Nature’s Classroom: Make School Fun With Hiking

Nature’s Classroom: Make School Fun With Hiking

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”

(Psalm 19:1).

Though Spring is tardy in some areas of the country, warmer weather is on its way. Are your children getting restless doing lessons inside? Why not take a nature day and make school fun again for your young naturalists? Spending the day outside on a hike is not just good exercise, it is also an invaluable opportunity for your children to discover the wonders of God’s creation and find a new perspective on their science classes.

A day trip into nature presents many occasions to teach children through actions. These moments start with preparation and continue beyond the day of the hike. Help your children get excited about nature and science by taking them on an expedition to collect samples in the field.

Learning while preparing for the hike: Learning to be a good field scientist starts before the actual hike. Preparing properly for a hike is important and young hikers will learn important outdoor skills.

  • Research the history of the area you will be visiting. If you are planning a day-trip, it is a good idea to look up existing trails in your area. Some trails are more difficult than others, and choosing a trail that is suitable for the young hikers will make the trip enjoyable for everyone. There are also a lot of natural wonders, like the Natural Bridge in Kentucky, as well as cultural heritage sites across the country. In preparation for your nature day, learn as much as possible about the history of the area.

  • Discuss good hiking practices. Good hiking practices cover everything from hiking safety to staying hydrated, to packing the right equipment and food. Including your children in this process teaches them mindfulness in preparing for the trip. Preparing hiking-friendly food and water is also a great chance to teach your children more about healthy nutrition.

  • Bring a field journal. Field journals are one of the best tools to teach children about nature and make school fun. In their field journal, children can record their observations, draw sketches, glue pictures, and paste pressed flowers they have collected. Choosing and readying a field journal before the trip will help children to get excited about their upcoming adventure. Here are some beautiful examples of kids’ field journals.

 

Education on the hike: Once you are on the hike, you will be enjoying the scenery and exercise. There will also be plenty of  moments to teach your children outdoor skills and help them collect samples for their field journal.making school fun nature hiking pin

 

  • Learn to read a map. In this age of Google Maps and GPS, knowing how to read a map may seem like an antiquated skill. Think again: at some point you may find yourself in an area that has poor reception. And even if that never happens, maps contain much more information than when to turn left or right. Knowing how to read a map will help your children identify the landmarks they see on their hike.

  • Draw a sketch of the scenery. If you are hiking in a mountain range, ask your child to draw a basic sketch of the mountain ridges you see. During a break, you can compare the sketch to the map and label the landmarks.

  • Keep a record of the animals that you see. Spotting squirrels, chipmunks, woodpeckers, and ants? All of these are part of the wonderful variety of God’s creation. As you hike in nature, take the time to appreciate each glimpse of the variety you see and make a point to stop and see how quickly the ants are building their anthill. Make school fun for your young students by letting them observe those fascinating bugs and critters.

  • Record bird calls. If you are hiking through an area with lots of birds, use the recording function on your phone to record some of the bird calls. After you return home, you can compare your recordings to the bird calls on the Audubon website and figure out which birds you heard. More details for your children’s field journal!

  • Identify plants along the way. Identifying and collecting plants can be a great hobby for children and will definitely make school fun. If a reference book is too heavy to carry with you, there are now a plethora of smartphone apps that can be used to identify plants. Being careful to avoid endangered plant species, students can collect samples of plants and slide them between the pages of their field journal for safe keeping. Make sure to look out for any poisonous plants like ficuses or lily-of-the-valley.

  • Collect some water samples. If you have access to a microscope, collect a few water samples to look at later. Comparing this water with the water that comes out of your tap will provide some excellent opportunities to discuss the importance of keeping water clean.

  • Take pictures. While we highly recommend putting the camera away for the majority of the hike and encouraging students to enjoy the beauties of nature without technology, a few pictures make a beautiful addition to the field journal after the trip is over.

Continuing to learn after the hike. For any scientist, a field trip is the beginning of a study, not the end. After returning home, you will have the chance to enrich your home curriculum and make school fun by examining what you collected on your trip.

  • Learn to press plants. Pressing plants is a way to preserve and store them for years to come. You can build your own plant press, or press your plants in pages of a newspaper placed between some heavy books. After the plants have been pressed, paste them in the field journal and identify them by their common and latin names.

  • Look at water under the microscope. As your students examine their water sample, have them sketch out the different shapes they see in their field journal. Using a reference book, identify the particles in the water sample they collected.

  • Identify the bird calls you heard. Once you and your children have identified the birds you heard, have your children research the bird and update their field journals to include interesting facts about the birds. Drawings of birds can also be a colorful addition to the pages of the field journal.

  • Write up a report. Ask your children to review the information from their field journals, and then write a report on the experience. The report should include information on their preparation, what they saw and heard on the hike, and a reflection on the gift of God’s creation. Many online schools such as Enlightium Academy encourage students to take trips and write essays discussing what they have learned.

 

For many students, spending their days sitting in a classroom feels like a chore. Worse than that, students’ educational opportunities are limited when they are not able to conduct portions of their education outside. Learning out of doors can open students’ eyes to the wonders of God’s creation, and can make school fun again for youthful nature enthusiasts.

 


 

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