Elms Environmental Education Center

3rd Grade

What is an Ecosystem? An ecological study of vernal pools.

Overview: Working in teams, students use scientific methods and tools to collect and record data on the biotic and abiotic (living and nonliving) elements of a vernal pool ecosystem. Emphasis will be placed on observing patterns and relationships that exist in and around these unique wetland ecosystems and how changes to the ecosystem may affect the organisms living in it.

Vernal Pool Data collection

Students visit a vernal pool to collect and record data.

Using macroscopes

Examine water samples using macroscopes.

Yellow spotted salamander

Yellow spotted salamander

Location: This field study is conducted by Elms Environmental Education Center educators at Elms Environmental Education Center in Lexington Park, MD. Any questions regarding the trip including scheduling and special concerns should be directed to Elms Environmental Education Center.

Typical Day (schedule is subject to change and may vary based on weather, transportation and needs of the individual class):

Bus pickup at school - 9:15am (8:45am for early schools) adjust time according to grade level

Arrival at field study site. Welcome & Introduction

Morning Activities


Afternoon Activities

Review and Wrap-up

Bus departure from site - 2:15 pm (1:45 pm for early schools)

Chaperones: Chaperones are vital to the success of our field studies, serving as active program assistants and small group leaders. Approved volunteers are selected by the classroom teacher. Remember to pack your lunch and dress for a day outdoors. *Please set your phones to vibrate/silent during the field study.*

Prepare for Your Trip

What to Wear:

  • Dress for participation in outdoor activities and remember to choose clothes and shoes that can get wet and dirty.
  • Check the the weather for your field study site - (Hollywood, Lexington Park). Temperatures near the water can be 10 degrees COLDER (and more windy) than at home or school.
  • Layers are great for cold weather. Dress for the high temperature, and layer for the low.
  • Hats are recommended.
  • Bring your rain gear when rain is expected.
  • Don't forget to pre-apply sun block and insect repellent before you leave home (if desired).

Food and Drink:

  • Pack your lunch in reusable containers, if possible.
  • Be prepared to recycle and compost any lunch remains (carry out if Greenwell State Park).
  • Bring water to drink (labeled with your name), in a reusable water bottle if possible.


  • $10 for NON-public schools
  • NO FEE for public schools
Biotic Long-term Data

Student Data: Biological Observations

Abiotic long-term Data

Student Data: Abiotic Observations and Measurements