Activity Centers

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Activity Centers are volunteer-led, environmentally-centered lessons geared for small groups of 6-10 students. Please read through the Activity Center choices shown below so you can plan an experience that is fun and appropriate for your students and curriculum.


How to Select and Prepare for Activity Centers

Selection of Centers:

We have two levels of Activity Centers: (1) Grades K-3 and (2) Grades 4-8. The grade level distinctions are only suggestions, since each lesson can be adapted to any grade. Typically, teachers choose anywhere from 4-6 different Activity Centers depending on the size of the entire group. Activity Centers need to be selected prior to your visit and communicated to the Cooper Center’s staff.

Preparation:

Before your field trip, it’s strongly recommended that you meet with your adult volunteers to prepare them for the experience. Teaching a Center is a big responsibility and will be a challenging experience for most field trip volunteers. Adults who are leading centers should receive their lesson plans well in advance of the field trip. On each lesson plan there is a list of all supplies at Cooper you can use and a list of supplies you need to bring to Cooper for that Center. Not all centers need extra supplies. If getting supplies is an issue, look for the centers without extra supplies needed or Contact Us to see if we have extra supplies you can use.

Scheduling of Centers:

The Activity Centers typically last from about 30 – 40 minutes, with about 5 minutes for rotation time. There are usually 4-6 Centers. You may vary the time according your schedule, the number of students you have and how many Centers you would like to have. Below is a SAMPLE schedule of rotations. You may use more or fewer Centers, bring your own Center activities, shorten or lengthen the time of Centers. Start time is approximate. Full-day groups need to make sure they leave time for cleanup after Activity Centers.

Sample Rotation


Description

Start Time

Finish Time

Center #1

1:00

1:30

Rotation #1

1:30

1:35

Center #2

1:35

2:05

Rotation #2

2:05

2:10

Center #3

2:10

2:40

Rotation #3

2:40

2:45

Center #4

2:45

3:15

Rotation #4

3:15

3:20

Center #5

3:20

3:50

Bolded and underlined times means to ring the bell.


List of Centers:

Below is a list of all the Centers available. Each link will send you to the description of Center with all the details. If you would like to create your own Center please look at Guidelines for Creating Your Own Center. Please know that we are flexible with how you want to run your afternoon activities. Contact Us with any questions or ideas.

Activity Centers by Level


Beginner Centers

Intermediate Centers

Other Centers

Adopt-a-Rock* Animal Tracks* Lizards & Temp Control
Arthropods All Around Us Arthropod Adventures Owl Pellets*
Cryptic Critters Basic Botany*  
Desert Poetry* Bills, Eyes, Wings, Feet*  
Focus In* Birding  
Predator and Prey Cactus Close-Up  
Saguaro Story Desert Detectives*  
Weather Wise* Discovery Scopes*  
  Sun Fun*  
  Take-a-Hike  
  Tuning In  

* Denotes a Center that needs supplies from school.

 

Description of Centers:

The following are brief descriptions of each Activity Center along with a link to the lesson plan. They are organized alphabetically within the three levels.

 

Beginner Centers

Adopt-a-Rock:

Allows students to choose their own rock to discover that all rocks are not the same. They study the texture, shape, color, and other aspects of their rocks. They also get to take the rock home with them. Click on title to download lesson plan.

  • Supplies needed from school
  1.  Box to carry all the rocks back to school.

Arthropods All Around Us

Spider

Introduces students to the world of arthropods by means of puppets, a short walk in the desert, and a Velcro-board depiction of basic arthropod anatomy. Click on title to download lesson plan.

Cryptic Critters

Students learn about cryptic coloration and patterns (camouflage) as they locate colored “critters” and design their own cryptic animal scenes. Click on title to download lesson plan.

Desert Poetry

Allows students to experiment with different poetry forms as they sit in a quiet desert spot and use all their senses. Click on title to download lesson plan.

  • Supplies needed from school
  1. Pencils
  2. Paper
  3. Xeroxed copies of Desert Poetry examples (if you wish to use those)

Focus In

Allows students to take a close-up look at the desert as they use hand lenses and color sticks. They also sketch their discoveries. Click on title to download lesson plan.

