reflection, students begin to understand the concepts of community and interdependence with ecosystems. GEMS activities address both National Science Education Standards and Benchmarks for Science Literacy. Appendices include resources, assessment suggestions, and literature connections.

Provided by: Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS)
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Building Our Children’s Future

Description: Building Our Children’s Future (1996, 120 p.) is a K–12 interdisciplinary curriculum that focuses on the components, systems, and design elements that make up buildings. Through 15 units, students examine the natural resources, processes, and systems used to build their homes and schools, examine resource efficiency and the use of recycled or reused materials in construction, explore ways in which climate shapes lifestyles, explore energy pathways and energy conservation, undertake architectural research projects, and develop methods to incorporate resource efficiency and healthy lifestyles (i.e. diagnosing indoor toxins and pollutants) into their own lives.

Provided by: NCAT Center for Resourceful Building Technology
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Dipping Into Creeks Curriculum

Description: Dipping into Creeks (1998, 65 p.) offers K–8 classroom and field activities focusing on aquatic and riparian habitats. Students adopt, visit, and evaluate the condition of nearby creeks. Classroom activities explore concepts of watershed, runoff, erosion, aquatic food chains and nutrient flow, animal and plant adaptations, and water quality indices. Binder contains the teacher’s guide and Creek Life & Creek Ecology reference booklet. Glossary and resource list are included in the teacher’s guide.

Provided by: Sacramento Urban Creeks Council
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In the Global Classroom

Description: In the Global Classroom applies global connections to systems thinking, helping students become aware of their role, personal through global, in the world. In Book 1 (2000, 255 p.) theme-based lessons for K–12 focus on the establishment of a cooperative environment in the classroom, interconnections, the environment and sustainability, health, perceptions and cross-cultural encounters, technology, and the future. In Book 2 (2000, 260 p.) lessons focus on the establishment of a cooperative environment in the classroom, peace, rights and responsibilities, equity, economics, development and global justice, citizenship, and mass media. Bibliography and activities index are also provided.

Provided by: New Society Publishers
Phone: 250-247-9737 or 800-567-6772

Keepers Series

Description: Consisting of six books, the Keepers series (Animals [1997, 288 p., $19.95] and Teacher’s Guide [1992, 68 p., $9.95], Earth [1997, 240 p., $19.95] and Teacher’s Guide [1988, 52 p., $9.95] and Life [1998, 288 p., $19.95] and Teacher’s Guide [1995, 68 p., $9.95]) blends Native American stories and activities to promote an understanding of, appreciation for, empathy with, and responsible stewardship toward earth, including its people, animals, and plants. Each Teacher’s Guide articulates a philosophy of ecological education that teaches through imagination and action, interprets the meaning of the stories, and offers additional resources, including an extensive reading list. Each Keepers book offers a glossary and pronunciation key, suggestions for the use of stories and activities, and extensive background information on the nature of Native American myths and cultures.

Provided by: Fulcrum Publishing
Phone: 800-992-2908

Living Lightly in the City, Volume I

Description: Living Lightly in the City is part of a K–12 environmental education curriculum of activities designed to increase awareness about the community and the sources of water, food, energy, and the resources students consume daily. Units at the K–3 level, Vol. I (1993 reprint, 177 p.) include neighborhood explorations, gardening, urban and suburban wildlife, community connections, energy, and suggestions for “living lightly.”

Provided by: Schlitz Audubon Center
Phone: 414-352-2880

Making Connections, Linking Population with the Environment

Description: Making Connections, Linking Population with the Environment (1992, 161 p.) is an elementary level teacher’s guide focusing on population dynamics and specific environmental concerns such as water use, deforestation, desertification, and challenges in urban environments. Twenty-eight lessons explore these concerns in a global context, using specific world regions as case studies. Reproducible student handouts, resource materials, and data tables are provided.

Provided by: Population Reference Bureau, Inc.
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Marine Activities, Resources & Education

Kelp Forest, Ponds, Rocky Seashore, or Wetlands

Description: The Marine Activities, Resources & Education (MARE) teacher’s guides are habitat-based curriculum guides for grades K–8. Each grade level focuses on one particular marine environment and offers background information, science and mathematics activities integrated with language arts, social science, and art, teaching strategies, connections to children’s literature, suggestions for developing portfolios, and additional resources.

