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Field Guide to Insects in Western Massachusetts

School: Alice B. Beal Elementary

City/State: Springfield, MA

Grade(s): 2

Format(s): Field guide: Natural science

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Science and Technology, Visual Arts

Project Overview

This field guide was created by 2nd graders from the Alice B. Beal Elementary Magnet School in Springfield, Massachusetts, during the fall of 2006. The Field Guide to Insects was part of a two-month Learning Expedition that included field observation and collection, classroom experimentation and research, reading from books and websites, and work with a local entomologist who works for The Smithsonian Institute. The teacher assembled a classroom library with non-fiction books across a wide range of reading levels. This Learning Expedition was a customized, expanded version of a required district science unit.

Students became experts in the insects local to Western Massachusetts, and then began working with a partner on a specific insect. Each entry in the field guide contains scientific illustrations of the pair’s insect, a life cycle of the insect, as well as detailed written descriptions. Each entry has two drawings – one by each contributing student.

To achieve the high level of quality shown in the field guide entries, students did multiple revisions of their drawings and writing, each time receiving feedback from students and adults.

Students in this class won a city-wide competition to design an insect habitat; they received a $1,000 prize, which went toward classroom supplies. 

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Exemplifies the use of a common template for each entry (which adds consistency), while retaining students’ unique contributions
  • Drawings are very detailed, demonstrating the power of multiple drafts (see entries for dragonflies, cockroaches and grasshoppers).
  • Writing is strong and clear and shows student voice
  • A well-designed layout that combines colorful scientific illustration, student writing in text boxes, and graphic representation of each insect’s life cycle
  • An example of 2nd graders working with a local scientist
  • A creative and effective format to address and deepen content required in state curriculum frameworks and district science requirements

Relevant Resources

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can use text features (bold, captions, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, icons) to efficiently find facts in informational texts.
  • I can participate in shared research projects.
  • I can use a variety of strategies to determine the meaning of a word.
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