Field Trips

Ecosystem Explorers (1st Grade)

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Grade Level:
Lower Elementary: Pre-Kindergarten through Second Grade
Common Core Standards:
1.SL.1, 1.SL.6, 2.SL.1


Based around Next Generation Science Standards, this series of programs invites students to have a sensory experience on one of Acadia's coastal trails. The three programs are offered in the fall season and explore different topics by grade. 

Sun Seekers: Kindergarteners explore the earth's relationship with the sun and the sun's energy. Students explore the suns effect on weather and how that impacts a habitat. Students count and classify objects and colors while participating in a variety of movement activities. 

Nature's Counters and Classifiers: First grade students will hike a short coastal trail, while using tally marks, counting and classifying objects based on attributes. Students will compare and contrast objects based on colors, shapes, and sizes in a way similar to how scientists identify features. 

Earth, Sea, and Sky: Second graders will hike on a coastal trail and identify key landscape features such as island, harbor, and coastline. While learning about the land they will find evidence for quick and slow changes to the landscape and the natural processes that allow these changes to occur. 

An exploratory hike is an essential part of each program. We hike along the ocean coast, observe the waves crashing, and seek shelter in the spruce fir forest. While observing the natural world there is no telling what the group will find! 

Ranger holding rockweed and overlooking the harbor

Trip Planner

We are looking forward to your visit to Acadia National Park which will provide your students with a special opportunity to hike along a portion of a nature trail and learn about the connection between the energy of the sun and the resources of Acadia. This loop trail is considered easy, with some areas where roots cross the trail and some uneven rocky surfaces. It is a little over a 3/4 mile long.

Note that students will not go in the water/mud/tidepool areas during this program. Plan a restroom break just before departing school. If you have any questions about the program in advance please call the education office at 288-8823, or 288-8825 on the day of the program. If you will be more than 15 minutes late, please call the Visitor Center at 288-8832 so that they can contact the ranger by radio.

IMPORTANT NOTE! This program takes place along the Ship Harbor Nature Trail. There is only one pit/vault toilet here (and no water fountain). You MUST inform Lead Ranger Michael Marion before your field trip if you will choose Option 1 or Option 2 below. Option 2 allows for a bathroom break with more facilities at a nearby picnic area.

OPTION 1: Meet at Ship Harbor Nature Trail (best for groups w/ less than ~12 participants and/or are very close by)
Meet your rangers at 9:00am at the trail parking area. Rangers will be there to help manage parking. We will welcome the group, have a bathroom break (note there is only one pit toilet), and then begin the program. Remember that there’s not a water fountain here.
9:00       Welcome and Bathroom Break at trailhead
9:15       Hike trail. There will be a snack break during the program.
10:45    Bathroom Break
11:00    Depart Ship Harbor

OPTION 2: Meet at Seawall Picnic Area for a pre-program bathroom break (best for groups with more than ~12 participants)
Meet your rangers at 9:00am at Seawall Picnic Area for a welcome and bathroom break, as there are multiple facilities here. Then, rangers will escort the bus to the trailhead (~5 minute drive) for the program. After the program, groups can drive back to the Seawall Picnic Area for a bathroom break if they choose to. Remember there’s only 1 toilet at Ship Harbor.
9:00 Meet Rangers at Seawall Picnic Area for welcome and bathroom break. Then drive to the trailhead.
9:30 Hike Ship Harbor Nature Trail. There will be a snack break during the program.
11:00 Farewell to rangers. Drive to Seawall Picnic Area for bathroom break if needed.
11:30 Depart Seawall Picnic Area or stay and eat lunch, if applicable.

Plan to Bring
  • Chaperones: Plan early! Acadia requires a chaperone for every ten student. Extra chaperones are welcome.
  • Food: A water fountain is available at Seawall Picnic Area, but not at the program site Ship Harbor. Also, there will be no food or drinks to purchase. Each student needs to bring a snack and a re-sealable drink. Although a lunch break will not be included in the program, you are welcome to plan to eat your bag lunches at Seawall Picnic Area before heading back to school.
  • Clothing: Wear layered outdoor clothing to accommodate changing weather conditions. Supportive shoes are essential—no sandals or flip-flops. It’s best to wear pants instead of shorts for extra tick protection.
  • Nametags: Students and adults need name tags. A piece of masking tape with the name in marker is sufficient.
  • Signed photo release forms: Please send photo releases home with students for parent signatures. Teachers’ Responsibilities
  • Prepare students for the program by utilizing suggested classroom activities or your own.
  • Adherence to school procedures such as permission slips, insurance, transportation, etc.
  • Recruit chaperones and inform them of their responsibilities. Please photocopy and distribute the chaperone handout.
  • Prepare students to follow Leave No Trace practices:
    • Stay on trails if possible.
    • Respect, listen, and use quiet voices.
    • Leave all natural objects. Take trash with you. (You may want to bring a trash bag.)
    • Supervise students and help them stay focused while on the program.
  • Notify trip participants about the recommendation to check for ticks after visiting the park. Tick numbers here have risen in recent years.
  • Ensuring that safe practices are followed throughout
Program Goals:
  • To provide an opportunity for students to connect to the resources of Acadia through sensory exploration & discovery.
  • To allow students a realistic opportunity to use the classification process.
  • To provide students real world examples of categorizing and describing Acadia National Park and beyond.
  • To introduce the idea of dichotomous keys- which are essential tools in the scientific world.
  • To count and classify major characteristics in the forest and surrounding area.
  • To foster a sense of respect and stewardship for Acadia and the environment.
Program Objectives:
Students will be able to:
  • Identify plants with needles and plants without needles
  • Classify rocks larger than 1 inch and smaller than 1 inch · Measure height of plants compared to their size
  • Differentiate between a moss, a shrub, and a fern
  • Compare wild animals and domestic animals
  • Create a dichotomous key to classify any two objects
Program Standards:
Next Generation Science Standards:
2-PS1-1 Matter and Its Interactions Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties.

 Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Numbers and Operations in Base 10 Extend the counting sequence.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.1.NBT.A.1 Count to 120, starting at any number less than 120. In this range, read and write numerals and represent a number of objects with a written numeral. Use place value understanding and properties of operations to add and subtract.
 CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.1.NBT.C.4 Add within 100, including adding a two-digit number and a one-digit number, and adding a two-digit number and a multiple of 10, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method and explain the reasoning used. Understand that in adding two-digit numbers, one adds tens and tens, ones and ones; and sometimes it is necessary to compose a ten. Measurement and Data Measure lengths indirectly and by iterating length units.
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.1.MD.A.1 Order three objects by length; compare the lengths of two objects indirectly by using a third object. Represent and interpret data.
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.1.MD.C.4 Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories; ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another.

Common Core English Language Arts Standards:
CCSS ELA-Literacy.
SL1.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
CCSS ELA-Literacy.SL.1.3 Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to gather additional information or clarify something that is not understood.
CCSS.ELE-Literacy.SL.1.4 Describe people, places, THINGS, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly.


Last updated: April 3, 2019