Nature field trips are a great way to engage students of all ages and abilities with the natural world around them. You can be ambitious and go to a nearby conservation area, nature reserve or park where you are likely to find guided trails, museums and docents. Or you can just step outside the door and explore nature around your school, back yard or local park.
I’ve written and illustrated a book called Nature Field Trips for Children of All Ages. Though not written for students with intellectual disabilities or autism, it is packed with visuals and activities that can be adapted for students of all abilities. Explorations of nature include birds, bugs, leaves, seeds, flowers and more.
It has been my experience that, with few exceptions, all students can become interested in the fascinating world of nature. Getting outside is a wonderful way to teach specific concepts such as differentiating between living and non-living (see Let’s Learn About Living Things!), practicing a skill such as using your senses (what do you smell, see, feel, hear?), or just enjoying an open-ended exploration.
Here are 5 important guidelines to consider before you head outside with your students.
1) Know your area: Carefully check the area you are visiting for any points of interest or problems that might arise. Do you have to cross a street? Is there construction taking place? If walking, consider how far the most physically challenged student can go, how to keep the distractible student from leaving the group etc.
2) Allergies: Do any of your students have allergies to that would make it uncomfortable for them to spend time outdoors?
3) Fears and phobias: Are any of your students afraid of insects (many people are afraid of spiders and bees, for example). Consider pre-teaching or avoiding contact with anything that could cause anxiety.
4) Safety: Is the area you are going safe? Is there poison ivy? Is there potentially harmful trash, such as broken bottles, cans etc.? How close are you to a busy street?
5) Distractions: Are there distractions (such as a playground) that might prevent students from becoming engaged in the nature field trip?
Here is a list of 10 things you may want to bring on your nature field trip.
1) First aid kit
3) Sunscreen (you may need to get prior permission from parents to use sunscreen)
4) Bug spray (again, you may need prior permission from parents)
6) Magnifying glasses
7) Field guides
8) Sketch pad and pencil
10) Plastic/paper bags. In my opinion, this is something you will definitely want to bring! Each student should be given a bag for things that they collect on their walk. Most students LOVE to collect things and this is often their favorite part of an outing.
So, with the warm weather finally here, restless students anxious for summer vacation and long summer days waiting to be filled with fun, take your students or children on a field trip in the great outdoors and experience the wonders of nature!
Click here for a pdf copy ($4.00) of Nature Field Trips for Children of All Ages, complete with information, ideas, forms, extension activities and visuals.
A bound, printed copy (pages are perforated, making it easy to xerox copies of visuals, etc) is available for $10.00, which includes shipping and handling. Send me an e-mail to order a copy.