Explore & Connect to Where You Live through Nature Bingo & BioBlitz
Creative Nature Scavenger Hunt Stimulates Nature Education & Strengthens a Sense of Place
Outdoor adventures with kids have a way of turning into loosely-structured scavenger hunts. Woodland trails are littered with interesting treasures, beaches wash up endless items of interest, and the tall grasses of meadows reveal new treats wherever you part the seas of green. Supporting children’s interest in looking closely at nature and discovering treasures is easy enough to do. While unstructured, free play and exploration can uncover lots of natural wonders big and small, adding just a little bit of structure can help children lead themselves to certain discoveries or a specific learning goal, and will support learners of all ages develop useful skills that can be applied in many different educational and real-life contexts.
While we’ve covered the basics of nature scavenger hunts in an archived post, there are more possibilities for learning via nature exploration than we could ever list! The simplest way to open your family’s eyes to nature using a game-like structure is to use bingo-style cards to track your discoveries. Online resources for nature bingo abound, including boards filled with variations on camping bingo and MassAudubon’s nature bingo, which offers four different cards (one to match each season) that help to open players’ eyes to the interesting and exciting natural occurrences, connecting them to the seasons.
Building upon the educational value of general nature-themed cards (ones that encompass plant, animal, and insect life together with the non-living parts of the environment) is the opportunity to use a specific themed bingo or scavenger hunt activity. If young naturalists are fascinated by a specific topic – frogs, for example – then create your very own frog-themed bingo card or scavenger hunt where you search not only for local frog species but for eggs, tadpoles, what they might eat, what might eat them, and signs of frog habitat. Such a card or list could be revisited annually, or even a few times during a season in different areas, allowing families to track the day-to-day and year-to-year changes in population and landscape that take place around them.
In addition to the ease with which bingo and scavenger hunts can be adapted to specific interests and/or geographic locations, they can also easily be tailored to it the developmental needs of learners. Youngsters can, for example, participate in a sensory-focused scavenger hunt, in which they explore the landscape through a variety of sensory entry points (rather than the basic touch and see that explorations generally lead to), and can use a sensory scavenger hunt as an opportunity to practice describing what they see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. Meanwhile, older students can tackle complex and challenging scavenger hunts, like the annual Berkshire BioBlitz, an annual early fall event in which participants scour a defined local area in order to find and identify as many different species of living things as possible. Of course, the sensory focus of a hunt designed for young children meets their need to fully experience the input that they get from their environment, while the design of a bioblitz or other in-depth hunt for older learners takes into account older children’s ability to notice the small details present all around them in nature.
Participating in a nature scavenger hunt or bingo game will not only support students in deepening their awareness of nature and sense of place, but it will encourage the growth of many other useful skills as well. Tasks such as tracking discoveries by marking boxes or checking items on a list give young learners practice tracking their own learning, and bingo in particular challenges them to practice linear thinking and strategy development, as they’ll be focusing on the goal of filling in a row or column on their card. Using a bingo card can also support young learners in understanding the basics of the coordinate plane – they’ll need to match columns with rows in order to locate squares and to share their findings. Finally, allowing children to create their own scavenger hunt lists or bingo games can help to support literacy skills (they’ll need to read about what they see and write it down in order to create a good game), as well as map skills and spatial awareness (not only will they need to remember where they found each thing included on their personalized list, they may choose to provide a map of the area where items can be found).