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Try It - Un-Nature Hike

Many of you, I'm sure, have taken a nature hike.  But have you taken an "un-nature" hike.  This activity employs observation skills to explore the concept of adaptation and camouflage. 

Ideally, this should be done on a trail through the forest but could be conducted in your backyard of trees and bushes.  Set the trail up before your students or children come out to take the hike.  Pick an approximately 20-yard-long section of a trail and place a dozen or so man-made items in trees or bushes along the trail or on the ground beside the trail.  Note: keep track of where you put them for retrieval purposes! 

Use some bright objects that are easily seen and some brown or green objects that are harder to see.  You can also pick objects that are shaped like an object in nature as a different kind of disguise.  You may need some string or fishing line to tie a few items up.

Before sending your children off on the trail, tell them that you have placed objects along the trail and that they need to walk slowly and look for the items carefully.  Have your children walk along the trail with sufficient space between them and write down what objects made by humans they see.  After they have all finished, review the number of items they found.  If no one found them all, you may challenge them to hike the trail again.   Finally, you lead them through the trail, picking up the items as you pass them.  Discuss the concept of camouflage through coloration and shape as related to each object.  When you are finished, ask them to look around the area for examples of insects that are camouflaged. 

You can vary the degree of difficulty by the number and type of items you use and how well you hide them. Another alternative is to place natural objects in unnatural places – a pine cone in a maple tree for example.  I have done this activity with children several times and they always enjoy it.   They also want to have the opportunity to place the items along the trail.

In case you haven't walked in the woods or fields – take a hike!  Either a nature - - or an un-nature one.   

Joseph Cornell, a nature educator in California, has written several books of nature activities.  This activity was adapted from his book titled, Sharing Nature With Children, published by Dawn Publications.

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