Explore your own backyard with these science projects and learn fascinating details about plants, rocks, and insects! Find out about the texture of trees by making a bark rubbing.
One Small Square Study
Study a small area of your backyard and find a host of fascinating objects! See fine details on grass and find insects of all sorts. You will need this worksheet, two heavy books, scissors, a pencil, and a magnifying glass. You may also want a towel if the grass is wet, so you can kneel comfortably close to the ground.
When we look closely, we find out that there is a lot going on in nature - even in a small area. By focusing on only one small square of your yard, you were hopefully able to observe a lot. Many insects live on the surface of the ground, crawling in and around the grass, so they blend in at times. Some creatures live underneath the ground, such as earthworms. Other insects (such as butterflies and bees) fly above the surface, though they do land on the ground or on a plant to rest. The kinds of plants you have growing in your yard draw in certain kinds of insects. The variety of insects you will see in your small square depends on what the grass is like, how moist the soil is, and how warm it is. If you did the project again in a different area, you might have very different results!
For more nature studies, see the One Small Square books on our website!
Using crayons and paper you can make a work of art that captures the texture of a tree. You can study different trees that are in your backyard and take a bark rubbing of each one. You will need some tape, crayons, and regular copy paper.
Different trees have different bark. Some bark is very smooth, and some is thick and rough. The bark on a tree protects it from things like very cold or very hot temperatures, insects that try to get inside and eat the tree, and diseases that could harm or kill the tree. When you made a texture drawing of the tree by rubbing the crayon over the paper taped to the tree trunk, you might have noticed that each tree had a different texture. Do you remember which crayon rubbings came from each tree? Which tree has the roughest bark? Which tree has the smoothest bark? Noticing these things can help you find out what kind of tree it is, using a field guide. The bark on trees and how the leaves are shaped help scientists (and can help you!) know the name of the tree, which is called classification.
Way Cool Websites
As you look around your backyard, you might see something you've never seen before, or notice something different about the grass, rocks, or trees that are in your yard. Part of being a scientist is being observant and writing down the things you see so you don't forget. You can keep a science journal, and write notes and draw pictures about the things you see and do.
Another important part of being a scientist is giving names to the things that we see. This is called classification. Classification is a way of organizing or sorting all of the different living things in to big groups, and then dividing them up into smaller groups. When we give names to things, it can help us understand them. Classification helps us to understand the world better. In your backyard you can explore the names of trees, bugs, rocks, flowers, and more!
Animals, plants, and fungi are the three main groups of things that you might find in the backyard. Big groups like that are called kingdoms. Inside the animal kingdom there are big and small creatures such as horses, dogs, squirrels, frogs, fish, birds, and all kinds of insects. The plant kingdom includes everything from giant trees to small flowering plants and grass. The fungi kingdom has a lot of different living things in it, including mold and mushrooms. Did you see any mushrooms in your backyard? If so, you found something from the fungi kingdom!
If you are wondering about an insect you find, or a type of flower, try to look it up in a field guide. You can borrow books from your library, or look here. To use the field guide, think about what group the thing you are trying to identify is in: is it an insect, spider, tree, or flowering plant? If you spot an animal, is it a mammal, reptile, or amphibian? If you know this, it will help you find the right part of the field guide to look in.
Printable Worksheet & PDF
Use this worksheet to do the One Small Square project, and color and draw what objects you see in the backyard.
To view a printable PDF version of this newsletter and the worksheets together, click here.