Backyard Science...The Five Senses

Dawn Marie Penning, Century Elementary, Park Rapids, MN, based on activities found in the Mailbox Companion, p.10.


Kindergarten students will use their existing outdoor expertise to help them focus on the scientific study of their five senses in stations.

Learning Goals

Students will use their five senses (smell, touch, sight, hearing, taste) to explore the school backyard.


Context for Use

Educational level: K-1st grade
Size: 15-20 students
Institution: Public education
Center activity-this works best when extra hands are in the classroom. This is a perfect opportunity if your classroom is paired with a mentoring class!
Time needed at each center: 15-20 minutes
Students should have already been exposed to initial lessons on the five senses. They do not need to be mastered as the centers will provide further exposure and learning. The centers can easily be adapted to use in other settings (a shared classroom, outdoors, in the gym, etc.).

Subject: Environmental Science, Geoscience
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Field Activity
Special Interest: Field-Based Teaching and Learning
Grade Level: Primary (K-2)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Enhancing your Teaching:Teaching in the Field, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Environmental Science, Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:K12

Description and Teaching Materials

The centers will be introduced as a review activity. The teacher will ask the students to share their knowledge of their five senses. Once the senses have been reviewed, the teacher will motivate the students by telling them that they get to explore their senses at a variety of centers. The 6 centers will be explained prior to the students dividing and going to the various centers. The teacher will divide the students into groups.

Materials needed:

Center 1:
-Book: "Feathers for Lunch" by Loise Ehlert
-Two white construction paper cut into zigzags resembling a fence
-Green construction paper fringed like grass (one labeled: backyard plants/ the other backyard animals)

Center 2:
-Seed packet

Center 3:
-Sensory table
-Shapes of butterflies cut from a variety of green wallpaper
-Green Easter grass or shredded green bulletin board paper

Center 4:
-White paper

Center 5:
-White paper

Center 6:
-Recordings of:
-Birds singing
-Kids' jumping rope
-Lawn mower
-Barking dog
-Tape player


Center 1: Sights to See
Begin this lesson by reading the book, "Feathers for Lunch" by Lois Ehlert. Next, students will be asked to share what plants and animals they have spotted in their own backyard or park. The teacher at this station will label one poster 'Backyard Plants' and the other 'Backyard Animals'. The posters can be cut out to resemble white picket fences with grass on the bottom. As students' ideas are shared, they will be posted on the appropriate poster and hung as a bulletin board display.

Center 2: I Feel a...
Use a supply of small backyard objects: leaf, rock, twig, snail shell, seed packet and ball. Place the items in a soft bag under a table. Students can partner up, having one student blindfolded as the other student hands the blindfolded student one item at a time. The student will explore it with her sense of touch. They can ask their partner yes/no questions to help identify the object. Once the object is identified, they can check their guess. Play continues until all of the items have been explored.

Center 3: Sharpening Our Sight
In advance, cut butterflies of all sizes from a variety of green wallpaper samples. Next, fill a sensory table with green Easter grass or green shredded bulletin board paper to simulate grass. Place the butterflies in the faux grass, making sure some green sides face up and some white sides face up. Explain to the students that some animal's bodies cannot be easily seen in their environment, this is called camouflage. Then have the students search for the butterflies in the grass. Each time a student finds a butterfly, they are to say the color of the butterfly-- as the teacher will keep a tally on a sheet of paper. Count the tallies for each color of butterfly and discuss the results. Lead students to conclude that no matter how sharp their sense of sight is, it's more difficult to see butterflies that are camouflaged 'green'!

Center 4: Exploring Backyard Textures
Provide each student with a 12x18 sheet of white paper and a crayon and then head outdoors! Have each student explore the various textures on the playground. Encourage students to place their paper over each interesting texture they find and then use the crayon to make a rubbing of it. Display the finished projects on a bulletin board labeled 'Backyard Textures'.

Center 5: Take Time to Sense the Flowers
Bring in a variety of flowers to your classroom. Give each small group a different flower. Have a group explore it's flower using the senses of sight, touch and smell. Then give each child a sheet of white paper and have him draw and color a picture of the flower he has studied. Next, ask each group to describe how it's flower looks, feels, smells. Write descriptions in the center of a sheet of chart paper. Glue the flower drawings around the edge of the chart to create a floral border. Title the display 'Sensing Flowers'.

Center 6: Sound Hunt
To prepare for this center, record several minutes of each of the backyard sounds (birds singing, children jumping rope, a lawn mower running, a dog barking, a water sprinkler). To begin, have students listen to the recorded sounds. Prompt them to discuss the sounds they are hearing and why the sounds might be heard in their backyard. Then, select a pair of students to step outside the classroom while you hide the tape player. Have them return to the class and use their sense of hearing to locate the tape player. Once the player is discovered, choose two new students to leave and repeat as necessary (finding new locations each time).

Wrap-up/ closure:
Wrap up this sense filled center activity with a booklet that allows each child a chance to tell about his own backyard. The teacher can create a template on the computer-- titling the books: My Sense-sational Backyard. Cut pages for the book so that they are half of the page and resemble a fence door swinging open. Each page can say What is in the backyard? on top and on the bottom-- the words: I can see_____ I can hear_____ I can touch____ I can smell____ I can taste____ and finally, the last page stating: What is in the backyard? I can see it, hear it, smell it, touch it, or taste it! It is_____(a total of 6 pages). Optional: The teacher can use their digital cameras to take a picture of each child. The picture can be taped at the back of the book, with the face of the student peeking over the swinging fence. Allow time for all students to read/ share their creations.

Lesson/ center ideas were obtained by The Education Center, Inc. The Mailbox Kdg. August/ Sept. 2001, p.10-14.

Teaching Notes and Tips

The use of mentors would be ideal when conducting the centers. This would allow one adult at each center area-- providing guidance and reinforcement for the skills reviewed.


Mentors/ teachers at each center area will be able to identify if the skills are mastered through student responses, rubbings of textures, identification of sounds, being able to identify through touch, as well as visually finding butterflies. The student-created Sense-sational Backyard books will be incorporated into their student portfolios to be taken home at the end of the school year.


*Humans: To understand we have five senses which are used to learn about the environment.

*Inquiry: To ask questions about the natural world.

References and Resources