“Quite simply, when we deny our children nature, we deny them beauty.” – Richard Louv, The Last Child in the Woods
When I bring even the smallest piece of nature into the classroom, the demeanor of the children change dramatically. I’m talking about a leaf or a rock. They are in absolute awe. But when I bring in… say a turtle… they become completely unglued with excitement. They beg to touch, observe, and question.
Every year, I invite my students and their families out to my parents’ property for an Epic Outdoor Adventure. My goal is to spark the kids interest in the outdoors, still their fears, and inspire them to adventure. I am unbelievably passionate about getting kids outdoors and teaching them to notice and interact with nature.
With an enormous amount of help of my family and friends (namely my husband and parents), I set up various exploration stations. This blog is a contemplation of the last two Epic Outdoor Adventures.
Dissecting Owl Pellets
For some kids, this is just too much. They can not touch the owl pellets to save their lives… and that is totally okay. Most kids forgo the tweezers and use their fingers to search for tiny bones inside of the pellet. After dissecting the owl’s pellet, the kids use a bone sorting chart to figure out the owl’s last meal was. Fascinating!
(Don’t worry, the owl pellets were sterilized.)
Could you do this in the classroom? Yes! You can buy these pellets online.
Painting Insect Molds
The students picked an insect mold and painted it accordingly.
Pine-cone Bird feeders
The kiddos put peanut butter on a pine-cone and then rolled it in birdseed. They got to take home the bird feeder to hang in a tree in their backyard in hopes of attracting various songbirds.
This is another activity that teachers could facilitate in their classrooms. It is messy, but when the birds come, it is oh so rewarding.
Animal Track Tracing and Rubbings
After looking through animal tracks, the students picked several animal tracks and put them underneath white paper. Then, they rubbed chalk over the top of the track to make an imprint on the white paper. Finally, they had the option to decorate the paper with leaves, twigs, or acorns.
My sister volunteered as a wildlife rehabilitator. She was able to bring several animals and birds for the students to touch and observe. (Of course, the raptors and baby birds were not handled.) She also gave explanations regarding wild animal care and release. The kids had many questions!
This was an absolute treat! The kids (and parents) were thrilled to be able to view these birds up close.
This station is ALWAYS a hit. The kids loved riding the zip-line. Some kids screamed. Some giggled. Some simply held on for dear life. Regardless of their initial reaction to the Zip-line, they ALL got in line for a second, third, or fourth turn.
The Indian Paintbrush Ride
I take the students on the “Indian Paintbrush” ride. It is named after the wildflower due to the color of the seats. Each seat was handmade by my beloved Grandfather. While on the ride, we made several stops.
Wildflowers and Bug Collecting
On the first stop, students picked wildflowers and used their bug collecting kits (found these babies at Dollar Tree) to catch various bugs. The kids put ladybugs, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles in their bug collecting kid. I’m sure there parents were thrilled because they were allowed to take the bugs home.
One parent sent me a picture of a caterpillar that made a chrysalis!
Planting Wildflower Seeds
The kids love viewing and picking wildflowers; therefore, I give them to opportunity to plant their own wildflowers. I tell them that they will grow this year and come back next Spring for the next group of Kindergartners to enjoy. I love that the kids felt like they were contributing to a cause. It made them feel special.
We try to plan the Epic Outdoor Adventure in the Spring in hopes that the baby Bluebirds and Chickadees will have hatched out of their eggs. Every year, the birdhouses around the property are filled with little baby birds that the kids can observe. Their gasps were priceless.
The Quail Habitat Tour
The students and their parents get to take a tour of the quail house and flight pent. For more information, read my blog “The Bobwhite Recovery Initiative.”
The Scavenger Hunt
Bones, feathers, snack skins, arrow heads, nifty rocks, turtle shells, skulls, and snake skins are hidden in an open field for the kiddos to find and explore. All bones were sterilized prior to the scavenger hunt.
The Epic Outdoor Adventure ends with lunch (usually hot dogs or Frito pie) and S’mores.
——————————————————————————————————————————————Maybe you are a teacher, and you are thinking, “I would love to do something like this, but I don’t have the resources or place to pull something like this off.” Maybe not. But the question is, what can you do to bring the outdoors into your classroom? What can you do to facilitate their curiosity about the natural world? How can you spark their desires to adventure?
Here is a list of ideas:
- Plant wildflower seeds at your school or in your classroom.
- Research animals, insects, reptiles, etc.
- Build a worm compost.
- Keep an unusual class pet.
- Order bug collecting kits for recess time.
- Have a class leaf collection to which the kids can contribute.
- Have a class rock collection to which the kids can contribute.
- Have a class feather collection to which the kids can contribute.
- Allow kids to bring something “nature” from home and show-and-tell.
- Plan a field trip to a farm or wildlife reserve.
- Incubate and hatch eggs.
- Order ladybugs, butterflies, or tadpoles for your class.
- Write a grant for a habitat at your school.
- Make binoculars.
- Teach fishing skills.
- Build a class garden.
- Make bird feeders.
- Dissect owl pellets.
- Thematic units about spiders, bats, etc…
- Build and fly kites.
Please feel free to add more in the comments.