A nature walk is not just a filler activity for young children to stretch their legs, but it is also an educational resource. There are many things that children can learn during a nature walk, such as walking carefully to avoid disturbing plants and animals, the names and physical characteristics of local birds, plants and other wildlife, and the scientific names for plants and animals. Create a checklist of information that you want your first graders to look for on your nature walk to discuss later back in the classroom.
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Research the kind of wildlife your students will be likely to find on their nature walk. These could be birds, insects, rodents, pets, fish and other sea creatures and some unusual animals that are native to your area. Make up a checklist for the children to use as they complete the nature walk. Encourage the children to keep quiet so they can find as many items on the list as possible.
Complete the walk ahead of time so that you know what kinds of plants are present at that particular hiking grounds. Find the scientific names and common names of the plants and place both of them on the checklist. Include a picture of the plant if the children are unfamiliar with what the plants look like. Require the children to find all of the plants. Make some of the plants easy to find and identify, and add a few challenging ones that will help the children really explore the area. Take care not to plan the walk for an area infested with poison ivy or poison oak.
Turn the nature walk into a game. Assign groups in which the children can hunt for items together. Give an award to the group that remains the quietest during the walk. You can also give an award for the group that finds the most things on the checklist. Hide a few objects throughout the walk, such as small flags or fabric strips tied to tree branches, and challenge the children to locate them during the walk. Have the children make rubbings of bark or leaves onto pieces of paper.
Go over the sounds that the children may hear during the nature walk. Include bird calls, animal sounds and even unusual sounds, such as running water. Add a few sounds to the checklist that the children will be sure to hear, such as wind blowing through trees, squirrels chattering and crackling leaves.
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