KEEPING THE MAGIC ALIVE WORKSHOP
STEVE VAN ZANDT
THE AEOE 2003
JONES GULCH, LA HONDA, CA.
APRIL 4-6, 2003
INTO the activities:
· Getting partners; Hello partner I think you're cool. High five.
Thumb wrestle, finger fence. Share a magical moment as a teacher or as a learner
THROUGH the activities:
· Rule of thumb; get involved with the environment right away. Prickly Tickly.
· Finding the hearts and picking the brains. Stories of inspiration and magic; Mrs. T, (reverence and vocal dynamic) Cornell (Joy, centered, gems), Chuck's Puddle (knowing your back yard), Trout Black (new perspectives, naturalist's naturalist).
· Embedding; Step in Step out, Live for The Moment, Burned out club, finger listen/coyote ears.
· Into, Through, Beyond; student outcomes, guided practice (call & find, camera), backward planning
· Delivery Systems; Cycle Frisbee (focal center), plant mountain lion, food chain cards, food pyramid, mystery jars, miracle of life, fog
· Framing; licking drops, thank you plant, fir needles, gopher dirt, backward framing
· Learning the same thing in different ways; Concepts followed with interactions: Change Artists, "decompose", grandfathers bones, red tailed hawk, smell 3 layers of decomposing, decomp dance
· Ownership; Little Miracles
· Kinesthetic Focusers; yerba buena, fir/redwood and the big 5 club, TV-Hawk, harbor seal /sea lion, Thank you green plants.
· Process Approach; Experiencing nature techniques, Outdoor ed axiom, slow kids down, change perspectives, silencing, immersion, micro to macro, emotional impact (eye centering, 3 layers of the creek, waterfall, 5 second survey, Concert, strange planet, spokes)
· A look at the classics: Find A Tree, Burma shave, Professor Hike, webbing, duplication, magic spots, etc.
· Grabbers & Clubs
· The power of poetry; Blade of grass, Old Woman
BEYOND the activities:
· Make a commitment that next week you will use a new activity from this workshop or create a new activity inspired by this workshop
INTRODUCING EXPERIENCING NATURE TECHNIQUES
by S. Van Zandt
During this (week, hike etc.) I want to share with you some of the ways that I have found
that help me to experience nature in different ways. If you practice some of these,
I call them, "experiencing nature techniques," it will not only let you appreciate the
environment more but you'll start coming up with some of your own ways to see and
experience nature in new and different ways.
Let me show you what I mean. This canister has a great smelling plant in it.
One way to smell it in a different way is to first shake it, then smell it, then shake it
again, lick your finger and rub it on your nose so that you have a wet nose, then
smell it again. See if the smell is stronger?
I like to smell everything out there. Your sense of smell can be a great tool for giving
you a more complete experience with nature, so remember don't forget your nose. Now
sometimes I might ask you to do something that seems a little crazy, like get down on
your belly like this and just stick your nose in a pile of leaves for a smell.
But remember, to completely experience nature you have to put yourself, including your
nose, in new and different places.
Are you with me? So if I say, "Hey! this is another experiencing nature technique"
don't lose the opportunity to give yourself the fullest possible experience. And if you
come up with a new way to experience this incredible place then the rest of us will try
it out with you.
What are some other tools that we have, besides smell, that will help us check out this
place? Seeing! That's right! Sometimes we just go walking through the woods and forget
to really look at things. The idea is to try and see things in different ways, from
different perspectives or vantage points; up close or far away or from under the duff or
even standing on our heads if we have to! Look at this picture. Do you think we can put
ourselves in a position so that we see the trees like this? Whenever I go hiking there
are some "experiencing nature techniques" for seeing that I always use. I want to show
these to you and have you practice them but I also hope that these will help us come up
with some new ideas as well. You gotta just keep putting yourself in new places with new
perspectives. So we'll be trying to SEE in lots of different ways.
What is another tool that we use to have a fuller experience of nature? That's right,
hearing. Many times we are walking along the trail and there's a lot going on around us
but we don't realize it because we haven't stopped to listen. So let's remind ourselves
to stop frequently and silently listen to what is going on. Whenever I go hiking I'm
constantly doing "deer's ears." Put your hands up to your ears this way and turn toward
the sound that you want to hear. Move your hands away and then put them back again to
see that making your ears bigger really does help you to hear more. We might put our ears
ground or up against trees to hear. Remember, if you're patient there's a lot to hear
even when its completely silent.
To introduce our last important tool for experiencing nature I want to read you this quote
from a famous person. See if you know who wrote this:
"I have just touched my dog. He was rolling on the grass with pleasure in every muscle and
limb. I wanted to catch a picture of him in my fingers, and I touched him lightly as I
would cobwebs. But lo, his body revolved, stiffened and solidified into an upright
position, and his tongue gave my hand a lick. He pressed close to me as if he were
fain to crowd himself into my hand. He loved it with his tail, with his paw, with his
tongue. If he could speak, I believe he would say with me that paradise is attained
We know that Helen Keller couldn't see with her eyes but its clear from this description
of her dog that she could "see" through touch. So let's remember to experience as many
textures of things as we can. If you're with me maybe you'll be goofy enough to pick up
some fallen leaves or duff like this and use it to wash your hands and arms. Are you
with me? Try it! Here's another way to get us experiencing the world of touch.
(Introduce "prickly tickly")
by S. Van Zandt
To "frame" an activity is to set it up so that it is perceived as an activity. Rather
than having your group just jump over a creek, instead you can "frame" the activity by
practicing, before you get down to the creek, the proper method of being a spotter and
helping the next person in line. Even if its just a simple jump, this focus on process
provides a sense of anticipation and challenge. It becomes something significant because
you've devoted the time to set it up.
The concept of "framing" also applies to the teachable moment. You're walking along with
your group and you notice up ahead, a mole tunnel running across the trail. Instead of
the whole group crowding together when you get to it, stop them ahead of time. Have the
group get into position so that they all can see. Point out what to look at up ahead or
ask some leading questions so that they notice it. Focus on the process of how to spot
mole tunnels. Demonstrate the process of sticking your finger into it and trying to feel
the tunnel. Then have them come forward and try it out. By focusing on process you
generate interest and anticipation.
The teachable moment sometimes has less impact because you haven't grabbed the groups
attention. The first step in "framing" the teachable moment is focusing the groups
attention. After it rains you might notice water drops at the ends of evergreen branches.
Stop your group a little way away from the tree and tell them that you want to show them
how to find some of the best, sweetest water there is. Say that its a little crazy so
ask them if they trust you and if they're with you. Have them stand where they are as
you walk to the tree and demonstrate the process of finding the biggest drop, licking it
off the branch and delightfully savoring the purest water on earth. After a timely pause
them to join you. You've "framed" the activity by focusing the group, building
anticipation and teaching a process for enjoying nature.
These are a few examples of how to use the concept of "framing".
"Framing" could be as simple as sitting a group down for instructions.
It says that this activity is important enough that everyone needs to be sitting down
and focused. Once you use the concept of "framing" and internalize it you'll find many
more applications for it.
Activity Samples from SMOE handbook
Live for the Moment
by S. Van Zandt
"Stop! During (the week, this hike) I want you to always be aware of what is going on
around you. That's called living for the moment. So from time to time I'll be giving you
this test. Close your eyes and point to where there is something green. Open your
eyes and see if you're right. Close your eyes again and point to something brown.
Open your eyes, see if you're right."
Continue naming things to point to; something living, something decomposing, something
twisted, water, something older then you, something younger, something changing, some
floating water. After 5-10 objects, end by having them point to where they think the
sun is. Often students will point straight up into the sky. This can lead to an
opportunity to ask why the sun isn't directly overhead and a chance to use the sense of
feel to find it.
Use this strategy to begin a hike. Before talking to students at the beginning of a
hike its often a good idea to get them involved immediately in sensing their environment.
This is a good way to do that. Use throughout the hike as a refocuser.
Five Second Survey
"Let's stop and every one look this way. I want to remind you to keep your eyes sharp as
you walk through the forest. We are going to do an exercise called five second survey.
When I tell you to, everyone turn around and for five seconds see how many different
things you can see. Ready? Go! 1 hippopotamus, 2 hippopotamus, 3 hippopotamus,
4 hippopotamus, 5 hippopotamus, turn back around!. What did you see? "
On a narrow trail position yourself, if possible, off the trail and at the mid way point
of the line of students. Use to refocus and to break up a long walk on a narrow trail.
Use this strategy with a variety of seeing exercises in preparation for a larger
activity or culminating activity that will require students to use sharp observation.
Use as one of the activities always done to "ritualize" going into a new area.
"Let's have everyone stand in a large circle around this mossy tree. If you really
want to see what things look like from an ant's point of view then its best to keep
your hand lens right up against your eye. This helps you to see only the land of small.
Put your hand lens against your eye and with me, slowly walk in towards the mossy tree
until it comes into focus. When you get into focus start scanning this strange planet.
Look for good places to land, look for valleys, look for mountains, places to hide,
life forms. "
Use this activity as an introduction to the use of hand lenses. The idea is to keep kids
from the typical action of looking at something with the hand lens at arms length,
viewing for a fleeting moment and quickly, almost nervously, moving on.
