Field Investigations

K | Grade 1 | Grade 2 | Grade 3 | Grade 4


By using their school yard children learn to see nature everywhere, not just in a protected conservation area. They develop appreciation and respect for the world around them and for their place in that world. Extending classroom learning into schoolyard explorations and experiences offers valuable learning opportunities for children. Outdoor experiences can enrich and support classroom curriculum by sharpening observations skills, by encouraging children to make connections between classroom activities and the natural world, and by increasing motivation to learn about the work in which they live.

The Wellesley Environmental Science program allows students to apply their classroom environmental science learning to an authentic experience in the outdoors. Kindergarten builds the foundation of scientific observations skills and the field investigations help students see change over time as they compare what is happening in the schoolyard from season to season. In grade one the field investigations are directly tied to the Bird unit and students take what they have learned outdoors to observe birds in their natural environment. In grade two the field investigations focus on plant life in the schoolyard. In grade three, the field investigations are a highlight of the Insect unit. Students look for land and aquatic insects in various stages of their life cycle and discuss how they are adapted to eat, move, and live in their specific habitat. The grade four geology field trips generate excitement amongst students as they study the geological formations around Wellesley and learn about their history.

Learning Goals

While field investigations are linked to classroom science and focused on such topics as plan structure, animal habitats, food chains, or insect life, the main goals for the elementary Environmental Science program are:

  • To help children realize that they can teach themselves through their own observations. Their observations, questions and ideas have value.
  • To explore and experience first hand natural processes, cycles, and concepts introduced through classroom activities.
  • To help children see and understand the connections between their own lives and the world around them.
  • To realize that there is much still to be discovered, and a great deal that scientists don’t know. Asking questions, observing, and sharing ideas with others are all important ways to learn.
  • To inspire a sense of wonder and appreciation of nature and how nature works, which will then lead to a desire to continue exploring and learning and to further a desire to care for their world.

Environmental Science Roles and Responsibilities

Environmental Aide Coordinators Responsibilities:

  • Recruit grade level and/or classroom coordinators.
  • Work with teachers and classroom coordinators to recruit and organize parent volunteers.
  • Provide school based orientation sessions for new parent volunteers.
  • Train parent volunteers to run school based field investigations.
  • Organize and assist with scheduling of field investigations.
  • Provide expertise on the natural surroundings of their school site.
  • Act as the liaison between teachers and parent volunteers.
  • Work with the elementary science coordinator to continually improve program.
  • Attend environmental aide coordinator meetings, three or four per school year.
  • Recruit and train a replacement when needed.

Parent Volunteers Including Classroom Coordinators Responsibilities:

  • Classroom coordinators recruit and coordinate parent volunteers for investigations.
  • Attend training sessions.
  • Supervise and teach students while leading field investigations.
  • Coordinate with environmental aide coordinator and teacher.

Elementary Science Coordinator Responsibilities:

  • Provide support to environmental aide coordinators through meetings held three or four times throughout
  • the school year.
  • Provide training to parent volunteers on implementation of the geology field trip, ponding field trip, and
  • water unit activities.

Principals Responsibilities:

  • Support environmental aide coordinators by providing space for training sessions and acting as the liaison
  • between the environmental aide coordinator and the teachers.
  • Ensure that teachers participate in the Environmental Science program.
  • If necessary, help to recruit a environmental aid coordinator when needed.

Teachers Responsibilities:

  • Work with environmental aide coordinator and/or classroom coordinator to recruit parent volunteers.
  • Schedule school based field investigations with your environmental aide coordinator or classroom
  • coordinator.
  • Schedule school based field investigations with environmental aide coordinator or classroom coordinator.
  • There is one for the Fall and one for the Spring K-3.
  • Prepare students for field investigations with pre and post activities that tie in with the core curricula.
  • Schedule off site field investigations with your environmental aide coordinator or classroom coordinator and
  • Karen Thurber in the Production Center.
  • Participate in the field investigation experience.
  • Recruit parents for Fall/Spring Field Investigations (K-3), Water Unit (K) and Geology (4th grade).

Successful field investigations require:

  • Teacher leadership and a strong teacher/parent partnership.
  • Teacher/parent communication before each field investigation.
  • Teacher preparation of the children before the field investigation so that they know why they are going out
  • and understand the expectations for behavior.
  • Well trained parents who understand the overall goals of field investigation.
  • Follow-up discussion or activities in the classroom led by teacher.

For more detailed information contact: