In my first post for this nature walk series, I discussed various tools and supplies that can be utilized on nature walks to enhance learning opportunities for children. These items can easily be stored in a backpack to remain accessible at all times, and can be brought along with each hike. In follow-up to that post, I thought it would be useful to share some possible themes for nature walks that would allow learning to be more focused. Of course nature walk themes aren’t crucial for learning and exploring with every single hike, but they can be a great way to guide a child’s exploration, helping to develop observation skills.
Here are 6 nature walk themes to consider:
- Color. As you hike, look for different colors all around. Challenge your child to see if he or she can find all of the colors of the rainbow. Look for a variety of shades of a particular color – greens can be found in many forms in nature. Collect free paint chip samples from the hardware store, bring them along on your hike, and see if you can find items that match the shades on the paint chips. Soon you’ll notice the great variety of color that exists in nature.
- Texture. Bumpy. Smooth. Soft. Rough. Bubbly. Slimy. Prickly. Sharp. There are so many textures to be found in nature. As you walk, see how many different kinds of texture you can find. It is okay to touch things as long as you know it is safe (i.e. you wouldn’t want to touch a poison ivy leaf!), but remember be to be gentle so as not to damage the natural object.
- Patterns and Symmetry. Symmetry is a common occurrence in nature, and provides a great connection to math. There are different kinds of symmetry. Reflection and Rotation are two of the main types that can easily be spotted in the natural world. With reflection symmetry, half of the object is a reflection of the other half (a mirror image). With rotation symmetry, an object is rotated around a central point and still looks the same (for example, a pinecone). Take pictures of objects, then identify the type of symmetry they present.
- Plants. Using a handy field guide for your region, see what types of plants you can identify. Notice the differences and similarities between the various types of plants you find. Are all plants green? What is the biggest plant you can find? What is the smallest? Do all of the plants have leaves?
- Animals. Animals or evidence of animals can be found all around on a nature walk, if you’re quiet and observe closely. Birds can be heard singing. Squirrels and chipmunks might be seen collecting seeds and nuts. Insects can be spotted in the grass or under a rock. Amphibians might be found near water sources or after a rain storm or under a log. The wildlife of nature is diverse. See if you can get a sense of the wildlife ecosystem in your area by keeping track of the animals you find and where you find them, with a wildlife map.
- Rocks/Geology. Rocks and the geology of areas can be a pretty interesting topic to investigate. Rocks tell a story about how the land formed and how it was used. Ever see a gigantic boulder in the middle of the somewhere that doesn’t seem to fit in? It may have been brought there by glacial movement. Ever find stonewalls in the woods? Those woods were most likely farmland at one point. When you take a closer look at the rocks of your area, you might be surprised by the diversity you find, not only in rock composition but in size. There are field guides to rocks and minerals that will help you identify common rocks in your area.