This activity is designed to slow them down, block out the wide view of things and find
a new perspective. A guided exploration such as this one should be done before setting
students totally free. Even in more open ended explorations it helps to give students
guidance in how to look and some specifics of what to look for.
You may need to position your group around several trees but even then they should slowly
walk in with you setting the pace and talking as you go. You might use several mossy
logs instead. After they have explored the moss, keep emphasizing that they keep the
lens up close to their eye and challenge them lay down and look at the forest floor.
Scan along through the duff.
Always introduce the use of hand lenses by cautioning students not to use them as shovels,
not to let the lenses touch anything and not to burn down the forest or sizzle living
"Everyone stand facing that direction. "Put your finger up at arms length and focus
your eyes on it. Now move your focus to a tree about ten feet away. Now move your
focus to something twice the distance away. Slowly move your gaze back and forth. Try
to focus on only the dark green colors. Now the light green. See only the places where
the sun is breaking through or highlighting the leaves. Look for all the yellows. Look
for all the colors of brown. You might try squinting as you look. Look for everything
that is leaning to the right. Now see only the things leaning to the left. Now focus
only on the space between the branches. See the shadows. Look at the bottom of a tree
and slowly move your gaze up the trunk. Look at the darks and the lights. Look for
smooth and rough. Look for signs of life. Follow a branch out to the end. Try to see
the depth of the forest. Look through it as far as you can. Now that your eyes have
served you well you can thank them by rubbing your hands together until they are nice
and warm, close your eyes and put your warm hands over them."
Run and Find
Select a student to run down the trail ahead of the group to the count of "five
hippopotamuses". At five the student is to stop, look for something interesting and be
ready to tell the group about it when they get there. Be sure to tell them that what
they find doesn't need to be something they can pick up. It can be near or far, it can
be on the ground, in a tree or in the sky. It can be a point of view, a smell or
something to feel. The student then selects the next person to run ahead. The
way you keep the group from speeding up to catch up with the runner before they have a
chance to find anything is by setting the rule that they can't pass you up as you all
count to five hippopotamuses.
This is a great activity when you are on your way back after a hike. Its good to do
after they have done a professor hike or a card hike. Use when you hear students
complaining about having to walk, its a way to get a their minds off of hiking.
Call and Find
As you walk down the trail stop from time to time and call out various things for
students to look for. You can use a flute, whistle or hamonica to get their attention.
This is easiest as an individual activity. It can be a partner activity if partners have pre-numbered themselves so that #1s find one thing and #2s find another and then they share their finds. This helps build some sccountabioity for actually doing the activity. The following are examples of call outs: shake hands with something that makes its own food, pick up something that died and tell it to decompose in peace, pat something that is older then you, younger then you, touch something that just got fresh water this morning, something that depends on water, on humans, humans depend on it, where would you stand if you were a plant?, point to something that depends on a cycle to live, touch a sun catcher, thank a producer, evidence of an herbivore, an eight eyed, eight legged meat eater's home.
Use as an ambulator while walking along the trail. Use to reinforce concepts already
taught. Use as a refocuser. Use as a hands-on component for concepts.
"Oh no! I forgot! I had us all set up to go to a concert and I forgot all about it.
(looking at watch) Maybe there's still time to get there but the concert may have
started so we'll have to be very quiet entering the auditorium. Wait here let me
check if we can still get in. (run up the trail and back a short distance) It looks
like we can still get in and they are just about to begin the concert. We'll have to
be extra quiet so we won't disturb anyone. After we have been seated in the auditorium
please remember to close your eyes as the house lights dim and the curtain goes up.
Have a seat here on this log. This is the auditorium. OK, close your eyes and stay
quiet the concert is now beginning. (listen until just before the ability to remain
quiet ends) All right! Let's give them a hand! Beautiful concert!"
This activity works best if you create the magic. The set up is very important. Be
anxious about the fact you forgot the concert and be sure to look at your watch.
Running up ahead on the trail and back creates a sense of anticipation and mystery about
what will happen next. This can be done spontaneously but it helps to know that there
is a log or other semi-structured location for the group to sit. It doesn't work as
well just sitting on the ground. A few quiet reminders to individual students in the
beginning may be necessary then be sure to end the activity before the group get restless.
That way it remains a positive experience. End with a short follow up and sharing.
Can be used as a refocuser or a prerequisite for other activities that require listening (i.e. magic spots, find a tree).
