Nature Scavenger Hunt

A nature scavenger hunt is amazing at leading children into discovery of the natural world. No matter what items are officially part of the 'hunt" - mysteries abound...

Discoveries lead to questions about nature that had nothing to do with the items on the hunt - or frequently to a greater level of depth than anyone present knows the answers to! Stories by children about their time in nature acting as detectives are precious and act as springboards to future hunts and further exploration.

Some helpful hints to facilitate a scavenger hunt:

- Make sure to investigate your potential site before the hunt to gauge how challenging the list of items you've created is, and how much time will be needed based on the terrain. Also, you want to make sure to identify any major safety hazards that children may encounter so you can let them know about these before they start.

- Create a list of items to search for, and give copies to each child. Some items commonly included on scavenger hunts include the following, and we encourage you to add your own ideas:

animal tracks, feathers, objects of certain colors, animal burrows or dens, nuts, seeds or cones (whole or chewed), frogs and lizards, leaves or flowers from plants, animal bones, insects, animal scat (poop), snakes/snakeskin

- Based on the number of children participating, determine whether everyone will be together in one group, or whether smaller sub-groups are doable. Remember, the smaller the group size the more chance the everyone will be able to make individual discoveries and have more attention from the group leaders.

- Decide up front whether children will be simply checking the items off on a list, drawing pictures of what they observed (great for work with nature journals and extending this activity in the future), or actually bringing the items back

- Have each group (with an adult) go on their hunt for anywhere from 15 minutes (younger students) to several hours (older students). Gauge the interest level of the group and what you think they (and you) can handle.

- Have everyone return to a common area, and share stories about their adventures - what items they found, what questions they have about them, and what they found or experienced along the way. Sometimes skits or acting out parts of the adventure can succeed where a simply retelling will not.

- If there are safety hazards that came up along the way, this is a great time to make sure everyone recognizes them and knows what to do if they encounter them along the way.

- If the items were brought back, this is great way to establish a "Nature Museum". This can be something that each child has at their home, or that is collectively held by a group that meets ongoing like schools, scouts or other groups. The museum in turn inspires future discoveries and new stories.

Nature scavenger hunts give permission to get muddy; to go places that children (or adults) might not ordinarily go; as well as having more of a sense of wonder and curiosity without knowing for sure what will happen next! Adventure is part of the game, and you can tailor the difficulty of the object list to match the experience/skill level of the participants.

The sense of wonder evoked, as well as the opportunities for learning for both children and adults from a Nature Scavenger Hunt makes it a top choice for getting to know more about whatever natural area you are spending time in.

Good luck on your nature hunt!

For more great games like this, check out
Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature

Coyote's Guide

Return from the Nature Scavenger Hunt to more Outdoor Games for Kids