By Kirsten Dallimore
Whether you’re a parent looking for March break activities or a teacher looking for tips and tools for getting your class outside, the following activities will help you get your kids playing and learning in nature.
Bring nature inside
Collect pine cones, sea shells, rocks, sticks, leaves. Bring them inside and make a nature station that you can add to throughout the seasons. Encourage your students or children to share something they found during their weekend adventures.
Plant something in a garden or small pot
Buy one bag of soil, one package of seeds and get (or ask your students bring in) one yoghurt or margarine container. Everyone can plant seeds and grow things such as beans, edible greens or wild flowers. Seeing something that you have grown yourself really helps to connect you to life.
Build a natural playground
Set aside a space in your school yard or backyard that will become all natural. Start off by gathering small logs for children to sit on, stones to step across and sand to dig in. Eventually you might be able to plant some native bushes and trees to help identify this naturalized space. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but kids will gain a sense of accomplishment and pride if they have been a part of building something unique and special on their school grounds or at their friends’ or family’s home.
Create a nature scavenger hunt together
First get the students to walk around the school yard (or your children to walk around your backyard or a nearby park) to do a survey of what they might be able to find related to nature during that season. If you’re a teacher, ask students to work together in small groups or together as a class to design a scavenger hunt. If you’re a parent, think about getting together with other families in your area. The best thing to do is team up with another class,group, or family and then switch scavenger hunts to complete them.
Paint a big mural or draw a picture outside on a sunny day
Pack up the markers, crayons and paint and head outside to do your art work. Let the kids be inspired by what they see in nature!
Collect shovels, trowels, buckets and take them outside
Use these tools to dig in the soil and look for worms, water the plants and trees at your school or in your neighbourhood, transport soil and dig in the dirt. If you’re a teacher, prepare the students the day before and they will be happy and well prepared to get dirty!
Get a set of magnify glasses
If everyone has their own magnify glass you can all go on an adventure and get up close to what is living and happening out there.
Make it a daily occurrence to share a story about nature. You can even go outside with your students or children and read or tell them a story about having an adventure in nature. Kids always want to learn more and share facts about their favorite animal or camping adventure, so get them to share their stories as well.
Go for a picnic
Taking your class or family on an adventure to a special location and eating together outside will allow the kids to have positive and memorable experience outdoors. You may choose to do it for snack time!
Go on an imaginary nature safari in your classroom or home
Tell the kidss to imagine the space is a forest or jungle and that that they are going on a nature hike called a safari through this jungle. They need to listen very carefully to what they need to pack, what they will see along the way and what they will do while they are all together on this safari. You can tell them to start off by packing a backpack and then list off what they need to pack such as binoculars, t-shirt, shorts, rain jacket, hat and sunscreen. Kids will act out the actions while imagine they are really packing their backpacks for this trip.
You can start the safari by having everyone line up behind you. Once everyone is lined up you can start by going for a walk around the space. As you travel around,with each step or two imagine you are seeing and experiencing something new and different. Share with them things like “Look over to your right, there is a small bear cub with his mother,” and ask them if they see it? “Next we will all take turns climbing this big cedar tree and swing on a rope across the river.” “Watch your step here as we wade through the water, try not to fall over.” “I see salmon swimming in this river.” “How many salmon do you see?” “Let’s get our binoculars out and look for birds up in the trees.”
Give children opportunities to point things out along the way as well. The teacher or parent is the guide, but as they start to use their imaginations more and connect with nature, all of a sudden you might come across something that only a child has spotted. Finish the safari by coming back to where you all started and unpacking your backpack.
Conclude this activity by sharing experiences from the safari and asking prompting questions such as what did you see? How did you feel when we went through the river? How tall do you think the cedar tree was? Why do you think we want to protect the animals and trees in the rainforest?