Lesson Plan

Wetlands Exploration

lake surrounded by spruce trees, hill in the distance
Discover a wetland environment
NPS Photo
Grade Level:
Second Grade-Fifth Grade
Biology: Animals, Biology: Plants, Ecology, Wildlife Biology
30 minutes
National/State Standards:
Alaska State Standards
Science: A12, 14, 15; B1, 2, 3; D1, 2;
habitat, observation, adaptations, interdependence, niche


Use America's largest national park as a pathway to discovery!

In this lesson, students discover, observe and learn about the types of small creatures that live in a wetlands habitat.


Using discovery and observation, students will better understand the role of little creatures as they relate to their habitat and other living things.


Explain to the sleuths that we walk in a wetlands habitat. On the way to the wetlands habitat:

  • Have the students look for evidence of little creatures below eye level - to the ground. (Some examples are insects on plants, insect homes in plants, chewed plants, holes in the ground, ant hills, living animals, scat droppings, etc.) 

    Note: In wetlands, sleuths should explore any ponds if weather permits. Explain the importance of safety (being careful on slippery rocks, not running, but instead move slowly). Remind them to replace rocks after they’ve looked under them. 

  • When you arrive at the habitat study area, gather the group together in a circle and share some of the things they found along the way.


Tell the sleuths that they are now in the wetlands habitat.

  • How is it different from the other habitats they have explored? 

  • Ask them to give examples of little creatures that might inhabit that particular habitat. (e.g., Wetlands: insects, spiders, birds, small mammals, etc.) 
If the wetlands area is dried up or frozen, search for evidence of what might have lived there.

  • Set comfortable boundaries within the habitat area that will provide the sleuths with individual exploring room. 

  • Show them the field guides and other resource sheets available to the whole group for ID purposes. 

  • Let them go to work in the habitat! The students may CAREFULLY collect smaller critters (ants, beetles, insects,…) in the bug boxes. Other creatures like butterflies, mice, moths… can probably be collected in the jars. However, some of the best learning to be done about little creatures is to observe them in their habitat doing what they do best. 

  • During the exploration go from group to group answering questions and reinforcing excitement and curiosity about what they are doing. 

  • When sleuths have explored and found a little creature that they are very excited about, give them a case study sheet. 
Once the students have explored and completed a case study on at least one creature, gather the group together with their little critters and case study sheets.


Pass all the creatures around so that everyone can look at each one.

  • Ask several detectives to explain one or more of their creature case studies to the rest of the group using the case study sheets as a format.  

  • Ask each sleuth how they think these creatures affect, or what relationship they have to their environment, the Park, and people. (i.e. Are they harmful? Are they helpful? Are they important to us? To others? Why?)  

  • As a group put all of the creatures into several groups according to their individual similarities and differences. Have each sleuth write the group of his or her creature on their case study sheet. Tell the sleuths to carefully return their creatures to where they were found. Found alive, return alive!

Park Connections

Students will become more comfortable with these little creatures. An understanding and awareness of the diversity found among the little creatures of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve will be gained.

Additional Resources

This lesson is part of our "Pathways to Discovery" unit. The individual lessons can be done individually or as a larger unit of learning. They encourage the development of a student’s awareness and appreciation of the natural world and people’s relationship and role as a part of that natural world.

The lessons are a series of shorter activities that have been blended together under a specific theme with the intent that the activities will be coordinated with units in the existing school curriculum and texts. The materials are organized by grade level, but can actually be adapted for use at any grade level. Check out the full Pathways to Discovery unit of lessons, as well as links to other stand-alone lessons like this one.