Scavenger hunts outdoors are great fun. Plus, they enhance kids' abilities to correctly use and identify directional words like near, far, above, below, left, right, etc., as they participate in the excitement of the hunt. So not only will kids have fun hunting for nature objects (enhancing their knowledge of the natural world and developing science skills), but they also practice determining an object's location (spatial awareness and location are good math skills).
The following activity was adapted from Embark on a Math and Science Hunt. They have tons of cool year-round science ideas for each grade there, plus they have a neat 2010 Summer Activity Challenge where you can keep track of all the cool learning activities you do this summer.
First, determine your destination. Haven't been hiking in a while? No worries. Both national and state forest services have tons of resources online for both beginning and advanced hikers. Or, call your local parks and recreation department for suggestions. In fact, here's a list of suggestions for Ohio hiking destinations.
If you are in our neck of the woods (literally) in northeast Ohio, we invite you to come visit Secrest Arboretum. Our 90-acre research arboretum is home to numerous varieties and cultivars of trees and plants and has plenty of walking trails to keep you busy. We are open to the public free of charge seven days a week during daylight hours.
Once you've selected a destination, gather your supplies:
- Several pieces of card stock (8.5 x 11" is a good size)
- Pictures of flowers, lichen, trees, insects, flowers, etc. that are to be found on the hike. Printing off pictures from the internet is great. The possibilities are endless.
- Adventure pack
- Small plastic storage bags
Once your supplies are together, create your Adventure Pack. Do a little online research to learn about the flora and fauna in and around your destination. Find pictures of some fun and unusual things, like flowers with funny names (how about "sticky monkey flower"?) or unusual items like cool fungus or colorful bark.
Print the pictures, cut them out, and attach them to the card stock. Then label them along with the name, description and any unusual facts. You can even make these into clue cards if you want, putting the picture and name on one side of the card and the description and location clues on the reverse side.
If you have the chance, it's always a good idea to take your cards out for a kid-free test drive (granted, this may not work for you if you're going somewhere farther from home...but it's a good idea none the less). Look for each of the items you've identified and write down location clues to help the kids locate them.
Another strategy that would work well if you are able to take a prep hike without the kids is to take along a camera to photograph cool finds. You can write down location clues and look up cool facts about what you found once you return home.
Finally, sell the adventure to your kids and take off on an exciting hunt! A story is only as good as the teller. Set the stage by putting all the clues together into a fun Adventure Pack, adding some storage bags to collect cool rock and stick samples along with a crayon and paper in case they want to draw pictures of any cool finds. Be sure to hype the hike as a science adventure trying to track down all the clues in the Adventure Pack.
Have a great adventure!