Outdoor Patterns

9 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT identify different patterns in nature by observing characteristics of growing things.

Big Idea

Observation is an important skill used by scientists. Students often need to be taught to slow down and observe the world around them

Teacher Notes

This lesson can easily be expanded over 2 class periods. The graphing portion of the lesson should definitely be done during a second class period. 

You will need access to an outdoor space for completing this lesson.

The I Can statement that I post for this lesson is: I can notice patterns outside.

What is Observation?

15 minutes

I post an I Can statement at the front of the room: it reads, "I can find patterns outside." I read this with students. I tell them that today we will be looking for patterns outside. 

I begin the lesson by inviting my students to come to the rug. I call each table one at a time to come to the rug by hopping to their circle seats. Once everyone is seated quietly at the rug I place a tray of 6 small objects in the center of the rug. I ask the students to look at the objects for a minute. After 1 minute I tell students to close their eyes tight. I take 1 object away from the tray and then ask students to look at the tray again. "Do you notice anything different about the tray?" I call on several students to tell what they notice. I hope that they notice that an object is missing. 

I repeat the process but this time instead of taking an object away, I add an object while children have their eyes closed. Again I ask them what they notice. 

After we determine the change I ask, "how did you know what I did each time?" I expect that they will tell me they figured it out, they just knew it, etc. I say," yes and do you know what part of you was figuring it out?" (my brain, my eyes,) "Your eyes and your brain were working together on this. You were seeing what was on the tray and then your brain was figuring out what was different. This is called observation. How many of you have ever heard the word observation before?" I look for a show of hands here. "Can anyone tell me what it means to observe?" (look at something carefully). "Right, when we observe we look at something carefully and try to figure out about it. Scientists use observation a lot when they try to figure things out and we are going to be scientists too in our class so we need to get better at observing things. How many of you would like to try observing some things outside today?" (Again I am looking for a show of hands here.) "OK, first we will talk about what we are going to observe, and then we will head outside to observe and to record our observations."

Defining Patterns

10 minutes

Children have been seated on the rug for 10 minutes so this activity will provide a little movement break as we start to explore patterns. First I ask everyone to stand up. I say, "can you copy me?" I clap 2 short claps. Students copy. Now I clap 2 short claps a pause and 2 more short claps. Students copy. I do another pattern of claps for students to copy.  I ask, " did you notice that when I made 2 claps you made how many?" (2) "and when I made 4 claps you made how many?" (4) "do you know what we are making?" (I take a few suggestions from raised hands. I am looking for the term patterns but if no one suggests it, I build upon their suggestions to introduce the term.) "We are creating patterns and there are many kinds of patterns. I want to show you another kind of pattern." I bring a boy, then a girl, then a boy, then a girl into the center of the circle and make a line with them. "Can anyone see the pattern I just made?" (boy girl boy girl). I thank my line and have them return to the circle. This time I look for colored shirts and try to make a pattern of colors for students to notice.  I also arrange a pattern with 2 hands up, 2 hands up, 1 hand up, 1 hand down, 2 hands up, 2 hands up, and ask "who can come and do what would go next?" I call on a volunteer to continue the pattern. 

Patterns are part of the crosscutting concepts in science for second grade. (Patterns in nature can be observed.) 

Now I invite students to return to their desks doing 1 hop 2 skips, 1 hop, 2 skips until they are back in their seats. "What pattern did you use to get back to your seat? Ok, so you can see that there are patterns that might be based on color, movement, shape, etc. When we go outside today we are going to look for patterns in things we see or hear. Can anyone think of a pattern they might see or hear outside?" Students might suggest bird calls, leaves on a branch, legs on each side on an ant, etc. If they have no ideas I might suggest some of these things.

I am not having students plan their own investigation today in observing patterns. This lesson is a first step in identifying patterns and in using skills of observation. I know that students need repeated exposure to scientific concepts and processes (Designing Effective Science Instruction by Anne Tweed), and so learning to use the skills comes before planning the investigation.

"I want you to go outside with a clipboard and paper today and look for patterns. You might notice how many leaves on a branch, or the shapes of the leaves might be some type of pattern, you might notice the legs on an ant, or wings on a butterfly, you might hear sounds of birds or crickets, you might see ants or spiders. If all ants have 8 legs on each side of their body, that would be a pattern. If every branch has 8 leaves, that would be a pattern. Look and listen closely while you are outside. See if you can use your skills in observation to notice any patterns. Draw the patterns or write about them on your clipboard so we can talk about them later." Defining a Pattern

I hand out clipboards and paper. I ask students to work in partners and to find someone at their table to partner with today. I ask them to line up when they have found a partner. When students are lined up at the door with their supplies and partners, I ask, "what do we have to remember about working in partners?" (I take 3 suggestions such as stay together, listen, help each other, etc.). "OK scientists, lets go see what patterns we can find outdoors." (I am fortunate to have an outdoor classroom at our school, if you do not, you could walk around a playground, or adapt the lesson to patterns found around our city school block.

