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STEM Activities

STEM Activity: Create a Field Notebook

Earth Day is just around the corner on April 22! On this environmentally conscious holiday, many people reflect on ways to help protect the planet. Have you ever taken a moment to study the environment around you? No matter the observations you make about the world, it’s great to have a place to record your data.

Check out the activity below to create your very own field journal where you can sketch, write and list what you see in the natural world. What you observe could inspire your next great invention!


Materials Needed:

  • Construction paper (four pieces, any thickness or color)
  • Markers, crayons or colored pencils
  • Stapler


Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Neatly stack your pieces of construction paper, then fold the stack of paper widthwise.
  2. Staple along the fold to create a binding for your journal.
  3. Decorate and personalize your cover page using any coloring supplies you’d like.
  4. Go outside with an adult and use your senses to observe your surroundings, thinking about the following questions:
    • What is the weather like?
    • What animals and insects are around? How do they move?
    • What noises do I hear? Are they loud or soft?
    • What plants do I see? How are they growing?
    • What do I want to take a closer look at?
  5. Record any data you find interesting in your journal. Consider drawing pictures of what you see and labeling them.
  6. Based on your findings, consider the inventions that come to mind. For example, if you observe a lot of litter, what invention could you design to help make the world cleaner? Sketch your ideas in your journal.
  7. For an added challenge, use clean recyclable items to build a prototype of your invention!


What Are We Discovering?

Inspiration for an invention can come from anywhere!

National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductees Sylvia Blankenship and Edward Sisler identified 1-methylcyclopropene (1- MCP), a novel compound that significantly extends the freshness and storage life of fruits, vegetables and cut floral products. Their discovery achieves this by minimizing the effects of ethylene, a gaseous plant hormone that speeds the ripening process.

Blankenship grew up in northern Virginia, developing an appreciation for nature as she explored the woods and gardened with her mother. She was drawn to studying horticulture and wanted to pursue a career connected to the outdoors. In an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame, she said, “I was becoming more and more interested in how plants and flowers grew, and why they did certain things under certain conditions outside and inside the greenhouse.”

Like Blankenship, National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee George Washington Carver also found inspiration in nature. Carver, who developed peanut products and crop-rotation methods, initially studied art and piano in college. His art teacher encouraged him to combine his love of plants and art to study botany. As an agricultural chemist, he was able to not only study plants but also illustrate them. Carver even created dyes and household paints from natural resources, including peanuts and soil.

Carver and Blankenship are just two examples of inventors who learned how nature and science work together.


Keep the Fun and Learning Going!

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