  • Supplies needed from school
  1. Pencils
  2. Paper

Predator Prey

Uses food chains/webs, animal skulls, footprints, and picture books to illustrate prey and predator relationships and the importance of predators. Click on title to download lesson plan.

Saguaro Story

Saguaro

Students learn about the life history and the importance of of saguaro cactus to our desert environment through hands-on observations and interactive stories. Click on title to download lesson plan.

Weather Wise

Allows students to increase their awareness of the weather: What is the weather like today? What makes our weather? What clues are around us that show that weather affects our environment? Why are the sun, wind, and rain important? Click on title to download lesson plan.

  • Supplies needed from school
  1. Copies of the “Today’s Weather” Chart and “Weather Walk” (optional)
  2. Bubble mixture (recipe within activity)
  3. Pencils

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Intermediate Centers

Animal Tracks

Students become familiar with animal footprints in this art-based activity where students create their own animal track story. Click on title to download lesson plan.

Tracks

  • Supplies needed from school
  1. Paper for making track prints

Arthropod Adventures

Students review arthropod types, anatomy, and metamorphosis and take a short walk discovering arthropods in the desert. Click on title to download lesson plan.

Basic Botany

Students review basic concepts about plants (i.e. importance of plants, parts of plants, function, photosynthesis, oxygen and carbon dioxide cycle). Click on title to download lesson plan.

  • Supplies needed from school
  1. Pencils
  2. Paper

Bills, Eyes, Wings, Feet

Allows students to see how common birds from the Tucson area use various in finding and eating food. Click on title to download lesson plan.

Bird

  • Supplies needed from school
  1. Nuts in Shell

Birding

Allows student to learn how to use binoculars and look for and identify the common birds in the area. Note: Indoor bird activities are available in case of inclement weather.  Click on title to download lesson plan.

Cactus Close-up

Students explore a desert area and make discoveries about the life histories of our native cacti in a scavenger hunt format. Click on title to download lesson plan.

Desert Detectives

Students look for examples of desert adaptations in plants and signs of animal life. Click on title to download lesson plan.

  • Supplies needed from school
  1. Pencils
  2. Copies of Desert Detective Worksheet (1 per student)

Discovery Scopes

Allows students to use hand-held, wide field microscopes to take a close-up look at natural objects. Click on title to download lesson plan.

  • Supplies needed from school
  1. Pencils
  2. Paper

Sun Fun

Sun

Students perform a number of simple experiments to demonstrate the sun’s apparent movement across the sky, colors of light, solar energy and how we can harness it.  Solar ovens can be used as an extension of this activity to bake cookies! Note: This activity can only be done on sunny days, and there are more activities than can fit into the typical activity time frame.  Make sure that your instructors know which parts of the activity are most important to you. Click on title to download lesson plan.

  • Supplies needed from school
  1. Cookie dough to cook in solar oven (optional)
  2. Copies of the color spectrum for students to color

Take-a-hike

Students learn how to prepare for a hike in the desert and discuss sensible measures to take as they act out potential dangers they might encounter during a short walk along a trail. Click on title to download lesson plan.

Tuning In

Students are encouraged to tune into their natural surroundings by sharpening their senses of sight, hearing, and touch and by practicing being a quiet observer. Click on title to download lesson plan.

  • Supplies needed from school
  1. Pencils
  2. Paper
  3. Index cards

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Other Centers

Lizard and Temperature Control

Students become lizards and experience the search for food and regulation of body temperature. Click on title to download lesson plan.

Lizard

  • Supplies needed from school
  1. Pencils
  2. Paper
  3. Leader needs a watch

Owl Pellets

Inside activity that allows students to learn about owls by dissecting owl pellets and recording their findings on worksheets. Click on title to download lesson plan.

  • Supplies needed from school
  1. Pencils
  2. Owl Pellets (1 per 2 or 3 students)
  3. Copies of worksheets
  4. Permanent marker
  5. Paper Plates
  6. Plastic Bags

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If you are unsure of of what to bring or don't have access to things you need to bring, please Contact Us to see if we can help either with supplies or suggest Activity Centers that need little or no supplies to fit your needs.