ECOVIEWS: Ecological scavenger hunts make great school projects | Features

Too 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.

The 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.

Introducing 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 student’s backyard, a municipal park or nearby woods.

Target 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.

At the 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 it.

Goals can 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?

Added assignments could be to research the ecology of the plants and animals that have been found and write a meaningful statement about them.

Another option is to have students bring an item to class and ask questions about it that the class would answer collectively.

Do all spiders build webs? What is the difference between fruits, berries and nuts? What birds do not nest in trees or bushes?

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