Provided by: Lawrence Hall of Science

Mojave Desert Discovery

Description: Mojave Desert Discovery, An Educator’s Guide to the Cultural and Natural History of Death Valley National Park, Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (1998 revised, 49 p.) is an activity and resource guide on the Mojave Desert ecosystem. Activities are arranged in 12 units, designed to help students become aware of, appreciate, and understand this desert region. Land management, desert ecology, desert survival and safety, water, geology, plants, animals, human history and settlements are among the topics introduced in this guide. Reproducible Discovery Activity Pages, Fun Facts, and glossary are included.

Provided by: Joshua Tree National Park
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On Sandy Shores, GEMS Teacher’s Guide

Description: Two GEMS guides were reviewed at this grade-group level. Adapted from the Marine Activities, Resources & Education (MARE) program of Lawrence Hall of Science, On Sandy Shores (1996, 212 p., $21.00) is a GEMS teacher’s guide for grades 2–4. Five activities, each comprised of 3–5 sessions, address the scale and structure of sand particles, the forces that create sand, sand habitats and niches, and pollution effects (oil) on sandy beaches. GEMS activities address both National Science Education Standards and Benchmarks for Science Literacy. Appendices include resources, assessment suggestions, and literature connections.

Provided by: Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS) University of California, Berkeley
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Preserving and Restoring Ecosystems

Unit 3 of A Child’s Place in the Environment Series

Description: Unit 3 Preserving and Restoring Ecosystems through 20 interdisciplinary and thematic lessons using the constructivist process, third- and fourth-grade teachers help their students to learn the importance of restoring and preserving ecosystems. Literature is integrated into the curriculum and Rachel Carson is the featured hero. At the end of the unit, students participate in projects that enhance their environment. The lessons support the following subconcepts:

  • In an ecosystem living things depend on each other and on nonliving things. Living things have adapted to their habitats.
  • Ecosystems change because of natural causes and human alterations.
  • People can choose to respect living things and help to restore or preserve ecosystems.
  • This curriculum is published by the California Department of Education. Student activity pages are available in Spanish.

Provided by: A Child’s Place in the Environment Program Lake County Office Of Education
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Project Food, Land & People

Description: Project Food, Land & People, Resources for Learning 2nd edition (2003, 950 p.) offers resources and pre-K–12 grade activities that focus on food, fiber, and land use as a way to illustrate the interdependence of agriculture, the environment, and human needs. Fifty-five lessons offer multidisciplinary approaches to studying food production, nutrition, consumer choices, environmental issues, and sustainable agricultural practices. Appendices include the conceptual framework, workshop model, glossary, support material for specific lessons, and cross-referencing of lessons by grade, skill, subject, tropic, and theme. Activities are correlated to Content Standards for California Public Schools for Science, Mathematics, History/Social Science, and English/Language Arts and address recommendations of the National Research Council’s Committee on Agricultural Education in Secondary Schools. Several of the blackline masters are printed in Spanish.

Provided by: Project Food, Land & People
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Project Learning Tree

Description: Project Learning Tree (2001, 402 p.) is a pre-K–8 environmental education activity guide that uses the forest as the context through which students study the environment, its interrelationships, resources and the implications for management and sustainability, and forces that shape society and culture. Ninety-six activities are organized within six themes: diversity, interrelationships, systems, structure and scale, patterns of change, and energy and society. Appendices offer tips for dealing with controversial issues, multiculturalism, and exceptional students; organizations and agencies; and cross-referenced indices for activities. A supplement correlates activities to California Content Standards for Science, History-Social Science, and English-Language Arts. Spanish translations of the student pages and glossary are available.

Provided by: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Project Learning Tree
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Project WILD Aquatic

Description: Project WlLD Aquatic (2000, 260 p.) is a K–12 supplementary curriculum guide that focuses on wildlife and wildlife issues. The guide is organized in three sections: ecological knowledge, social and political knowledge, and sustaining fish and wildlife resources. Activities are arranged according to complexity, moving from basic understanding to application. Appendices offer a glossary, list of agencies, description of the concept of ecosystem, tips for using the outdoors as a classroom, guidelines for animal husbandry and study in the classroom, and conceptual framework. A supplement correlates activities to California Content Standards for Science, History-Social Science, and English-Language Arts.