Using Our Skills of Observation

15 minutes

I lead students outside to Nature's Classroom to the sitting area. I ask for someone to remind us what we are looking for today and what skill are we using? (looking for patterns and using observation and listening). "Right, you want to look for patterns, things that are the same for every part of a plant, or insect. You are using your eyes to observe what you see and record it on your clipboard page. Now because this is our first time out in Nature's Classroom this year I want you to remember several things. First, we need to stay on the paths. You may touch things, such as turning over a rock, but be sure to put the rock back as it may be someone's house or hide away. There is no digging, or taking things back with us, or breaking things such as branches while observing in Nature's Classroom. Thumbs up if you are ready to explore?"

I let students wander through the small area for about 15 minutes. I wander from group to group looking at what they have found, asking them about the patterns and checking that everyone is recording on their clipboards. I try to clear up any misconceptions about the assignment or the patterns as I talk to each group several times. 

At the end of 15 minutes I ring the bell and ask students to bring their clipboards to the meeting area. (This next part of the lesson could be conducted back in the classroom.)

Analyzing Our Data

15 minutes

One of the important aspects of science teaching (Designing Effective Science Instruction by Anne Tweed,  published by the National Science Teachers Association), is having time to share and discuss after an investigation. I bring students together for this purpose. I say to students, "did you find any patterns out here? Are there any you can share with us?"

I let students come to the front and tell what they found (such as number of leaves on a branch, similar coloring on a series of rocks, legs on ants, flowers on a stem, etc.) I praise each discovery and the way the child noticed through observation the pattern that they found. (I want to stress that they were observing and looking for patterns.) When a group (students were in partners) finishes I ask if anyone else say that same thing? Next I ask if someone found something different. I take the time to make sure each group has shared at least 1 thing they have observed and found to have patterns. 

When everyone has had a chance to share, I ask students to line up with their clipboards and return to the classroom.

This lesson could end here, or it could extend into math and creating a graph to display the patterns we found (2MD.D10 and MP4). 

Graphing Our Data

30 minutes

Before this part of the lesson, I collect all student data and compile it into a list, My list has a category such as leaves on a branch and then the numbers that students identified. I do this for each category. I also have large paper (at least 20 by 24) with an X and Y axis drawn, and one inch paper squares of construction paper, and glue ready. 

I have chosen to have students complete their observations by sharing their data in a graphic form (SP4, MP4 and 2MD.D10). I tell students, "scientists share their observations with each other and with the world. They may write down what they found, or they may use a picture or graph to share what they have found. Today we are going to make a graph together to show others what we discovered about patterns on our playground. How many of you have ever made a graph before?" "OK then first we need to think about what we want to show on our graph. Do you have things you discovered that you think we could share?" I am hoping students will suggest things like graphing the number of leaves on a branch, then number of legs on an insect, the colors of rocks, etc. 

As I listen to student suggestions, I try to think of at least 4 categories of graphs that we could make from our observations. We can graph all of the numbers of leaves on a branch that students found, or possibly numbers of legs on insects. It would be possible to graph the number of gray and white patterned rocks we found, etc.

I divide the students into small groups and assign each group one graph to create (such as legs on  bugs. - I tell the groups to look at the list I made of how many legs on bugs any groups might have found and they might draw pictures or fill in squares - I precut 1 inch squares for gluing on graphs if needed. I post a model for students to refer to and show students how I labeled my graph so they would know what it was a picture or model of. I circulate around the room to see what students are doing and to ask questions to extend their thinking.


10 minutes

I invite each group to come to the rug and sit together as a group with their graph. Again, I want to make sure that there is time for closure to the lesson.

I say, "In the last few days we have learned about observation and patterns. Can anyone tell me what observation is?" (I take several volunteers). "What about patterns, what does it mean to have a pattern?"(I take volunteers).

"Now I would like you to share your pattern graph with us and tell us what you found." Here I am introducing students to the idea of interpreting their own data (SP4). I give each group a turn to show us their graph and tell us what it represents. If they did not label their graph, I ask if I might add on a label to help others know what they are looking at. 

I point to the I can statement on the board. I ask students to read it with me. I ask for a thumbs up if they think they found patterns outside today. "Great job. We met our goal today!"

I close this lesson by asking students if they would like to find more things with patterns and do more observing in science. I hope that I am sparking interest here for future lessons.

I post the graphs in the hall for others to see. I hope this will help students feel a sense of pride in their work when they see it displayed.