Taking a nature walk is a wonderful way to enjoy some fresh air, get a little exercise, and experience the natural environment. Nature walks also provide opportunities for children to learn about science and math, and practice their observation skills. Nature walks don’t need to be a serious hike – they can be done in your backyard, schoolyard, or neighborhood. They also don’t require any special equipment, and can be done on a whim if you’d like. But, if you’d like to plan ahead, or make a nature walk part of your curriculum, there are certain items that can enhance the experience of the hike, and incorporate more learning opportunities:
- Binoculars help you spot things far away. They even make sturdy binoculars designed just for kids like these.
- A magnifying glass encourages a closer look so that you can see the fine details and textures of the object. I like these from Learning Resources – they’re colorful, sturdy, and do a good job magnifying objects.
- Small containers can be used for collecting and carrying items (but remember, if it is alive, it is best to leave it in it’s natural habitat). Re-use food storage containers from the recycling bin or old egg cartons.
- Journals are perfect for recording or drawing observations. Journals come in all forms. They can range from a simple notebook to weather proof journals designed specifically for outdoor use. There are also journals available with prompts for guiding observations similar to this one.
- Writing Utensils, such as pencils, colored pencils, crayons, and markers are perfect for adding detail to drawings and recordings.
- Tools for digging and investigating, such as shovels and tweezers will help you find interesting items in interesting places.
- Field guides are useful for identifying new plants and animals. Field guides can be as detailed or as general as you’d prefer. I have a great Field Guide to New England from the National Audubon Society that I use with my children. The photographs are detailed and the descriptions are short, making it convenient for my children to use on their own. Also, I like the fact that the field guide is specific to the area we live in. But, if I want more detail and information, I might use a specific guide. For example, if we find a cool bug that isn’t in the general guide, we turn to a distinct one for insects and spiders.
- A camera to make the experience memorable! Take lots of pictures of the walk, print them out, and add them to the nature journal.
- Of course, all of the above items are best carried in a backpack. For convenience, you could even have a pack dedicated for the purpose of nature walks, and keep it conveniently by the door, for those walks you suddenly decide to take when the feeling strikes.
This is the first post in a series I am putting together on Nature Walks. Stay tuned for more!