To make nature study easy and convenient, we keep a backpack with supplies ready to go. I will admit, we have not used it as much as I would like, so my goal this summer is to get much more use out of it.
Here is what it contains:
Notebook and/or Sketchbook Some children like to draw what they find or write down a list of their discoveries. My children are not these children. I still carry a notebook with us just in case they have an epiphany some day and I at least write down the date and place we hiked and have them narrate something to me about the hike to write down.
Pencil Case w/Supplies Include a pencil case with at least a couple pencils and an eraser in it. If your child would be interested in drawing specimens, then include some nice colored pencils as well. The Prisma Colored Pencils 24 pack would make a good choice.
Field guides We like these pocket field guides when we hike as they are not as heavy as a full book. There are so many to choose from and many specific to a particular region. I like to have some covering birds, butterflies, bugs, mushrooms, edible plants, trees, and weather. The weather guide helps identify clouds, which the boys enjoy.
Binoculars Pack a lightweight set of binoculars for studying birds and other animals.
Magnifying Glass A magnifying glass is great for studying rocks and bugs. This is probably the item my boys enjoy most. Make sure you get one with a protective sleeve.
Compass Honestly, if we were ever lost, I am not sure a compass would help me much! However, it is a great way for the boys to learn cardinal and ordinal directions. Sometimes, they just like walking with it and seeing where the needle points.
Sample Bags We bring small sandwich bags to carry home “samples”, which for the boys could be rocks, leaves, flowers, snail shells, bugs, sticks or anything else you might imagine. If we are really on our game, we may look at them under our microscope at home.
Tape Measure So we have never actually brought a tape measure with us, but I did some quick research while writing this to see if there was anything we were missing and this is the one item I came across that we have not packed. It can be used to measure the depth of a stream, the height of a flower, the diameter of a tree, etc. We are definitely going to pack one for our next hike.
Trail Map So printing a trail map off the computer may seem really 2005 and it takes some extra planning, but it has saved us on numerous occasions. There are times that we have had poor cell service during hikes and our map app became useless. Sometimes our hikes involve three or four different trails, making the map critical. So definitely consider printing one, but keep in mind that not all trail maps appear to be drawn by professional map makers either.
Camera We use a camera a lot while hiking to capture interesting trees, flowers, rocks, animals, and each other. I can not imagine how many samples we would bring home if we did not have a camera! We usually just use a camera phone, but sometimes I grab our nice DSLR.
Sunscreen/Bug Spray Of course, if you are going to be outside for an extended period of time, you may want to pack sunscreen and bug spray.
Garbage bag/Gloves So this may seem like a strange one, but my kids can get upset about people littering and sometimes start picking it up with bare hands…..ewww. So I try to keep a garbage bag and gloves with us when we go to any kind of park. We usually don’t use them on the hike, but it is amazing how dirty trailheads and picnic areas can be!
Snacks/Water And of course, pack snacks and water, even if you don’t plan on being gone too long. You never know when you might get turned around and spend much longer on your hike than planned. Not that it is has ever happened to us! (wink)
If there is anything else you like to bring on a nature outing, comment below!