A Journal of Discovery
When James Cook, captain of the Endeavor, set sail to explore the South Pacific
in 1768, he took with him some explorers of a different kind. They were
scientists. Of this group of scientists, it was Joseph Banks whose work would make the most
impact when they returned home to England. Already a noted botanist at twenty-five, he had a passionate interest
in plants and animals. Among Cook's large retinue were other naturalists as well as two
artists. The Endeavor would bring back not only new maps, but also
information about the plants, minerals, and animals of the South Pacific. In
this activity, students, like Joseph Banks, turn a scientific eye on their own neighborhoods and
make their own "discoveries."
WHAT YOU NEED
- Drawing materials
- Magnifying glasses
- Field guides and/or other reference books
WHAT TO DO
- Suggest that students are scientists invited to accompany
an explorer on a journey of discovery. Initiate a discussion about what kinds of
things they, as scientists, might look for on their trip. (Examples: trees, leaves, rocks,
birds, flowers, fruits, mammals, insects, soil)
- Ask students to consider how they, as scientific observers, will record (in
words and drawings) what they see. Encourage them to consider the advantages of
having each member of the group collect the same types of information.
- Have students work in teams to compile a useful observation form. Then bring the
class together to create the final model. It might include any or all of the
- The name of the observer
- The item observed
- A description of the habitat
- A description of the item (texture, size, color)
- The date found
- A space to draw the specimen -- with labels and annotations
- A place for other remarks, including interviews with inhabitants of the area
- When the class has developed a model form, duplicate it so that everyone
has a copy. Explain to students that they are to apply their observational
skills to their own neighborhood to "discover" something they may have seen hundreds
of times. The difference is that this time they are going to look at familiar surroundings
with a scientist's eye.
- You may find it helpful to model this activity. Supply each group with an item
and walk students through the process of
filling out an observation form. Then encourage them to find their own
specimens. Some students may benefit from working in pairs, although each student
should contribute an individual observation form to the journal.
- After students have filled out their observation forms, have them share there
discoveries in a brief oral presentation. Then bind the forms together to make a
classroom Journal of Discovery.
You may want to have a mini-field trip in which the whole group explores a specific
area (such as a single backyard or park). Begin by creating a grid for the area
and having students locate their found items on it. The location of each
specimen would be indicated by placing its number on the grid where it was
The forms developed for this activity could also be adapted for use on Social Studies
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