Curriculum Resources

K-3rd Grade Hikes and Lessons

Let’s Go Explore Oak Habitats!

Guiding questions:

Where do animals live and why do they live there? What do plants and animals (and humans!) need to survive and thrive?

NGSS correlations: K-LS1-1, K-ESS2-2

Nature’s Designs

Guiding questions:

What are the forces that shape the color patterns, textures, scents, shapes, sizes, and movements we see in nature? Why do some offspring look like their parents and others look very different? How do behaviors of parents help their offspring survive?

NGSS correlations: 1-LS1-1, 1-LS1-2, 1-LS3-1


Guiding questions:

How many types of animals can we find living along the oak trail? Plants? How can we measure the diversity of life in different habitats?

NGSS correlations: 2-LS2-1, 2-LS2-2, 2-LS4-1

Animals and Oaks Through Time

Guiding questions:

How are plants, animals and environments of the past similar or different from current plants, animals and environments? How do we know? What happens to animal and plant populations when the environment changes?

NGSS correlations: 3-LS2-1, 3-LS4-1, 3-LS4-3, 3-LS4-4

4th-6th Grade Hikes and Lessons

A Closer Look…

Guiding questions:

How do internal and external structures support the survival, growth, behavior and reproduction of plants and animals?  

NGSS correlations: 4-LS1-1, 4LS1-2

Nature’s Cycles 

Guiding questions:

How do energy and matter move through the oak ecosystem? Where does the energy in food come from and what is it used for?

NGSS correlations: 5 PS3-1, 5LS1-1, 5LS2-1

Native Ways to Present Days

Guiding questions:

How do human activities impact oak ecosystems? What does it mean to be a steward of the land? What are the challenges of oak woodlands stewardship?

NGSS correlations: MS-ESS3-1, MS-ESS3-3, MS-ESS3-4 

Special Hikes and Lessons

Lichen Wonders

Lichens are all around us. That crusty or leafy, colorful stuff you see on rocks and oak branches? The “moss” (lace lichen is often misidentified as moss) hanging from oak trees? All different kinds of lichen. Wherever lichens grow, there are opportunities for students to explore and learn more about these fascinating and often misunderstood organisms.

What is lichen? How does its structure support its function? What are lichen roles, relationships and impacts in the oak ecosystem? How are lichens useful to humans and valuable to wildlife? 

NGSS correlation: 4-LS1-1


Let’s Rock! Exploring Geologic History

In the beginning, this land used to be underwater. We explore how the land has changed from millions of years ago to today. Students look for evidence of these changes in the rocks, fossils and land formations we see today.

NGSS correlation: 4-ESS1-1


BioBlitz! Exploring Biodiversity 

What is a BioBlitz?  

Puppet Shows and Skits

All Cal Poly Senior Projects created through LATO collaboration
with Cal Poly Liberal Studies Professor Anne Marie Bergen and her Senior Project students, 2013-2020. Professor retired in June 2020 – are grateful for the lasting positive impacts of Cal Poly learn by doing creativity and passion for teaching and learning!
Note: Time lengths given are estimates and include time for discussion.

Puppet Shows

Many of these puppet shows have been adapted from puppet shows included in Hands-On Nature, edited by Jenepher Lingelbach, developed and published by the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. This  book is a wonderful, highly creative resource for environmental education.

A raccoon, worm, and spider are looking for a home, and learn they can all share one rotting log as a habitat.

Characters: Riley Raccoon, Billy Bear,
Sally Spider, Wallace Worm

Length: 5-10 minutes

NGSS: Kindergarten LS4.D, 2nd grade LS4-1


An owl, scrub jay, and woodpecker join together for dinner and talk about their favorite foods.

Characters: Barny Owl, Jack Scrub Jay, Allison Woodpecker

Length: 10-15 minutes

NGSS: 3rd grade LS4.C, LS4-3; 4th grade LS1.A, LS1-1


A chipmunk, skunk, cottontail, and a fox conspire to use their camouflage to surprise a swallowtail butterfly for her birthday.

Characters: Christopher Chipmunk, Skyler Skunk, Everett Cottontail, Felix Fox,
Savannah Swallowtail

Length: 5-10 minutes

NGSS: 3rd grade LS4.B, LS4.C, LS3.B

An owl leads a bear on a tour of its ecosystem, and shows it the intricacies of its surrounding food web.

Characters: Owl, Bear, Grass, Rabbit, Deer, Bobcat, Mountain Lion, Mushroom

Length: 10-15 minutes

NGSS: 5th grade LS2.A, LS2-1


An acorn, onion, and chipmunk talk about and demonstrate where they grow and how they get there.

Characters: Owen Oak Seed/Seedling, Oscar Onion, Christopher Chipmunk

Length: 5-10 minutes

NGSS: 2nd grade LS2.A, 3rd grade LS1.B


A skunk asks his quail friend why he is always singing, and learns the different purposes of bird songs.

Characters: Cara Quail, Milo Quail, Skyler Skunk

Length: 10-15 minutes

NGSS: 1st grade-LS1-2, LS1.D, 2nd grade -LS2-1, 3rd grade LS2.D


Animals and Oaks Through Time Skits

Created by Cal Poly Senior Project students Natalie Ifland and Kelsey Tigh, March 2016, in collaboration with Cal Poly Liberal Studies Professor Anne Marie Bergen.

A California Condor encounters a Jackrabbit who fears it will be eaten; the two talk about their place in the Animal Kingdom and the comeback story of the California Condor.

Characters: Narrator, Connie the condor, Jack the jackrabbit

Length: 5-10 minutes

NGSS: 2nd grade LS4.D, 3rd grade LS1.B, ESS3.B



A mountain lion and a saber-toothed cat happen upon each other while hunting and discuss their adaptations and lifestyles.

Characters: Narrator, Sergio the saber-toothed cat, Milo the mountain Lion

Length: 5-10 minutes

NGSS: 2nd grade LS4.D, 3rd LS2.D, 3rd LS4.C, 4th grade LS1.A



A native black-tailed deer and a woolly
mammoth discuss and compare their adaptations and
interactions within past and present ecosystems.

Characters: Narrator, John Deer, Maggie Mammoth

Length: 10-15 minutes

NGSS: 2nd grade LS4.D, 3rd LS2.D, 3rd grade LS4.C, 3rd LS4.D, 4th grade LS1.A



If you are interested in learning more about LATO curriculum resources, educational hikes and/or outreach presentations, please feel free to contact us for more information.

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