In Seven Reasons to Set a Homeschool Hiking Goal, I noted that going for a hike and observing the nature around you is a perfect way to practice many school subjects you have been learning all year. It is great to learn that information at home, but when you go out into the world and USE that information you really start to understand and remember it. Here are five subjects that generalize well to hiking.
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Before you start your hike, look at a trail map together and compare the length of each hike. Discuss how fast you normally hike per mile and calculate how long each hike will take you. If you are looking at hiking trails that have elevation changes, then you can calculate the elevation change on each hike as well. Once on the trail, you can note the time it takes you to hike that trail and determine if you kept to your typical speed and see how changes in elevation or rocky terrain may have affected your speed.
2. Nature Study/Science
There are so many science topics that can be studied on a hike! This is a great way to put that information you learned in the classroom into action.
If your children have learned about igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks, then identifying types of rocks you find on the hike can be fun. If you are really good at identifying rocks, maybe you can even name each one. Here is a great web-site all about rocks. Or grab his book and take it with you.
Note the different soil types you see and if in the woods, discuss how the leaves and branches that fall to the forest floor decompose and feed the surrounding plants and trees. You can also look for patterns of erosion that might have occurred.
There are so many ways to study plants and trees while hiking! You can identify trees, plants, and flowers. Or find nuts and try to find the tree they came from. Look at the parts of the plants and talk about how they reproduce. My boys are always interested in trees that look diseased and for signs of a forest fire. Missing underbrush in an area is a telltale sign! If you don’t know much about these topics, just grab a book or two like the ones below!
You can look for animals and signs of animals while hiking. Signs of animals would include tracks and scats (poop). You can discuss the classification of each animal (arthropods, fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals), what they might eat, how they deal with winter (adapt, hibernate or migrate) and more! Here are some more books that will allow you to dig deeper into these topics.
If you have been studying biomes, you can identify the biome you are hiking in by discussing the plants, animals, and climate. Sometimes, children forget that they, too, live in a biome. When out in nature, it is easier to see that biome!
If you get to hike in a variety of places, then comparing and contrasting different biomes will be fun. Or if you are hiking somewhere with a large elevation change, you may actually hike through different biomes and notice that the trees change or disappear as you climb.
If you and your children are studying photography, the natural world offers so many opportunities to practice your art! Practice framing pictures, looking for light, and playing with the aperture and shutter speed. If you are using a camera phone, play with the different settings and use some photo editing apps to make changes to the pictures. Not only is photography fun, but it increases your observation skills and teaches you about light.
Encourage your children to wonder about the history of the land they are hiking on. We like to find hikes in our area that lead to ruins. The boys find this super fun! Many trails will include information about Native Americans or settlers that lived in the area or who owned the land before it became a public place to go hiking. You may want to research the history of the area online before or after your hike.
Finally, there is so much geography one can practice while hiking. In Seven Reasons to Set a Homeschool Hiking Goal, I talked about map skills, but there is more to geography than reading a map. You can experience elevation changes. If there is a visitor center where you are hiking, see if they have a topographic map you can look at and how elevation changes are noted on the map. Also, be on the look out for geographic features such as ponds and lakes, streams and rivers, hills and mountains. Are there any plateaus? Or are you near the water and notice any bays or peninsulas? Compare and contrast these features.
A hike is a great time to practice describing what you see around you. Set a goal of finding five interesting objects and describing them with five different adjectives! Then, if inspired, put the adjectives into sentences. Who knows where this will lead…maybe your children will start to create a whole story as they walk.
What other school subjects have you used while on the hiking trail? Comment below!