How Do We Know This Patch?

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Submitted by: Ben Hockley
Grade level: middle-years,secondary
Core Competencies: communication,creative-thinking,positive-personal-and-cultural-identity,social-responsibility
Subject Disciplines: earth-science-and-space-science,outdoor-education

Subject: Science    Grade: 6-8    Timing: 10-15 minutes each class, for about 8 classes

Main Idea: An outdoor exploration of different lenses we can use to do observations. This is inspired by David George Haskell’s (2013) book “The Forest Unseen.”

Lesson Aims:

  1. To get students outdoors.
  2. To observe, get-to-know, and to potentially build a relationship with a small patch of land on the school grounds
  3. To acknowledge the limits of western Scientific Method, and to bring awareness to other, valid ways of doing Science
  4. D – To begin seeing how the lenses we use have a big influence on how we learn and what we learn

BC Curricular Competencies

  • Make observations aimed at identifying their own questions about the natural world
  • Observe, measure, and record data (qualitative and quantitative), using equipment, including digital technologies, with accuracy and precision
  • Ensure that safety and ethical guidelines are followed in their investigations
  • Experience and interpret the local environment
  • Consider social, ethical, and environmental implications of the findings from their own investigations
  • **Express and reflect on a variety of experiences and perspectives of place**

Lesson Outline

Preamble: When conceptualizing this lesson, I envisioned grade 8 students at the beginning of their first year of high school. In this stage, students are trying to make sense of many new things, such as:

  • What does “learning” look like at the high school level? (Many are under the impression that it is rigorously academic)
  • What expectations do high school teachers have?
  • How are relationships formed in high schools?
  • What is my place in this high school?

I think grade 8 is the ideal time for teachers to openly embrace ideas that seem “different” to students, such as in this lesson. Teachers can show the value that they hold for such diverse and holistic learning, and for the power in seeing the world from different perspectives. Furthermore, and especially as Science teachers, we can show that we’re experimenting with the ideas in this lesson, and that we might have fear or anxiety about them not “turning out well.” I think beginning the Science 8 year with this honest, transparent approach might help create a classroom that is safe, courageous and caring.


  • Whiteboards or large paper for brainstorm
  • Rulers, magnifying lenses
  • Legal size paper + hard portable surface to write on
  • Safe space to store booklets
  • Optional: Outdoor cushions for comfier experience
Lesson/Time Activity Description    
1 : 45 minutes
  • Group brainstorm, “What does it mean to observe something?” “What is an observation?”
  • Quick share of ideas. Can discuss, “Are your observations always the same as my observations?”
  • Hand-out paper to construct Patch Observation Booklets (Legal size paper works well). See link below. Students can name, date and title onto the booklets.

  • Head outside to a quiet area near the school, with a diversity of “ground types” and enough space for each student to have a space where they won’t be distracted by neighbouring students.
  • Briefly outline the idea: We are going to each choose a small Patch of the land (show about 1 square meter), and spend some time getting to know it through our observations. Each day for the next ___ classes, we’ll spend approximately 10-15 minutes getting to know it. Today, we’ll be making observations ONLY using our eyes. So, on the first page of the booklet, you can write “observing with eyes” and then jot down any observations you make. The booklets are yours only, so write freely. Invite students to repeat the instructions for clarity.
  • Quick group convo about Leave No Trace and about silently observing. “What do you think it means?” “Who does it apply to?” and “How might that look with this activity?”
  • Students go ahead with activity. May have to redirect some away from friends.
  • After 10 minutes, return to class. Find a safe space to store booklets in class.
  • Option to open discussions after visits to how the students found the experience
2-8 : 15 minutes In lessons 2-8, the same 15 minute process becomes a routine:

  • Students grab booklets. Quick reminder about Leave No Trace, silent observations, and about recording in the booklets. Give new “lens” for observations and quickly clarify what it means:
  • 1: Observing with Eyes
  • 2: Observing with Tools (Need rulers, magnifying glasses, etc.) Be clear about Leave No Trace here.
  • 3: Observing with Other senses (eyes closed)
  • 4: Observing our Emotions. “Record your feelings when in this Patch”
  • 5: Observing Conversation: “Speak with the Patch and make observations about your conversation”
  • 6: Observing Outwardly: “Observe the Patch by noticing what’s outside of it”
  • 7: Observing Non-humanly: “Choose a creature that might use this Patch. How might this creature observe the Patch?”
  • 8: Your Choice: Using any previous “lens” or any other, observe the space how you wish.

After each, option to engage in conversations to gauge student temperature or direction with the activity

9 : 30 minutes

+ take-home

  • In the class, have the words, “So, what do you know about Patch?”
  • Students grab their booklets to quickly read through
  • In partners, they can share verbal stories about how they came to know Patch.

Assessment: As a final “summative” piece for this activity, students will take home their booklets and engage in a reflection. Encourage multiple options for modes: audio, written, video, drawn. This will be handed in to be seen by the teacher only. Or, if the students prefer, they can sign up to have a conversation about these reflections instead of handing something in.

1: So, what did you learn about Patch? And how did you learn about Patch?

2: What did you learn about yourself in this activity?

3: Do you think any of the observations you took were more important than others? If so, which were the most important observations?

4: Do you think you care about Patch? If so, what do you think made that happen? If not, could you think of a different space that you would care about?

5: Describe how you did with Leave No Trace.

6: How might you change this activity if you were to do it again?

Optional Extensions:

  • “What is Living” unit in Science 8 Biology. How different lenses can influence what we understand as being living or not
  • If there is connection to place in this activity, revisiting Patches throughout the year to observe seasonal changes
  • School grounds mapping activity – cross-curricular with Socials 8
  • The power of language – cross-curricular with Socials 8 – further depth into how naming, counting, labeling nature influences the way we know it






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