Scavenger hunts are a great way to get the whole family and community physically active. Create a list of commonly found nature items in your backyard or community park, and consider incorporating simple, experiential activities (such as skipping a rock or spotting a wild animal). Individuals or teams then scramble to collect the items or perform the activities within a given time limit. Provide healthy snacks, and create a friendly competition by handing out prizes for the person or group that completes the hunt first.
Scavenger Hunt #1
Items You’ll Need
Pencils or crayons
Bags or boxes for collected items (or a phone or camera if taking photos of items instead of collecting)
Printed list of nature-themed scavenger hunt items and experiential activities
Healthy snacks or prizes
Example Scavenger Hunt List
The specific features and landscape of your backyard or park and the ages of your participants will help you determine the items and activities for the scavenger hunt. Be creative and have fun! Below are just a few suggestions to get you started:
Animal shells or skins
Rocks of various shapes and textures
Find a spider web and sketch the web pattern
Observe a wild animal such as rabbit or squirrel and write a few sentences about what you observed
Hang from a low-hanging tree branch
Spot an animal hole in the ground and guess who lives there
Pause for 30 seconds and write down the sounds you hear
Savenger Hunt #2
Before the Hunt
Decide where you will walk. Will you stay on the school campus, go to the local park or walk in the surrounding neighborhood?
Provide each student with a hard book or clipboard for recording their observations.
Give each student the scavenger hunt list and allow them to ask questions about what they will be looking for while on the walk.
Establish expectations and review safety rules.
During the Hunt
Ask the students to check off the items they see on the scavenger hunt list. Consider including items such as:
something that is alive
a leaf with jagged edges
something with the school mascot on it
a leaf with smooth edges
a handful of grass
a red leaf
a yellow leaf
a green leaf
a smooth stone
a basketball hoop
an American flag
Ask students to record anything else interesting that they saw, touched, smelled, heard or felt.
During the Hunt
Discuss what the class saw, touched, smelled, heard or felt. How many of them checked everything off their list? What was hard to find?
Emphasize the importance of daily physical activity – kids need 60 minutes of physical activity each day! How many minuted did you get on your walk? How many steps did you take?
Connect the walk to a classroom lesson. For example, ask students to journal about what they saw outside, graph the number of students that checked off each item on the scavenger hunt list or talk about the changing of the seasons.
Scavenger hunts can be fun with just a few people or engage your larger community to bring neighbors together.
Limited on time? No worries! Keep the scavenger hunt list short and simple or ask family members to brainstorm items together.
Set up the hunt as a family walk through your neighborhood or head to a local park or hiking trail. Gather items as you go!
No list? Consider a themed hunt around simple items such as leaves, textures, rocks or colors of the rainbow.
Remind younger family members to respect the nature environment and community by leaving the space as they found it and to stay off landscaping and private property.
Set those pedometers! Scavenger hunts are a great way to get in those extra steps and to increase low to moderate physical activity.
Don’t forget to hydrate. Grab those water reusable water bottles!
If making it a larger community event, consider using social media to promote the event and to build excitement.
Reach out to your local school’s health team to identify ways they can promote the event among students or help recruit volunteers.
If playing in teams, assign teams as evenly as possible and include participants of varying ages and abilities. Ensure that all have the ability to successfully participate.
Share the time limit and consider using a whistle or another communication tool to get the attention of the participants throughout the hunt.
Set the boundaries of the scavenger hunt and determine a start and finish line.
Before starting, review the list of the collection items or experiential activities with participants. Discuss expectations on documenting experiential activities such as taking picture or video of the activity or initialing the list when completed.
Determine ahead of time who will review the collected items and completed activities and who will determine the winner(s).
Provide healthy grab and go snacks such as fresh fruit and veggies and offer water throughout the activity
Need prizes for the winners? Reach out to your local parks and recreation program coordinator and ask about free one-day passes to your community swimming pool or other fun summer programs.
Parents and family members can help you prep the scavenger hunt by hiding items, doing a practice run or creating a list of things to find.
Reach out to your park district and ask if they have someone available to give you a guided tour of a park or local nature preserve.
Enlist older children to serve as guides or chaperones to go with groups of younger kids to help them and make sure they stay safe.
Private: April Showers Bring May Veggies
School gardens are a fantastic way to transition a more traditional classroom to an outdoor, experiential learning opportunity centered on student engagement and critical thinking.