Our Preschool Preservers program has put together a few simple activities to get your little ones or young students outdoors interacting with (and hopefully falling in love with) the natural world.
The activities are focused on getting to know trees and their characteristics, their leaves and seeds, and their relationship to other things in the forest. All you need to complete these activities is a blindfold, paper, crayons (preferably with the paper label peeled off) and a clipboard. It can also be fun to take a magnifying glass out with you if you have one available to investigate natural features up close and personal.
Activity 1: Get to Know a Tree
Pair children into partners (or be the partner if it’s just you and your child), and have one partner put on the blindfold.
Lead the blindfolded partner to any tree in the area.
Instruct them to feel, smell, touch, measure (with their arms and hands) and get as many sensory clues as possible about the tree in one minute while keeping their blindfold on.
Lead the blindfolded partner back to the starting point and remove the blindfold.
Now ask the partner to go back and try to identify the tree they were exploring while blindfolded.
Because of all the sensory clues trees can provide, you’ll be surprised how many people will actually pick their tree out relatively quickly!
Discuss the characteristics of the tree that made it possible to identify.
Activity 2: Bark Rubbing
Gather paper and peeled crayons and find several trees you can easily access.
Have participants grab a few different colors of crayons and a sheet of plain paper and then select the trees they would like to use for the rubbing.
Lay paper as flat as possible against the trees trunk and rub the paper with the long edge of the peeled crayon. This should create a trace rubbing of the texture of the trees bark.
Using a different color for each tree, continue rubbing as many trees as you would like.
Compare the patterns and textures of the bark of various trees when you are done. Ask questions about which bark was hardest to rub, what bark had the smoothest texture, and make other observations to get kids thinking deeper about the bark.
Activity 3: Leaf Rubbing
For this activity you will need paper, peeled crayons, a clipboard and a forest floor (or yard with trees).
Instruct participants to spend a few minutes collecting different types of leaves from the ground.
After allowing participants enough time to spread out and gather multiple leaves, call them back to a common area.
Each person should spread their leaves across their clipboard and lay a clean sheet of paper over them. Clipping the paper into the clipboard will help with the rubbing process.
Once the paper is laid flat, use the long end of a peeled crayon to rub over the leaves, applying enough pressure to create a pattern from the texture of the leaves.
Look at the different rubbings and talk about the texture, patterns and symmetry of the leaves.
If you have a magnifying glass, allow children to explore within a boundary area and look at the trees, plants and natural debris on the ground up close and personal.
Feel free to put your own adaptations on these activities and remember, the point is to get outdoors and enjoy nature, these activities should be fun first and educational second.
The attached video gives instructions and demonstrations for the activities outlined above. Please watch, share and reach out if you have questions.