courtesy of Outdoor Biology Instructional Strategies
“Envirolopes challenges” direct participants to hunt for a variety of textures, colors, odors, and evidence of organisms in the activity site.
BACKGROUND: Many people enjoy walks in the outdoors. An awareness of the diversity of nature can enhance the aesthetic value of such walks and lead to biological inquiry. The color of fall leaves; the fragrance, shape, and color of spring flowers; and the textures and patterns of trees, ferns, and mosses are only a few examples of the variety found in the outdoors. Envirolopes focuses on the diversity of nature in almost any outdoor setting: along a trail, around a science center of school, at a camp, or on a family outing. This activity works well with mixed-aged groups and encourages the participants to develop the ability to make observations and share them with others.
For each team of two:
one letter-sized envelope with a challenge on the front
optional: several pieces of colored yarn or cloth, a different color for each team.
For the group:
One “Envirolope Challenges” card
Glue or tape
PREPARATION: Group Size: This activity work wells with both small and large groups of almost all ages over five years old. Time: Plan on thirty to forty minutes. Site: Select a site where collecting small samples of leaves, rocks, twigs, or shells is permitted. Picnic tables, sidewalks, or lawns are good places to spread out the Envirolope collections for the group discussion and observation game.
ENVIROLOPES: Using the list of challenges below or using your own challenges, select the most appropriate for the site and/or group. Write on or cut and paste one challenge to each envelope.
If regulations or a fragile habitat preclude collecting, you can use the flagging technique. Use a different color of cloth or yarn for each team. The teams should attach flags to or near the objects that meet their challenges. If you use this method, the group will have to walk around the site to discuss the choices.
1. Point out the boundaries of the activity site to the group. Show everyone an example of an Envirolope challenge and discuss how the challenge might be met. 2. Divide the group into teams of two and give each team an Envirolope. Give the teams twenty minutes to search for samples that meet their Envirolope challenges. Make a rule that each team’s samples must fit in the envelope. 3. Circulate among the teams as they search, encouraging them to investigate further. Offer encouragement or assistance when necessary. 4. After a twenty-minute search period, ask the teams to display their collections and look over each other’s finds.
1. What objects appeared in more than one collection?
2. Did you find more evidence of animals or of people? What types of evidence do animals leave? What about people?
3. Which was the most difficult challenge to meet?
4. Which item, because of its variety of properties, could be included in the largest number of individual collections?
Note: Keep discussions short. However, if discussion wanders from biology to art or to some other form of creative expression don’t feel that you have to turn the discussion back “on course.” Such interest is the key to developing environmental awareness and appreciation.
1. Combine several collections (starting with about 25 items) and spread them out on the ground.
2. Have the group form a circle around the collections. Tell the group that you are going to remove one item while their eyes are closed and that they must try to discover which item you took. The first person to accurately describe the missing item takes your place and gets to remove the next item. Replace the missing item before each round.
3. Another way of increasing the game’s difficulty is to gradually increase the number of items in the pool. After several rounds, suggest removing more than one item each round.
1. Repeat the activity at a different site or at a different time of year.
2. Ask interested individuals to make up new challenges for another hunt.
3. Make a collage with the sample collected.
• Find at least 5 different textures
• Find at least 5 different odors
• Find at least 5 unually-shaped leaves
• Find at least 5 different kinds of seeds
• Find at least 5 different colored objects
• Find at least 5 different kinds of evidence that animals are around, such as a feather or a leaf with bites taken out of it
• Find at least 5 different kinds of evidence that people are around, such as litter
• Find at least 5 different kinds of rocks
• Find at least 5 objects that are different shades of brown
• Find at least 5 objects that are different shades of green
• Find at least 5 kinds of shells
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