Provided by: California Department of Fish & Game, Conservation Education (Aquatic Project WILD)
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Protecting Soil

Unit 2 of A Child’s Place in the Environment Series

Description: This interdisciplinary and thematic environmental education curriculum guide helps second- and third-grade teachers to encourage students to become environmentally literate and to participate in projects that enhance their environment. Through 20 well-­structured lessons using the constructivist process, students learn about the composition of soil, how people use resources from soil, and why it is important to conserve soil. Literature is integrated into the curriculum and George Washington Carver is the featured hero. The lessons support the following subconcepts:

  • Soil is made up of living and nonliving things.
  • Soil supports life, and life enriches soil.
  • People depend on soil.
  • People can choose to enrich and conserve soil.

This curriculum is published by the California Department of Education. Student activity pages are available in Spanish.

Provided by: A Child’s Place in the Environment Program Lake County Office Of Education
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River of Words

Description: The River of Words, Watershed Explorer Curriculum (2001, 248 p.) supports the annual River of Words International Youth Poetry & Art Contest conducted in affiliation with the Library of Congress Center for the Book. Lessons and resources are designed to promote place-based literacy and environmental stewardship of watersheds through poetry, language arts, geography, history, art and science. Background information about education for sustainability, watersheds, and development of “sense of place” is followed by lessons and activities that focus on the science and arts connection, poetry, social studies, and field activities. River of Words resources and a complete set of River of Words contest forms (including a Spanish version) are also provided. A draft edition was reviewed for this compendium.

Provided by: River of Words
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Save Our Seas

Description: Produced by the California Coastal Commission and The Ocean Conservancy, Save Our Seas (1993,106 p.) is a marine debris curriculum anthology for grades K–12. Four units, each arranged according to grade group (K–3, 4–6, 7–8, 9–12) examine the nature, source, and consequences of marine debris, as well as connection between marine debris and solid waste. Each unit presents a student project, such as an Adopt a Beach cleanup, home and school recycling campaigns, stenciling of storm drains, and the organization of a marine debris task force. Appendices include student handouts, a marine debris play, list of resources, and glossary. An expanded curriculum that addresses a range of coastal issues will be available in Fall 2002.

Provided by: California Coastal Commission
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Sea Searcher’s Handbook

Description: The Sea Searchers Handbook, published by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 1996, provides a treasure of activities, from art to science and from math to language arts. Explore rocky shores, wetlands, sandy shores, kelp forests, the open sea and the deep sea and enjoy over 90 hands-on activities.

The handbook is now out of print but a free PDF version is available for download at

Provided by: Monterey Bay Aquarium
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The Built Environment Education Program

Description: The Built Environment Education Program (BEEP) Handbook (1999, 120 p.) offers project-based learning about the field of architecture and the architectural and urban design process. Based on a collaborative effort between teachers and local architects, students in grades 3–6 participate in a series of hands-on planning and design projects. The handbook is organized into four sections: introducing architecture; critical thinking in architecture and social issues; skill building in geometry, structure, plans and blueprints, and scale; and designing, creating, and transforming. Student handouts, glossary, materials list, and bibliography are also provided.

Provided by: AIA California Council
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Think Earth

Description: Think Earth (2000 revision) is an environmental education program consisting of nine units of materials for pre-kindergarten through middle school. Its premise is to help students become more aware of their environment and begin to develop responsible behavior and caring attitudes toward it. The elementary units were reviewed for this compendium—each contains a Teacher’s Guide (approximately 30 pages), classroom posters, e or Think Earth video depending upon grade level, and a set of blackline masters. The following topics are introduced: Kindergarten Unit: Conserving Trees and Other Resources, Grade One: Conserving Natural Resources, Grade Two: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Grade Three: Pollution Control.

Provided by: Educational Development Specialists/The Energy Source Education Council
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What Do We Need to Live on Planet Earth?

Description: A case study of traditional rural life in East Africa is used to teach students in grades 2–4 the concept of survival in human communities. Studying the lifestyle of the nomadic Masai and agrarian Kikuyu, What Do We Need To Live on Planet Earth? (1995, 59 p.) invites students to explore the interactions between people and the animals with whom they share the land. Basic human needs, differing lifestyles, and the connection between people, lifestyles, and the environment are examined in five history and social science-based activities. Full-color images, maps, and reference material are also provided.

Provided by: Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education. (SPICE) Institute for International Studies
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