children hugging tree outdoors

Adopting the perspective of a wild animal can help children experience the outdoors in a deeper way. When children empathize with nature,  they are more likely to develop a connection to it. That connection that can stay with them throughout their lives.

This activity is adapted from the International School Grounds Association's (ISGA)  Activity Guide for educators. It's a great back to school activity to help students settle into the school year, get to know their school grounds from a different perspective and connect to nature.  But it can also be used by families, church groups, camps, etc as it is simple and yet so rewarding for the children.

Students can work in groups of 3-5 or individually.  Each group or student should choose an animal it will "adopt" for this exercise. The animal should ideally be a local species such as a squirrel, chipmunk, sparrow or grasshopper. Students will set out to explore different parts of the school grounds. They will see the area for the first time from the perspective of their group's chosen animal. They should think about shelter, food sources, predators, water sources, landscape obstacles, etc. Encourage the students to look at larger features of the school grounds, such as trees, as well as smaller features such as rocks and pebbles.

Next, students will create a map of the school grounds they studied for other species to follow. They should label "treasures" such as food and water sources as well as "troubles" such as the threat of predators, foot traffic from people, etc.  As an alternative, you can provide students with pre-drawn maps of the school grounds which they can fill in with species-specific markers.