Our family nature club’s recent adventure – a stroll through the Venice Canals – featured an urban nature scavenger hunt courtesy of the Scavenger Hunt Guru. The activity was a hit with kids and parents alike. In real life, the Guru’s name is Rebecca and I thought you all might enjoy meeting her.
How did you become the “scavenger hunt guru?”
Good question! I was in between seasons of outdoor education and was seeking a new learning opportunity. I've always thought it would be interesting to put together a website so I decided to give it a shot.
I love scavenger hunts and have used them extensively in outdoor education and summer camp settings along with using them as a way to give someone a gift or to teach team building. So I thought: why not build my site about scavenger hunts?! It's been a fun learning curve and a great creative adventure.
How do you think scavenger hunts can help kids connect with nature?
Scavenger hunts are, by their very nature, hands-on and experiential; both key ingredients when working with kids. When set in an outdoor, natural environment they become an excellent medium for connecting kids with nature.
If the scavenger hunt clues include all of the five senses, kids will be interacting with nature on an entirely new level: feeling different textures, smelling different trees, listening for different sounds, etc. They can be used to teach concepts to children that may be difficult for them to understand when sitting inside. Let's face it, who doesn't like going on a scavenger hunt? They are fun for all ages! This makes them a great way to demonstrate that connecting with nature can be fun and educational.
What makes for a good nature scavenger hunt adventure?
A good nature scavenger hunt is one that encourages the participants to use all of their senses to really interact with the natural world. Also, it’s important to include clues that will have participants down on the ground looking for tiny items and also looking out on the horizon or up in the sky. Changing their perspective helps them to really look closely at nature and then to also take in the bigger picture. For added excitement, bring along a magnifying glass and/or binoculars. Add a field guide to your bag and try to identify things the kids find.
The other important thing to remember: Always dress appropriately, bring layers, sunscreen, water, snacks, hat, etc. If your kids are uncomfortable, the nature scavenger hunt ceases to be fun, for everyone.
What’s the best way for kids to experience a nature hunt?
The most important thing to remember is that there is no "best" way. Nature hunts can be done in the backyard, in the park, walking through the city, at the beach, etc. As long as you are outside and encouraging your kids to explore what is around them, you are doing great! A scavenger hunt can be done anywhere, needs little planning, and can even be impromptu with parents coming up with clues along the way as kids go out looking for things. Remember to make the clues age appropriate with some easier items and some that will be harder to find.
Also, take advantage of "teachable moments." Let your kids be the guide and let their questions or comments spark the conversation. Have fun with it. Your energy can be felt. The more jazzed and involved you are, the more fun and exciting it is for them.
How can scavenger hunts be adapted for younger kids?
One of my favorite ways is to draw a picture of the item the kids must find. (If drawing isn't your forte, google "pictures" of the items and print them out on little cards.) You can even write the name under the picture to start developing word recognition.
Another way to adapt the activity is to use colors: find something blue, red, green, etc. You could also cut out colored squares and have them put the square on something in nature that is that color.
Finally, you can organize an "unnatural trail" and have the young ones point out things that don't belong. This takes a bit more preparation but is a lot of fun. Simply hide things ahead of time along a short trail or in a small playing area, for example: a teddy bear on a branch, a stuffed frog on a bird feeder, a spoon sticking out of the grass, a cup in the flower bed, etc.
However you choose to adapt your scavenger hunt, be sure to end the activity while your kids are still having fun and wanting more.
What’s your favorite way to spend time in nature?
I love to walk in the woods, hike, and backpack. I also really enjoy telemark skiing and sled riding in the winter. Geocaching is another great activity that has led me to some really wonderful spots in nature. I guess my favorite way is just getting out there in whatever way suits the day!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Spend time with your kids outside. Share in their enthusiasm and excitement. Re-connect with your own childlike sense of awe and wonder. Live life fully with your kids and get outside with them!
Rebecca Brown has worked in the field of environmental education and summer camp directing for many years. She is also a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher. A self-proclaimed idealist and dreamer, Rebecca is passionate about protecting the environment, cross-cultural exchange and working with young people. She loves to make people smile and to challenge them to do their best and to be the best that they can be. She currently resides in Reno, NV and enjoys exploring the greater Tahoe area and the Sierras. She is the "Guru" behind Scavenger Hunt Guru and the friendly presence behind Favorite Inspirational Quotes.