SCAVENGER HUNTS MAKE GREAT SCHOOL PROJECTS
many children today spend too much time indoors. School assignments
that involve outdoor exploration will help alleviate this problem. Plus,
most teachers appreciate having made-to-order projects that can be used
at any time of the year. An ecology scavenger hunt will get children
outside and offer endless learning opportunities.
disconnect between children and the natural world, which many believe
began with the arrival of television, is exacerbated by computers and
smart phones. These devices can be valuable sources of information,
but the living world is outside.
kids to environmental adventures outdoors gets them off their phones
and computers. Teachers can design the ecology scavenger hunt for completion
during the school day or as a homework assignment for completion in
the students backyard, a municipal park or nearby woods.
items should be appropriate for grade levels K through 12, but students
any age can learn to collaborate by working on an assignment in pairs
or small groups. The basic goal of a scavenger hunt is to locate items
on a list.
youngest levels, the challenge would be simple. For example, find a
spider and its web, a bird in a tree, a plant with a seed or nut on
be tailored for schoolchildren of any age. Those for higher grades would
be more difficult. How many strands are in the web? What kind of bird
is in the tree and what is the tree? Do all plants have seeds?
could be to research the ecology of the plants and animals that have
been found and write a meaningful statement about them.
option is to have students bring an item to class and ask questions
about it that the class would answer collectively.
spiders build webs? What is the difference between fruits, berries and
nuts? What birds do not nest in trees or bushes?
to the schoolyard to see what is and is not on the scavenger
hunt list is another option for the teacher. If possible, take the class
on a field trip to an environment different from that of the school.
Scavenger hunts can be conducted at any time of year; just be sure the
items listed are seasonally appropriate.
students, the hunt should involve greater challenges, such as finding
a plant with a distinctive smell. Many leaves produce an odor when they
are crushed. Some smell like perfume; others are less pleasant. Any
student should be able to learn to recognize a hickory or pecan tree
by the smell of the leaf.
and many insects produce protective odors. Smells often function to
ward off some predator that might otherwise make a meal of the animal.
One of the red-banded millipedes is a delightful find because these
animals smell like maraschino cherries or almonds. The hydrogen cyanide
produced to create the odor is deadly to some animals that might otherwise
eat them. So smelling is OK but not tasting.
the scavenger hunt successfully, high school students have to accomplish
three tasks in connection with various living things: finding, reading
and writing. Reading and writing are part of the learning process all
students are familiar with.
to find the item about which to read and write will be an adventure
for most of them. My suggestions for an ecology scavenger hunt are only
intended as examples. Teachers should make up their own list based on
their geographical location and the season, as well as the age and learning
ability of students. Or they might have the students make up the list.
need to increase their knowledge of their surroundings and discover
that not all formal learning takes place in a classroom. If nothing
else, the exercise will get children outdoors a place everyone
ought to become more familiar with. Many parents could benefit from
a scavenger hunt challenge as well.
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