Every summer when my kids were little, they would head outdoors and investigate nature. So one summer, I made them a "field notebook and kit". Oh my goodness! Was this ever a hit in the neighborhood!
Granted, we lived in Colorado where wildlife roamed, even through the suburbs. But my youngest still drags it out from time to time here in Florida. Your investigation site can be as small as a backyard or large as a park or beach.
It's amazing what kids will find when they slow down and really look with an investigator's eye. These kits are easy to make and can be used with groups of students, sent home as a family project or used with your own kids. They're great for some summer learning that's still tons of fun, too.
Zippered (heavy duty) plastic pencil pouch
Local or regional field guide
baggies- various sizes
colored pencils + regular pencil
wet wipes (a few in a baggie)
You can get way more creative, but I like to keep it simple and easy to carry. One year I added Plaster of Paris and some water. When we found some mountain lion tracks, we used a large baggie to mix the plaster and made moulds. It's still one of my favorite memories!
For a field guide I use either a moleskin or (cheaper option) a composition notebook or small spiral notebook. Any size or style notebook would do. I don't like to get too big. Kids seem to do a better job with it if they aren't overwhelmed with the amount of space to fill. A traditional moleskin is really the best size.
(It's interesting to look at samples of Lewis and Clarke's notebooks online to see what they did.)
Use the string to mark off a small, square area.
Describe the day- date, time weather...
What are the soil conditions? Write it down.
Draw what you see in the area.
Clip samples from the area and place them in a baggie or glue them into your notebook.
Use the magnifying glass to look closer at the area. Draw what you see or describe it in your notebook.
Look for signs of wildlife.
Use your field guide to help you identify wildlife you see in the area.
Is there signs of erosion or pollution? Note that.
Thoughts and wonderings about what you have seen.
We've found (and brought home) fossils, bones, flowers, leaves, bugs, scat, rocks...
Give it a go. I think your students will surprise you.
Variation: Go on a germ hunt around your school and playground. This one is great for getting kids to wash their hands.
Zippered pouch or other secure bag for carrying supplies
Prepared petrie dishes
pencil + colors pencils
Sharpie + painters masking tape
You'll need a microscope and slides for after the germs start to grow. Also, it helps to preview and have ready some websites to help identify the germs. Remember to have students mark the each petrie dish with the location swabbed.