Children in North Woods look at organisms.

Children in North Woods look at organisms.


Grades 1-2

This two hour program aligns well with the first grade unit Organisms taught in the Boston Public Schools, but is also suitable for all students in grades 1 and 2. The field study focuses on the North Woods and Dawson Pond at the Arnold Arboretum, introducing students to habitats that parallel the woodland terrarium and freshwater aquarium they create in the classroom as a part of the Organisms curriculum.

In the woodland habitat, students turn over decaying logs and use probes to examine the many invertebrates living there. By collecting specimens and using bug boxes and hand lenses, students are guided to discover the various body structures that allow the organisms to move, eat, and defend themselves. Students describe the characteristics of living, non-living, and once-living things, and are encouraged to create detailed observational drawings of their finds.

Children at pond

Children at Dawson Pond

At the Arboretum’s ponds, students observe what lives in and around a body of fresh water, taking note of the more open, sunny, and expansive landscape. They compare and contrast this habitat to a woodland habitat, and discuss how each place meets the basic needs of the plants and animals that inhabit them. Students are challenged to use their other senses–hearing, smell, and touch–to discover birds, cherry trees, frogs, tadpoles, dragonflies, pond snails, and other organisms living in the ponds.

The program concludes with each group sharing their discoveries with one another. Volunteer guides review characteristics of living and non-living things, help students categorize organisms according to their habitats, and describe how certain organisms use their body parts to help meet their basic needs for survival.

If you are a Boston Public School teacher and would like to register for a program, email Nancy Sableski or call 617.384.5239.

MA Science Standards correlations:

  • 1-LS1-1 Use evidence to explain that (a) different animals use their body parts and senses in different ways to see, hear, grasp objects, protect themselves, move from place to place, and seek, find, and take in food, water, and air, and (b) plants have roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits that are used to take in water, air, and other nutrients, and produce food for the plant.
  • 1-LS3-1 Use information from observations (first-hand and from media) to identify similarities and differences among individual plants or animals of the same kind.
  • 2-LS4-1 Use texts, media, or local environment to observe and compare (a) different kinds of living things in an area, and (b) differences in the kinds of living things living in different types of areas.