During my preschool teaching days, I was lucky enough to work at a child care center that was set back in the woods. Many mornings, I would look out the window and see a flock of wild turkeys passing by, deer, and the occasional groundhog. My classroom had big, low windows, so of course every time I spied those animals, I would quickly point them out and the children and I would all stop what we were doing and run to the window to gaze at the woodland creatures. Stopping in the middle of circle time and allowing those quick encounters with the natural world around us to become a learning experience for the children was probably my favorite part of teaching.
Another favorite teaching experience of mine always happened in the fall season when the leaves would turn colors and acorns would start falling off the trees. At my center, the playground was surrounded by various types of trees and behind the playground was a mile-long nature trail. I would take my preschoolers on the trail, give them all paper bags, a pencil, and paper, and go on a scavenger hunt along the trail. They would collect what they found, draw a picture of it, and put it in their bag. When we got back to the classroom, the children all had a chance to share what they found on their scavenger hunt. Every fall, I am reminded of those fun times with my preschool children.
If you work in an early childhood program similar to mine, you probably have gone on many of these nature walks and might even have encounters with animals passing by your windows too, but what if you teach in the city? Do you have the opportunity to experience nature? Are you able to go on scavenger hunts?
In late spring this past year, I was conducting an assessment at a site in a city. The teachers took their children outside for a walk around the block, pointed out a flower here and there, noticed shapes, and drew the children’s attention to colors during their walk. It dawned on me, perhaps for the first time, that many children – especially those who live in the city – may never have those opportunities to see a real deer up close or the teachers might not get the chance to open the windows and have their children listen for the sounds of the geese flying by to go south for the winter. Does that mean that children cannot experience nature? Does it mean that “city kids” can’t go outside and experience a scavenger hunt? No way! After completing my observations that day, I went home and Googled “scavenger hunts in the city.” I was so excited to find many different scavenger hunts that teachers can do with their children!
Whether you teach in the country, the suburbs, or the city, there are learning opportunities everywhere! Teachers can use the surroundings around them to give incredible learning experiences for children to explore the world around them. I have included links to some really fun scavenger hunts to use if you live in the city and also some scavenger hunts if you teach in the suburbs. If any of you do scavenger hunts with your children, I would love to hear how and where you do yours!
City scavenger hunts:
Suburb scavenger hunts:
Books worth reading:
We’re Going on a Nature Hunt by Steve Metzger
We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger
ABC provides a set of travel guides for several cities and Lancaster County. Check out their guide for Philadelphia.