Activity time: 35 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Magnifying glass for each participant
- A ball of yarn, and scissors
- A pair of scissors
- Optional: Digital camera
- Optional: Paper and pencil
- Optional: Trail mix, or another healthy snack
Preparation for Activity
- Consult with the religious educator to select a nearby natural area or park and make appropriate travel arrangements.
- Optional: Recruit adult volunteers to take pictures, write observations, and help with the yarn ritual.
- Optional: Obtain or make trail mix with ingredients everyone can eat; make sure you know about allergies and food restrictions among the participants.
Description of Activity
Take the group to the natural area or park you have chosen. Tell the children they are going to use their wonder skills: slowing down, paying attention, and using their senses to help them to notice and appreciate nature. Ask:
- Which senses do you think you will use most today?
- Which ones won't you use at all? (They should not use their sense of taste unless you have brought something you know all have permission to try.)
Remind the children of any parameters that are needed, e.g. stay on the trail or path, speak quietly so as not to disturb or frighten any wildlife, only touch something when a leader says it is okay. If they spot something that they want to share, ask them to signal the group by raising their hand. Encourage questions throughout the walk.
As you walk, ask the children to use their powers of observation to look for nature clues. Tell them sometimes animals leave clues that they live or have visited nearby. Ask, "What might be some clues for animals?" They may suggest a hole, a burrow, or a nest in a tree. You could prompt: A chewed leaf or a torn branch may be a clue that some animal has passed by. A well-worn, small side trail gives a clue that animals have come that way. Optional: Have an adult volunteer to take notes of the nature clues observed.
At some point during the walk, ask the children to close their eyes and mouths and listen for 30 or 60 seconds. Tell them to listen and try to count, on their fingers, all the different sounds they hear. Discuss the different sounds from nature and those that are made by humans. Optional: Have the note-taker list the sounds that were heard.
Distribute magnifying glasses. Encourage the children to take their time looking closely at items on the trails, from the ground to as high as they can look up.
At the end of the walk, sit in a circle in a clearing. Share the quote from this session with the group:
Wisdom begins in wonder.
Ask the group to sit quietly for a moment and think about what that might mean. Then invite volunteers to share their ideas about what the quote means to them. Share your ideas, too.
Ask, "How did it feel to slow down, pay attention and observe nature?" Remind the children they can use their wonder skills any time and any place, for the rest of their lives!
Show the children the ball of yarn and explain that you will create an interdependent web. (If you have done this in previous sessions; mention that this interdependent web will be different.) Explain that you will roll or gently toss the ball of yarn to someone else in the circle. That person will loosely wrap the yarn around their wrist and name something they noticed that made them feel wonder during the walk today. Holding on to the yarn, they will roll the ball of yarn to someone else in the circle who will name something that made them feel wonder during the walk. That person will pass the yarn to someone else until everyone is holding a piece of the yarn and has named their wonder. Remind the children that they should not let go of their piece of yarn when they roll the yarn to the next person and that they should pass the yarn to someone who is not sitting right next to them.
Start the game by passing the yarn to someone in the group. When everyone is holding a piece, point out that you have created a web together. Tell the group that as a symbol of their lasting connections to the web of life and to each other, you will now go around to each participant and cut the yarn so a piece can be tied around each person's wrist.
If time allows, let the children have some free play time. If you have brought a snack, this is a good time to share it.