This is the second part of an interview with my friend and all around amazing woman, Molly who owns Mountain Goat Instructional Design in Bozeman, Montana. If you tuned in yesterday Molly talked about the important connection between children, science and our natural world.
Today’s interview dives into a few trail-friendly activities with kids that are guaranteed to keep them motivated, hiking, and spark interest in science.
We’ll start right where we left off yesterday.
A lot of our readers are Mom’s (and Dad’s too) with young kids who like to hike. Can you give us a few ideas of games or activities that we can try when we’re out on the trails to teach our children about our natural environment?
Sure, in addition to the macroinvertebrate exploration that we talked about yesterday, here’s a list of fun outdoor activities (and necessary materials) to try along the trail to get kids using their senses and observing:
- Leaf/tree bark rubbings (paper and crayons)
- Nature rainbow collage (you can collect or take photos of different colored natural objects)
- Quiet minute—sit and just listen for a full minute (possibly with eyes closed)
- Blindfolded partner walk (blindfold your child and lead him/her for a short distance, then trade)
- Identification—place natural objects (pinecones, leaves, sticks, rocks) inside paper bags and have kids touch and guess what the object is
- Explore a rotting log (scroll down about 1/3 of this page to check out this fun rotting log guide: from the book Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman) (p.s. I LOVE this idea!)
- Explore an inch, foot, square foot (small area)/Mini hike—lay on the ground and explore every tiny thing within a very small area (use a magnifying glass), then repeat in another area
- Cloud shapes
- Nature art—think Andrew Goldsworthy
- Digital microscope
Good activities to keep kids moving
- ABCs of nature—play the alphabet game with natural objects while moving up the trail
- Shapes in nature—can you find a square, circle, triangle formed from natural objects?
- Cairns—explore the history of cairns and build some along the trail
- Collections—you don’t have to take home to collect! Collect flowers, rocks, plants, insects, etc. with a digital camera. Work with kids later to organize, research, label, print and make albums of their collections. Or keep collections virtual. If you do collect real objects, make sure you label them ASAP, or the objects lose their meaning. You might want to keep some bags in your backpack for collectors. Also, I recommend what I nicknamed “beauty contests” (you could call it tryouts or auditions or something else if you don’t like that terminology)—if kids find too many objects, they need to choose between them and stick with just a few good examples.
- Look for animal tracks—take digital photos for later identification, come up with stories about what the animals were doing when the tracks were made.
You grew up in the outdoorsy town of Bozeman Montana. How did your experiences in the natural environment shape your childhood? Do you think that those experiences ultimately led you to start Mountain Goat Instructional Design?
I was a child in Bozeman during the early 1980’s. My dad had me backpacking (1/2 mile downhill, carrying a foam pad and a bag of chips) by the time I was 4. My family also left Bozeman for a year for a sabbatical in Germany when I was in 8th grade. Although I got a lot of cultural experience that year, the time away from the mountains, trails, sunny skies, skiing, etc. really made me appreciate what I was missing. I came back and made new friends in the outdoorsy scene diverting me from the snarky teenage path I had potentially been headed down. I’ve tried to leave Bozeman since then but just keep coming back (as do many, many Bozeman kids who left for college or jobs)—(I know! As soon as there’s room in my parents basement I’m moving back!) My love of the outdoors led me to pursue geology, my interest in teaching over research led me to pursue science education, and my love of what I do and my sense of place here has caused me to find any way possible to stick around. Mountain Goat Instructional Design allows me to check all those boxes and still have time to get out and enjoy Montana.
Where can we find you online?
My website is www.mtngoatinstructionaldesign.com. You can also like my Facebook page—I try to post fun and interesting science and nature related content that appeals to a wide audience. Sometimes I’m on Twitter, too.
Thank you so much for the interview, Molly! Here’s what I’m taking away…
1. I don’t have to be super scienc-y to introduce my kids to science.
2. I need to be less focused on the destination, distance and the time when I’m hiking with my kids. In fact maybe I need to stop planning hikes and start planning outdoor activities that can be done on the trails.
3. There’s a lot to be learned outdoors if we just stop, look, feel and listen. And speaking of that, I just finished reading the book, How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature by Scott D. Sampson which I highly recommend (book review coming soon).
p.s. If you know an outdoor parent who needs a few tips on motivating kids with learning on a hike please feel free to share this interview!