OBIS is an outdoor program that offers young people fun and challenging opportunities to investigate ecological relationships in their local environment.
Outdoor Biology Instructional Strategies (OBIS) was developed in the 1970s at the Lawrence Hall of Science to help adults (teachers, parents, community leaders) take young people outdoors to experience ecological principles in their local area. The 97 OBIS activities, which increase environmental awareness, can be used individually or in combination. These simple experiences then act as a gateway for children and adults to explore and understand their local environment.
Using a variety of "beaks" (trowels, spoons, sticks), participants hunt for organisms that a bird might eat.
Design devices that can capture prey or gather plants. After testing the devices, investigate the food-gathering adaptations of animals in their activity site.
Investigate bird behavior by feeding pigeons, ducks, jays, sparrows or sea gulls.
Discover which kinds of man-made litter provide animals with food or shelter. Participants then make a value judgment about litter.
After sawing sections from fallen logs, count tree rings and study the patterns of tree growth.
Find green plants under the snow and determine the light and temperature conditions around those plants.
Using sweep nets, the youngsters sample and compare the insects living in two different areas: a managed lawn and a weedy area.
Teams invent populations of make-believe organisms and then investigate real populations living in their activity site.
By "flying" and racing leaves along lines, participants find out which leaves catch more wind.
Investigate the distribution of organisms in a rocky intertidal zone.
Search for evidence of animal and plant life as beachcombers on a sandy beach and speculate on the origins of their finds.
In this introduction to the desert, teams design OBIS scavenger hunts for each other.
By going "can fishing," the students discover the kinds of aquatic organisms that live in and on submerged cans.
The participants conduct a population census of squirting clams on a beach or mudflat, and investigate the clams' natural history.
The participants investigate specialized climbing structures and growth patterns of different vines.
By taking advantage of the temperature variations in their site, the youngsters try to keep their "thermometer lizards" from overheating or getting too cold.
Experiment with paper leaf models to find out how different desert plants conserve water.
Make photogram records of plants, plant parts, animals, or nonliving objects in their environment.
Use artificial bees and paper models of flowers to find out how bees transfer pollen from one flower to another.
Using scent markers to delineate home territories, discover one way animals use their sense of smell.
By going on a modified scavenger hunt, participants increase their awareness of the variety in their environment.
Investigate the relationship between erosion and slope.
After making a cork or sponge "creature" that can hold on against water current, participants investigate the holding adaptations of real organisms.
Action Cards challenge participants to investigate the behaviors of hopping animals (beach hoppers, grasshoppers, frogs and others).
Round up a "herd" of hopping insects (grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids) and find out how many different kinds are in their herd.
Hide and navigate in a pile of leaves to experience the environment of animals that live in fallen leaves.
Search for lichens and learn about their habitats, shapes and colors.
After cutting through and investigating rotten logs, teams make log-profile puzzles for each other.
Use metric units of measurement to measure various objects in their environment.
Test different kinds of leaves with cobalt chloride paper. The paper's color changes allow participants to compare the amounts of moisture released from different leaves.
Using flashlights, locate and identify mysterious eyes in the night.
Search for aquatic animals that are active at night and then investigate the animals' responses to light.
Using popcorn to simulate an oil spill, estimate the "spill's" impact on the environment.
Observe and map plant-distribution in a study site, and investigate the environmental factors that might be responsible for these patterns.
After placing bare rocks in the intertidal zone, participants keep track of the plants and the animals that colonize the rocks over a period of weeks.
Identify “mystery plants” by digging up weeds, examining their roots, comparing them to other plants, and thinking about the plant as a functioning system.
Using spray misters and liquid extract to simulate prey scents, the kids play a game in which predators track a prey by following its scent.
After being introduced to "scram" and "freeze" escape behaviors in a game, investigate the escape behaviors of animals that live under logs and rocks.
Use tennis balls, water balloons, and other simple devices to investigate the movements and currents of the sea.
Try to find a community that matches a "mystery community" by shaking the animals out of different trees and shrubs.
By playing a nighttime game, explore the importance of silent stalking skills to predators and the importance of sound detection to prey.
Make homes for imaginary insects, and then search for actual animals' constructions in and on leaves.
