Field Trips

Animals of Acadia: CSI – Citizen Science Investigations (5th Grade)

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
State Standards:
NATIONAL/STATE STANDARDS:2007 Maine Learning Results
Science & Technology: Universal Themes A1 – A4, Scientific Inquiry B1, Scientific Enterprise C1 – C4, Living Environment E1 and E2
Mathematics: A1, B1
Health & Physical Educ.:A4, I1 and I2
Social Studie


National parks provide good habitats for many kinds of animals, yet natural resources in parks are threatened from contaminants and other environmental concerns. The young CSI investigators play food web games showing how toxins like mercury or DDT get into the park and accumulate from prey to predator. We take a tour of the salamander's forest habitat and help the park "monitor" its salamander population, recording data in a field notebook. At the pond we collect and identify dragonfly larvae, a species that can help park scientists tell if Acadia National Park watersheds are healthy. From these field experiences, students are introduced to the important role science plays in conservation decision-making.


This hands-on program is an opportunity for students to participate as citizen scientists in an ongoing research project studying ten water bodies in Acadia National Park. They will assist the ranger in collecting water, sediment, and dragonfly larvae from the shoreline and near-shore bottom of a lake, pond, or stream, actively using nets to search through mud and organic detritus on the lake-bottom to locate the dragonfly larvae, which must be collected without touching them to avoid contamination with mercury from human hands. Students will learn about the study design, the identification of several families of dragonfly larvae, mercury pollution, and preliminary results from previous years. They will also have the opportunity to identify and learn about numerous other species and groups of interesting aquatic invertebrates such as mayflies, caddisflies, damselflies, etc.

The collected dragonfly larvae can be analyzed in a laboratory for their mercury content, and the data will be used to better understand the way that inorganic mercury is processed as it travels through the landscape, and to learn whether dragonfly larvae are good indicators of ecosystem health. More than forty national parks across the United States are enlisting citizen scientists to help with the field work as part of study, which is giving scientists a broad picture of the extent of mercury contamination across the country. This is a unique opportunity to contribute toward that goal, and to have fun discovering the many fascinating creatures that live in our waters at the same time.
Ranger lifting wooden square

Field Trip Planner

We are looking forward to your visit to Acadia National Park, which will provide your students with a special opportunity to explore how citizens can aid scientists by studying the ecology of dragonflies and salamanders in relation to toxins in the environment.
This program takes place along a lakeshore, and off trail on sometimes uneven ground in a forest that has downed logs and branches at multiple levels. Please meet your ranger at 9:00 AM at the agreed upon location in your program confirmation email. Please call the Education Office at 288-8823 if you would like more detailed directions. The program concludes at 12:30 PM. Plan a bathroom break just before departing school. Thompson Island picnic area at the head of Mount Desert Island has multiple toilets available for schools traveling a distance.
 If you have any questions about the program in advance, please call the education office at 288-8823, and/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.

Program Schedule (timing and sequence may vary):
9:00 Welcome
9:15 Salamander Food Web
9:30 Salamander Habitat
9:40 Bioaccumulation Game
10:00 Snack
10:10 Salamander Study
11:20 Dragonfly Food Web, Habitat, and Mercury
11:35 Dragonfly Study
12:25 Conclusion
12:30 Departure

Plan to Bring
  • Chaperones: Plan early! Acadia requires a chaperone for every ten students. Extra chaperones are welcome.
  • Food: No food is available at Lakewood. Each student needs to bring a snack, bag lunch, and drink in re-sealable container.
  • Clothing and Footwear:
  • Good supportive shoes are essential – no flip-flops. The ground off trail is rocky and uneven.
  • Wear layered clothing.
  • Part of the program occurs along the lakeshore. While the students will not have to wade into the water to complete their activities, they will be near the water, and many are tempted to get their feet wet in pursuit of frogs, etc. You may consider encouraging them to wear footwear that is both supportive and can get wet, dirty, or muddy.
  • Also, please communicate to participants to wear long pants – no shorts please! Also, have them wear long white or light-colored socks so they can tuck their pant legs into their socks. This is done for tick safety. Bug spray can be sprayed around socks as well for extra precaution.
  • Nametags: Students and adults need name tags. A piece of masking tape with 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 the suggested classroom activities.
  • 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.
  • Preparing students to follow low-impact (Leave No Trace) practices:
  • Minimize disturbance to the ground and the forest when hiking off trail.
  • Respect each other and other visitors. Listen to nature and use quiet voices
  • 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. Here is a link a Maine Tick/Lyme Disease Information Sheet for your reference.
  • Ensuring that safe practices are followed throughout.

Program Goals:
  • To introduce students to the role science plays in conservation decision-making.
  • To help students understand the ecology of salamanders and dragonflies.
  • To cultivate a stewardship ethic in the students, guided by science.

Program Objectives:
Students will be able to:
  • Describe at least one food chain for each animal.
  • Define the word “bioaccumulation.”
  • Name the four habitat requirements for any animal.
  • State at least one of the scientific questions associated with the program’s citizen science projects.

Learning Standards:
From the Next Generation Science Standards Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems
5-PS3-1. Use models to describe that energy in animals’ food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.
5-LS2-1. Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
Earth’s Systems 5-ESS2-1. Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.
5-ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
From the Common Core:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.

Classroom activities:
Suggested pre-trip activities (if interested email Acadia Education):
  • Macroinvertebrate Simon Says from Utah State University’s Bugs Don’t Bug Me Lesson Plan
  • Salamander Classroom Investigations from Searching For Salamanders (A Monitoring Program), Northeast Temperate Network of the National Park Service Suggested post-trip activities:
  • Macroinvertebrate Graphing Activity from Utah State University’s Bugs Don’t Bug Me Lesson Plan
  • Macroinvertebrate Discussion Questions (Appendix F) from Utah State University’s Bugs Don’t Bug Me Lesson Plan


Acadia Education Staff
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Last updated: March 25, 2019