If you’re looking to take advantage of time to be outside during the summer months with your Cloverbuds, consider a nature scavenger hunt.
The Nature Connection
Being out in nature has positive benefits for both physical and mental health. Direct exposure to nature and the outdoors has been found to have a restorative and calming effect. It shifts focus, provides an escape, and may facilitate reflection. Although research hasn’t been able to pin down why there is such a health benefit, it could be due to an increase in physical activity. In addition, time spent in nature during childhood is associated with connectedness with nature, increased pro-environmental attitudes, and pro-environmental behaviors. However, we also know that children are spending less time outdoors than previous generations.
Scavenger Hunts: What and Why
A scavenger hunt is a game that starts with a prepared list of specific objects for participants to gather or locate. Scavenger hunts are more than just a way to keep children busy, they are a way to build critical thinking skills and have fun at the same time.
There are many reasons to consider a scavenger hunt.
- They don’t require many supplies.
- They can be as simple or elaborate as you want.
- They can be played with individuals or with teams.
- They can be customized to a variety of age groups.
- They are adaptable to small or large groups.
- They can be played in various ways.
Adult leaders can plan the scavenger hunt or turn it over to teen leaders to create it (given some parameters). To create a scavenger hunt, you’ll need to decide on the game parameters. Make sure to define if anything is off limits. Then follow these basic steps.
- Make a list of items for participants to find or things to do. A Google search will also turn up printable scavenger hunt sheets. There are some nature-related scavenger hunts to check out.
- Define the search area (backyard, neighborhood, park, etc.).
- Decide on a time limit for completion.
- Decide how you will complete the game: Is it finding the most items? Or is the goal for everyone to find the items and share what they found?
Scavenger Hunt Ideas
- Items in nature: leaf, flower, feather, rock, twig, acorn, pinecone, bird’s nest, animal tracks, etc. Check out these sites for some ideas for a nature scavenger hunt.
- Items that are a particular color or shape
- Items that involve the senses: something smooth, something soft, something you can hear, something you can smell, etc.
- Items to correspond to letters of the alphabet
- Mix and match to add some challenge: a yellow flower, a smooth stone, a blue bird.
- If you don’t want to or can’t remove items from their natural environment, take photos.
Ways to Extend the Learning
- Mindfulness is a way to bring connection between the brain, body, and behavior. This Iowa State University activity sheet for Mindful Nature Hike Bingo provides a lesson plan for making the connection between nature and mindfulness.
- Books are always a good way to introduce or extend the learning on a topic. This site gives suggestions for books about nature.
- Project Learn Tree© has 12 nature walk activities, including a scavenger hunt.
Whatever you decide for your scavenger hunt, have fun doing it!
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