Lesson Plans & Activities

Lesson Plans

Please contact the Refuge for ideas and assistance with incorporating environmental education into your curriculum. Refuge staff can assist you in finding or developing activities that correlate with Standards of Learning.

Field trips are strongly encouraged to provide students with direct experience in the natural world. We would suggest the following outline to achieve the most meaningful educational experience.

Pre-Visit Planning  

  • Inform students of their upcoming outdoor classroom trip to the refuge. 
  • Prepare overhead transparencies and handouts for students with the aid of refuge resource materials and graphics. 
  • Discuss the significance of a wildlife refuge with your class. Explain how it differs from a park. 
  • Assign research projects to your students to generate interest in wildlife. 
  • Conduct pre-visit activities as suggested or made available by the refuge staff. 
  • Construct and/ or collect needed equipment for outdoor classroom activities. 
  • Assist students in preparing data record sheets, field notebooks, etc. 
  • Practice field work techniques: how to record information, how to take measurements, and how to utilize senses for observing wildlife. 
  • Review trip suggestions with class. 

On Site Activity 

  • Meet with a refuge employee for a general orientation to the refuge (approximately 15 minutes). 
  • Guide investigation with the use of activity materials. Students should already be aware of their specific tasks. 
  • Incorporate "Teachable Moments", such as an Osprey diving for fish, an animal skull, or the call of some far away bird. These often are the highlights of a visit and will help to reinforce the values of a wildlife refuge. 
  • Allow time at the end of each activity for discussion and to tie major points together. 

Post-Visit Followup 

  • Reinforce outdoor classroom activities with further discussions of key points and major findings. 
  • Introduce writing activities, creative art projects, and storytelling assignments to expand on the refuge experience. 
  • Encourage further student investigation in areas of newly developed interest prompted by outdoor classroom activities. 
  • Activities 


The following list includes brief descriptions of structured hands-on activities which have been specifically designed by Back Bay NWR for visiting educational groups. Since the procedures for these activities are rather lengthy, they have not been printed in full here. More extensive descriptions, objectives, procedures, and safety guidelines can be sent to you upon request. These activity plans can be modified to suit your grade level or to accommodate any other needs and interests. The ideal group size is approximately 1 adult for every 10 students and each activity takes approximately one hour, including time for discussion. Equipment and a copy of the data sheets are provided by the refuge, but educators are expected to make their own copies of the data sheets for their group and students are expected to bring their own "field notebooks" and writing utensils.

Who Uses the Marsh?  

Level: Elementary / Middle 
Location: Bay Trail
This activity introduces children to the wetlands ecosystem, the difference between wetland and non-wetland soils, and several wetland plants and animals. Students role play biologists asked to complete a data sheet by their refuge manager. Students investigate and evaluate the impact of different uses of the marsh, such as wildlife habitats, water purification, and educational and recreational purposes. Students also indicate what plants, animals, insects, and birds they saw.

Exploring the Pond Habitat 

Level: Elementary / Middle 
Location: Pond Outdoor Classroom
This activity acquaints students with the diversity of plant and animal life in a freshwater pond. Students use nets, strainers, and buckets to collect, identify, and observe a variety of pond life.

Sea Turtle Explorers 

Level: Elementary / Middle 
Location: Refuge Beach
Students simulate the beach monitoring done by refuge biologists during each Sea Turtle nesting season. Students first explore the beach to look for turtle nests. Upon locating a nest, students will transplant the nest and eggs (ping-pong balls) to a more safe and suitable environment. A great deal of information about Sea Turtles and an appreciation of conservation efforts can be gained through this activity. *NOTE* To get the most out of this activity, refuge staff assistance should be enlisted. However, this may not be possible at all times, so please call early to reserve this activity.

Beach Scavenger Hunt 

Level: Elementary 
Location: Refuge Beach
Students explore habitat and wildlife variations in different zones of the beach through transect studies. At 10 meter intervals, students examine a half-meter radius for plant and animal life, human evidence, sand composition, and ghost crab holes. The ghost crab is considered to be an indicator species of human interaction – the more holes, the less the impact by humans, unless food is introduced.