Pretend to be animals that communicate by sound and try to find secret partners before being "captured" by a "predator." After this game, participants listen to real animals.
Locate "swell homes" (galls) on plants and find out what lives in those homes.
Search for range of several abiotic factors (temperature, wind, moisture, and light) in an area, and look for differences between the plants and animals that live in the Hi-Lo spots.
Discover how light affects insects' behavior by attracting night-flying insects to a brightly lit surface and conducting other light-related experiments.
Learn about biological control by finding predators that eat mosquito larvae.
Select the best trail-construction technique for their site.
Teams attempt to lay out the course of a footpath that will have the least amount of impact on the environment.
Using the OBIS transect, find the most common tree in a forest.
By playing simple games, investigate variations between individuals.
Investigate the currents created by aquatic animals when they breathe and move.
Discover preferred habitats of snails by marking, releasing, and later recapturing water snails.
Explore the movement and feeding behavior of water striders.
Use string art to reproduce the intricacies of different spider webs.
Use a portable flashlight and fluorescent bait to find evidence of animals active at night.
Use chromatography to explore leaf and flower colors, and to solve natural "pigment puzzles."
In this introductory activity, use sweep nets to sample the variety of animals living in lawns.
After constructing bird nests, participants place the nests in their site and try to locate and identify each other nests.
The youngsters explore crawdad behavior by building crawdad traps and "fishing."
Investigate damselfly and dragonfly perching behavior, and discover how these "D-flies" react to flying decoys.
Discover the rate and direction of currents by creating stream cork boats for a Great Streamboat Race.
Design "animals" that blend into local habitats and then search for other youngsters' "animals."
By using a special "lizard rig," participants investigate lizard feeding behavior and interactions.
Using heart rate as an indicator, the youngsters establish the maximum steepness for a footpath.
Teams hunt for organisms in different areas of a pond or lake. The term habitat is introduced.
Release a portion of lawn from human control and then observe the resulting changes over the next few months.
In a feeding game, participants find out how many deer can survive in a herd's "home range."
Observe how aquatic animals move through water and how they react to their surroundings.
Gather evidence that plants in the activity site are being eaten and try to identify the plant eaters.
Find seeds, observe where they came from, discover how they are adapted for travel, and then modify a seed to model dispersal adaptations.
Investigate the behavior of spiders with the aid of spray misters, straws, and sweep nets.
Discover the plants and animals that live in and around a water environment.
Compare the winter food-storage strategies of squirrels by playing a survival game.
Investigate the behavior of ants.
Explore visual communication by creating an eye-catching design to attract a specific member of the group.
Learn how to census a population of organisms too numerous to count.
Investigate the behavior of flies and construct flytraps from milk cartons.
Envirolopes, a treasure hunt in a legal sized envelope, challenges a collector to experience a place by stimulating observations and provoking thinking.
Investigate food chains by assuming the roles of animals that are part of a food chain.
Using homemade sampling gear, participants estimate the numbers of organisms living in a small section of a pond.
Construct models of plants that are adapted to living under specific environmental conditions.
After discovering the food-color preference of jays, try to change this preference by salting the food of that color.
After searching for small animals living in the ground, use the OBIS Litter Critter Wheels to "match" the catch.
Using a mapping technique, become familiar with the major features of their activity site.
Participants collect and sort leaf samples to determine how many species of plants grow in the activity site.
During a low tide, create an artificial high tide and observe its effects on marine animals.
Use only senses to find the extremes of several environmental variables: wind, temperature, light, slope and moisture.
Play a simulation game exploring concepts of habitat and distribution, then discover where real organisms live and how they are distributed.
Use a simple alum-profile test to compare local soils with a commercial garden mix for organic content.
Observe and compare changes that take place in unfertilized and fertilized water holes. This activity requires regular visits to monitor the water holes for eight to ten weeks.
Search for a hibernation site that will protect a make-believe animal from freezing.
Construct birdfeeders and set them up at home, at school, or at camp, and investigate bird behavior.
Investigate two kinds of isopods and discover differences in their body structure and behavior.
Discover how the environment around a building affects the growth of plants.
Explore the behavior of minnows by "fishing" with a variety of potential baits and lures.
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