Earth Science Week Classroom Activities

Mapping a Refuge

Activity Source:

National Energy Education Development Project. Provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Adapted with permission.

The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the world’s premier system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife, and plants. Why not visit a national wildlife refuge ( in or near your community?

A refuge is a place where you can record observations of seasonal changes to plants, trees, and wildlife. You can use GPS (global positioning system) data to mark an observation spot and record your observations. Then, if you can, visit the same national wildlife refuge during other seasons in the year to document changes in the natural world.


One per student or student group:

  • GPS receiver
  • Alcohol thermometer
  • Anemometer (or Beauford Scale for Wind Speed Observations available online at
  • Other weather equipment for measuring air pressure and/or humidity (optional)
  • Digital camera (optional)
  • Paper and pen or pencil


  1. At your selected national wildlife refuge, choose an observation spot.

  2. With your writing materials, set up an “observation worksheet” including spaces to record the date, season, latitude, longitude, air temperature, wind direction, water temperature (if possible), estimated wind speed, and other data.

  3. Use the GPS receiver to determine the latitude and longitude for your spot. Record them on the observation worksheet.

  4. Record your observations of the area, and note anything you think is important. Describe your observation spot. What do you see? Do you see any animals or evidence of animals? Explain.

  5. If you have a digital camera, take a few photos of the area.

  6. Upon returning to the classroom, print out your pictures. Collect them with those of your classmates, if possible, and perhaps file them in a binder along with observation worksheets.

  7. If you can, visit your observation spots at least two more times during different seasons. Use latitude and longitude data to find your observation spots. Then add your observations to the worksheet and take more pictures for the binder.

  8. After your final field trip, share observations and photos with others. Create a class report that summarizes observations of the seasonal changes.

Extension Activities

  1. Compare the seasonal changes in your area to those in other latitudes.

  2. If your teacher is able to do this project in future years, assign each observation spot to a new student or group, and allow them to compare their observations to those made in previous years. Your teacher might also add “tree adoption” to the project and have students track data for specific trees. A student worksheet for tree adoption is online at