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Do your kids have the summer doldrums? Want to get out and enjoy the great outdoors at a leisurely pace? Take a hike! It’s a great activity that even the smallest members of the family can enjoy. A hike is a fun science lesson, allowing kids and adults alike to take in the scenery and talk about plants, insects, and wildlife. Here are some ways to turn a hike into an educational adventure:
Go On A Bug Hunt - This is the perfect activity for the budding entomologist in your family. Be sure to take along a magnifying glass and a piece of white paper. If you’re really serious about insect examination, you can take an insect net and a clear, plastic bottle in order to more closely examine the various insects. During your hike, look for bugs. You can’t miss them: they’re in trees, hanging on plants, crawling on the ground, loitering under rocks or logs, resting under decaying leaves and flying in the air.
The easiest way to catch a bug is to put your white piece of paper under a tree branch and gently shake the branch, some bugs are sure to fall on the paper. Get a closer look at them by using a magnifying glass. Another way to hunt for bugs is to check under logs, where creepy crawlies love to hang out in the moist environment.
- How many different kinds of bugs do you see?
- Can you identify them?
- How many different colored insects do you see?
Use the insect net to catch the insects and put them in the clear, plastic bottle in order to get a better look at them without having to touch them. Try to handle the insects as little as possible and return them to where you found them when you’re finished.
Sshh! What Do You Hear? - Listen for birds chirping, insects buzzing and water babbling. As you walk along, ask your child questions:
- How many different birds do you hear?
- Can you hear any insects? Is it a fly or a bee?
- Can you hear water? Is it a brook or a waterfall?
Orienteering Hiking provides an excellent opportunity to teach children how to use a compass or a GPS device. If you’re a real adventurer, you’ll want to teach them how to find north by using the natural surroundings:
- Look for spider webs, they are usually on the south side of tree branches.
- Look for moss, it usually grows on the north side of trees.
- Put a stick in the ground and note where the shadow is cast. Make a mark at that point. Wait ten or fifteen minutes and make another mark at the new shadow point. The line between the two points runs east to west.
Before setting off on your expedition, be sure to have the following items:
- Hiking boots
- Insect repellant
- Whistle, compass, GPS
Hiking fosters family togetherness and healthfulness. Who knows, it may just become your favorite thing to do together!