Activity time: 15 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Lunch-sized paper bags, cloth bags, or small baggies, one per child
- Optional: Flashlights, magnifying glasses, or handheld dental mirrors
Preparation for Activity
- Inform families of your plan to bring the children outdoors. Arrange all necessary details, such as transportation, permission slips, sunscreen, insect repellent, and appropriate clothing.
- Select an appropriate location for your nature walk in consultation with the director of religious education. If you have a wood, field, stream, or pond nearby, plan an excursion there for your session.
- Make sure you can recognize poison ivy. Learn about any venomous or otherwise dangerous creatures in your local habitat and how to avoid them.
- Determine whether anyone is allergic to bee stings, pollen, or other outdoor allergens and plan accordingly.
Description of Activity
Take a walk outside. Ask the children, what they think a habitat is. They may know that it's the place where animals and plants are normally found. Tell them the place where they are hiking is a habitat-an environment where many plants and creatures live. As you walk, ask them to use their senses to observe the living things in the habitat, both animals and plants. Offer them magnifying glasses to get a closer look.
Ask them what they think living things need to stay alive in their habitat. They may know that most animals need water, food, shelter, and air to live. They may not know that plants need food (or nutrients from the soil), water, sunlight, and air. Tell them that even the bark of a tree can be a very tiny habitat for very small creatures. Ask them what animals might live in that habitat.
Say, in these words or your own:
Ants, beetles and spiders love to call the bark of a tree their home. They eat even smaller insects that also live there or maybe parts of the tree itself. Even a blade of grass can be home to several different animals.
As you hike, ask the children to look for evidence of shelter, food, and water-critical supports that animals need to survive in their habitat.
Look for nests of birds, squirrels, mice, or other small mammals, which are examples of shelter. A hollow log or a brush pile might be shelter for many critters, including opossums, rabbits, and snakes.
Some signs of food would be leaves, nuts, seeds, berries, mushrooms, insects, and of course other animals. Ask children if they knew that box turtles love to nibble on mushrooms.
Ask them to look for signs of water. Is there a stream or pond? If not, where else could animals get water? A small animal might need just a little bit of water. Look for leaves that are curled or shaped like cups that will hold the morning dew for a lizard, chipmunk or bird to drink from.
Invite the children to use four of their senses during the hike-their eyes, ears, nose, and (with care) touch. Remind them not to use their sense of taste, unless you have brought a snack or beverage safe for everyone to try.
When you have completed your walk, process the activity with questions like:
- I wonder what you enjoyed the most about our walk.
- I wonder if there was anything on our walk that made you say, "Wow!"
Including All Participants
Determine whether there are any relevant allergies in the group, such as bee stings or pollen, and plan accordingly.
If you have a participant who uses a wheelchair or has limited mobility, select a location that is accessible, with paved paths.