Nature Walk Ideas and Projects
Getting outside and experiencing nature in itself is a wonderful activity but you can take this experience to another level by turning it into an active experience. Let me give you some examples of what I mean and how to do it.
The main idea is to captive the imagination and creativity of children by giving them a particular pursuit when involved in a nature walk. They do this by creating some kind of a guide or collection in whatever interests them. They get to make their own guide, booklet, or collection from their discoveries. You might be pleasantly shocked to discover you have opened up a whole new world to a child and they will often continue with their new found pursuit long after the initial nature walk is over. When I was younger I had quite an extensive collection of plants and minerals. It really brought a lot of fun and discovery into my life.
There are about a thousand pursuits that the kids could be interested in and I will give you some examples with the projects you can have them do.
Botany and Plants: Take along a notebook and colored pencils and have them draw and catalog interesting plants that they find. You can also collect samples then take them home and iron them between sheets of wax paper. This is something that I did when I was young and it brings back very fond memories. I had a very large collection of botanical samples and I still remember the challenge of trying to iron an acorn between two sheets of wax paper.
Insects and Entymology: This is sometimes looked upon as being not for the squeamish but some children really enjoy it. Bring along a magnifying glass a variety of small vials or containers for collecting samples and a pack or box to hold everything in. You can also just have the children do drawings of the various insects they find if they would rather not collect them.
Rocks and Minerals: This is a really fun pursuit and the ultimate goal is to collect small pieces of a variety of minerals and rocks. This tends to be a bit more of a physical pursuit and it is great if you can bring along a variety of tools for digging and chipping. Just make sure everybody wears safety gloves and goggles when chipping at rocks.
Bird Watching: (Ornithology): A great pursuit that lends itself well to photography and with an inexpensive digital camera you can collect quite an amazing variety of pictures of birds. You can also transform this into the songs of birds. By either taking notes about how they sing or even bringing along some kind of recorder.
Archaeology: Wouldn't it be fun to actually do your own digs? Maybe you will discover something!
Micro Biology: This works really well when you are exploring tide pools, streams, ponds or other water systems like marshes. You bring along a microscope and then create a guide with drawings of the various microscopic life you discover.
Animal Watching: This can be a bit of a challenge if you plan on having your nature walk on a trail or park in or near a big city. But you would still be amazed by the variety of creatures you will discover when you are actively looking for them. Squirrels, pigeons, mice, chipmunks, birds, and so much more. You can take pictures, do drawings or even create logs noting where you spot them.
Cartography: You would be surprised by how fun this is. You can simply create your own maps of the landscape as you explore it. It turns your walk into a Lewis & Clark adventure. Write on the map things other than terrain features. You can add landmarks, interesting trees, big stone outcroppings, the locations of animals and nests. Whatever you want to put on your map is ok.
Treasure Hunting: You can bring along a metal dectector and search for traditional treasure like gold and coins. Or you can even do mineral treasure hunting like looking for veins of semi-precious and precious materals. Or you can do panning for gold which can be a lot of fun - especially if you find some. At first glance treasure hunting might not seem to fit well into the concept of nature walking but it does fit very well in that you can learn a lot about geology and terrain. Learning about these things is an integral part of any good treasure hunt. You can even look for meteorites!
Terrarium Building: This is a challenging yet very rewarding nature walk theme. You can set out with the intent of finding plants in their natural habitat then transplanting them into a terrarium that simulates their natural habitat. Lot of fun and a really great learning experience that can go on much longer than the original walk as you and the child care for your new eco system terrarium. If you are interested in terrariums I have a whole section devoted to them. Terrarium Man
Eco-System Nature Walks: Your nature walk doesn't have to focus on a particular science. It can focus on eco-systems like Tide Pools, Forests, Woods, Ponds, Rivers, Streams, Oceans, Prairies, or just about any other type of eco system or sub system.
Eco Awareness projects: You can also focus on environmental issues and environmental friendly subjects by joining a volunteer organization that does clean up or simply by doing your own clean up. You may even consider making your own composting heap in the back yard.
Some tips and Tools for your Outdoor Adventure Walks
You should decide on the theme of your walk ahead of time. This way you can take all the appropriate materials with you. And before I talk about suggested materials you should also consider some of the more pragmatic aspects of a nature hike.
Remember that you might be outdoors for a full day or for at least several hours and this means a bit of thought to safety should be considered. Bring sun screen, hats, and make sure everybody dresses appropriately. I also recommend you bring drinking water. Being engrossed in a new pursuit can take our minds off of the necessity of drinking water throughout the day. Get a canteen is what I say! It makes the walk a bit more of an adventure and is also eco friendly. No need to add to the litter with throw away plastic water bottles.
An opportunity to convey respect for nature: A nature walk is a great opportunity to talk with the children about conservation and respect for nature. Reinforce the values of being respectful toward nature and of leaving things the same way you found them.
Some tools and stuff to bring along:
Getting A Field Guide: While this often costs money you can sometimes get field guides really cheap at second hand book stores and yard sales. I do recommend you get a field guide though, if you can swing it. It is just simply amazing how much more you see and discover when you know what to look for. If the kids are interested in geology for the walk and you don't know much about it a field guide would be a valuable additon.
I have some related project you might like
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