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Field Backpacks: Keeping Track of the Tools of the Trade

Originally appears in the Summer 2009 issue

“Oh no, I lost my magnifying glass.”

 “I left my field guide at our last stop.”

Comments like these were common when I took children outside to learn about the local environment. I wanted my students to use scientific equipment, such as magnifiers and field guides, but they kept leaving equipment all over the forest! I decided that I needed a way for children to keep track of their scientific tools as we explored the out-of-doors. I have found that the use of homemade field backpacks is a great way for children to carry data collection equipment into the out-of-doors and return to the classroom with the same equipment. Most of my field backpacks were made from scraps of fabric and cording and cost less than $5 per pack.

In the following, I share directions for creating homemade drawstring field backpacks for children. The backpacks I made were 12 inches wide and 14 inches long (30 x 35 centimeters) and designed for children who weigh less than 90 pounds, but size could be varied depending on the age of the students. Most of my backpacks were made from scraps of fabric and cording and cost less than five dollars each. If you do not sew, you might find a parent or grandparent who is willing to make these field backpacks for you. Once you have a classroom set of field backpacks, you no longer have to worry about lost field equipment!

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Terry Tomasek is an Assistant Professor in the Teacher Education Department at Elon University in Elon, North Carolina.