A Journal of Discovery

Science Activity

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."



  1. 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)

  2. 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.

  3. 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 following items:

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 first seen.

The forms developed for this activity could also be adapted for use on Social Studies field trips.

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