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.
Who can do OBIS?
Though originally designed for 10-15 year-olds (grades 5-8), both younger and older participants, including adults, enjoy participating in OBIS activities. Community groups – museums, nature centers, scouts, church groups, parks and recreation – use OBIS in a wide variety of programs, while schools use OBIS to supplement classroom curriculum and promote environmental awareness. Group size can vary tremendously. Optimal group size and time requirements vary with the activity and are suggested in the OBIS activity folios.
Who can teach OBIS?
OBIS activities are easy to lead, easy to prepare, and require mostly simple or homemade equipment. No previous experience with teaching or science is necessary.
When to teach OBIS?
Any time is the right time! The beauty of OBIS is the versatility of the activities. There are investigations for daytime, nighttime; winter, summer, spring or fall; rain, snow or shine. Most take an hour, but many are open-ended. Decisions about the sequencing of activities and amount o time spent are left to the OBIS activity leader.
Where to teach OBIS?
OBIS can be used wherever you happen to find yourself. There are activities appropriate for any ecosystem or terrain from city lots, backyards, and schoolyards, to deserts, streams, grasslands, lakes, forests, and ocean coasts. Some activities actually are designed to work better in areas of heavier human use than in more pristine environments.
OBIS encourages discovery by learners. OBIS assumes that exploration and inquiry are the best approaches for outdoor learning. OBIS activities effectively turn the outdoors into a laboratory where youngsters can gain a better understanding of the biological world through their own experiences.
The Biology behind OBIS
Consider the thrill of lifting a log or an old board and discovering a myriad of organisms living underneath. OBIS was designed with ecologists and curriculum designers learning about a study site by asking “What ecological questions can we ask about this place?”
OBIS uses the outdoor environment as the laboratory in which participants have the opportunity to experience science firsthand before tackling the more abstract concepts beyond those experiences.