Explore the ground with a magnifier

Show kids the biodiversity of the earth beneath their feet, where growing plants and scurrying animals work together to thrive. Help them make a magnifier to explore this important microhabitat.

Make It!

What you’ll need:
• Permanent marker
• Sturdy cardboard
• Scissors or craft knife
• Convex lens (e.g., from an old pair of reading glasses)
• Hot glue
• Markers, crayons, stickers, and other crafty materials

Try It!

First, get kids used to the magnifier by looking through it with one eye, then the other, then both. (They should be looking through the outward curve of the lens.) Try holding the magnifier at various distances from their eyes to figure out what works best. Then encourage kids to get down on the ground to discover details they might miss by just walking around.

Use these observational prompts and activities to help children learn about biodiversity:

• Name everything you see in the groundcover.
• What do you see that’s surprising?
• How many different types of plants can you spot? What’s different about them? Their patterns? Color? Texture?
• Can you follow something that crawls? Where does it go? What other critters does it pass along its journey?
• Have children sketch their observations or write a poem or short story about the newly explored microhabitat.

Save It!

Now that kids understand that the ground is more than just dirt and grass, inspire them to protect it. Here are some ideas:

• If kids see litter, help them pick it up. Too much trash can prevent plants from growing and disturb critters’ homes.

• If your family has been exploring a new area, clean your shoes afterward. Seeds of non-native plants can track in on the soles, and those invasive species can push out native plants that keep the ecosystem healthy.

• Kids might want to pick flowers to bring home, but teach them to pick only a few. Removing too many plants from a habitat robs critters of food and shelter. Natural plants also prevent erosion.

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