Planning a nature experience activity

Planning a nature experience activity

by Mónica Oliveira

Agrupamento de Escolas nº1 de Gondomar


When planning a nature experience activity, you should consider

  • the Target Group – pupils’ age, physical and mental development, background, and their level of nature connection and experience.
  • the Purpose – Clearly outline the teaching goals and desired contributions of the activity. Focus on enhancing knowledge of nature, stimulating the senses, promoting exploration and discovery, and fostering autonomy among the pupils.
  • Choosing a Suitable Location – select a location near the school that is familiar and appropriate for the planned activities. Ensure the terrain has the necessary nature elements and consider the logistics of travel time and duration on site to maximize the effectiveness of the activity.


Planning a nature experience activity


To plan a meaningful nature experience activity, you need to take into account these three basic principles:

1st: you need to decide on / know your target group

Consider pupils’ age, physical and mental development stage, background and their level of nature connection and experience;

2nd: you have to define the purpose(s) of the nature activity you are planning

What do you want the activity to contribute to? What are your teaching goals? How can the activity contribute to the knowledge of nature and stimulate senses, exploration and discovery? How can it foster autonomy?

3rd: Find a suitable location

You should find a location near the school and know it well before putting the activity into practice; you should choose a terrain that will provide the nature elements that you need for your activity. You should also consider how long will it take you to get there and how much time you will spend on the spot.


Developing a nature experience activity related to the five senses

Here is an example of a set of activities related to the topic “the five senses” that you can implement in order to develop pupils’ nature intelligence and foster autonomy.

  1. On the way to the location / On the way back to school

On the way to the chosen location and back, you should consider ways to entertain pupils such as walking games:

– “I spy…” game: for instance, the teacher says “I spy a pine tree” and the first pupil to find one gets the opportunity to choose the next element from nature

Animal walking game: You can ask pupils to move/ run / fly / jump (…) like a specific animal


  1. At the location
  2. Start with a song or poem related to nature
  3. Use a game as an icebreaker/a warm up: mosquito game, cat-mouse game or nuts game

Mosquito game – ask pupils to make a circle and behave like a mosquito: they should choose someone from the circle, leave their place in the circle to fly around the chosen one; then, they should go back to their initial place in the circle;

Cat-mouse game – ask pupils to form pairs and stand in a circle; 2 pupils will stand alone, one will be a cat and the other a mouse; the cat will chase the mouse and, as the mouse runs from the cat, it can save itself by touching someone from the pairs; the mouse will become part of a new pair and the pupil who was touched will become the cat;

Nuts game – the teacher asks pupils to stand in a circle on a bit of wood/big leaf (…) and throws some nuts in the centre of the circle; a pupil will stand alone and try to catch the others who are picking up the nuts; the purpose is for pupils to gather as much “food” as possible and bring it back “home” without being caught. They can only pick up one nut at a time. Pupils who are caught become catchers.

  1. Short break for a snack and to activate the senses

Ask pupils to lie down on the ground and give them some instructions so that they can activate their senses such as: feel the wind on your face / smell the flowers / listen to the birds / touch the grass (…)  

  1. Bird listening activity: before developing this activity on the spot, the teacher should research what birds mays exist there; once on the spot, he/she may ask pupils to close their eyes and identify how many different birds they can hear and count them using their fingers; then the teacher will ask pupils to try to reproduce the sounds they heard;
  2. Making a musical instrument and playing music activity:

The teacher asks students to go by themselves into nature and collect elements/things from nature they can make music with and asks them to play; then, pupils get into small groups and make a piece of music by combining all the “instruments”; finally, groups get all together and play together as a big orchestra;


  1. Nature memory activity

Use toilet paper rolls with one side open and the other closed. Place plants/flowers (…) inside. There should always be 2 toilet paper rolls with the same smell. Ask students to smell them and find the pairs. 

  1. Camera game – Pupils form pairs; one pupil has his/her eyes closed and the other guides him/her through nature; the guiding pupil takes the other to observe an element of nature and ask him/her to open his/her eyes for a brief moment to take a “snapshot” (6 to 7 snapshots)
  1. Senses circle activity

Students go into nature to collect something, then get back to sit in a circle with their eyes closed. They give it to the classmate next to him/her who keeps it in his/her closed hand and with his/her eyes closed shares with the group what it smell / tastes like, how it feels and what it reminds him/her of. At the end, they open their hands and eyes and show the group what it is.


  1. The bear game – Find two trees not too far from each other. One pupil will be the bear and has to stand between the two trees with his/her eyes closed. The other pupils have to go through the two trees without being touched by the bear.


  1. Handkerchief game – The teacher collects some piece of wood or a rock from nature and asks pupils to form a circle. As the group sings, one pupil goes around the circle and, at one point, leaves the piece of wood/rock on the ground behind one of his classmates and starts running. As soon as the other pupil realises that the “object” has been left behind him, he has to chase the other one. The purpose is for pupil number 1 to occupy the other’s pupil place in the circle without being caught. Pupils who are caught are out and the game ends when there is only one pupil left.  


  1. Time for free play

A time for free play should be included. Pupils should have some free time to play without any guidance from the teacher.


  1. Possible endings:

– the teacher reads the poem or they sing the song from the beginning of the activity

– the teacher asks students to choose an element from nature to take home with them (something they liked, something that surprised them…)

–  the teacher can do a final reflection circle


  1. After the activity

– Nature diary: pupils may create a nature diary where they can draw/write about their adventures in nature and/or stick elements from nature





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