Students work in pairs. One person is #1 the other is #2. Each partner finds a prickly
and a ticklie but doesn't show it to their partner. #1s are first to kneel down on one
knee with their hands behind their backs and palms out. Their partner then touches their
palms with a prickly or a ticklie while the kneeling partner tries to say which it is, a
prickly or a ticklie. Then #2s kneel down and repeat the process. This is meant to be a
fast moving activity so be sure to have both partners look for their prickly ticklies at
the same time as the initial phase of the activity.
Use as a way to get partners working to gather right away (see trail/group management).
Use as a prerequisite for later activities that will have students using language to
describe natural things. Use as an introduction to using our sense of touch. Use as
part of an introduction to a plant theme hike.
Shoes off and standing in the creek. Students need to stand, no walking around. Be sure
the area is safe for bare feet. Tell them that one of the best parts of this activity is
feeling how warm their feet feel after their socks are back on.
Use as an immersion activity. Point out that one of the goals of outdoor Ed is to
experience things in new ways. Use as a way to celebrate water. Use as a hands-on
component to teaching concepts about the water cycle, abiotic factors that support life,
how glad trees must feel to get water in their roots.
Pass out film canisters to each student. Tell them in a British accent that they will be
having a tea party. They will need to remember that a good tea is created by being aware
of scent and texture. They are to find ingredients that will fit into their canisters.
Crumbling the ingredients and shaking the canister helps to bring out the smell. Be sure
to show them how to pick a leaf, using two hands, so that the entire plant is not pulled
out of the ground. Tell them not to trample an area in search of ingredients. They will
also need a name for their tea. To hold a tea party certain etiquette must be followed.
Sit in a circle pass the canisters around so that all can be smelled, make delightful
comments and by all means hold out your pinkie.
Layers of Decay
Point out that there are three layers on the forest floor. The top dry duff layer, the
layer below that which is moist and partly decomposed and the lower soil layer. Ask them
to smell each layer to discover which is the strongest smell and therefore going through
the most active decomposition.
Use as a hands-on component to a discussion about decomposition. Use as a hands-on
component to a lesson on the abiotic factors, sun, soil, water and air. Compare these
layers in different communities.
LISTENING SCAVENGER HUNT
Try to hear:
A light sound
A deep sound
A sound that begins and ends
A continuous sound
A sound that makes you feel a certain way
FROM YOUR MAGIC SPOT;
Look at one thing very carefully.
Try to see all of its details.
Try to see something falling.
Look at the base of a tree.
Move your eyes upward along the trunk.
Move your gaze outward to the
very tips of the branches.
Look for as many signs
of life as you can
Look for natural features that
would help you remember your
if you were to return in 10
What in your spot do you feel the
greatest friendship towards?
Honor the leaf:
Prepare two mystery envelopes. The first one is labeled "This contains
the miracle of life" and has a leaf in it. The second envelope contains a card with
this chant on it.
Honor the leaf
Through you we eat
Through you we breathe
Through you we live
Thank you green plants:
Use this call and response chant each time you savor an edible plant. After awhile you
may want to take turns leading the chant. Everyone holds their plant up toward the sun.
Thank you green plants
For taking water.........Soil..........Air
And the sun's energy
So you can go
Use this chant as part of an activity to show that 30% of the water needed to support a
redwood forest is obtained through fog. Have the group hold their hands out like leaves
while you mist their hands with a sprey bottle. Everyone chants:
Fog you are so so beautiful (2x)
Come, come, come, come feed the forest (2x)
Choose someone to sprey your hair or beard and notice how the water drips to your feet
(roots). Now demonstrate the same on an evergreen. Sing the chant as you continue your
2.Waterfall: Sing this chant next to a running stream.
Waterfall you are the joy of the forest (2x)
Water and air mixed together ha ha ha (2x)
After everyone has learned it, sing it again but pause between the lines and listen to
Little Miracles (see activity page)
*some people would prefer not using the word God, so it could be changed to nature.
by Marcie Harris
By a million man-made
Wings of fire
The rocket tore a tunnel
Through the sky
And everyone cheered
Only by a thought from *God
The seedling urged its way
Through the thickness of black
And as it pierce the heavy ceiling of the soil
And launched itself into outer space
No one even clapped
This activity fits into a plant theme. It allows students to build a relationship with
something in nature, change perspective and experience how basic elements support life.
It could also fit into a community theme where the key concept phrase might read, "In a
healthy community all things have a purpose, from the big to the small the short and tall,
all things are important." This activity could also be combined with a penny hike.
This activity works best in an open area or an area with a hub. It can also work along
the trail but there should be enough space for students to lie down next to a new plant.
1. Begin with "Live for the Moment" ; "Point to something bigger then you. Open your
eyes see if you're right." Point to something smaller, something older, something younger,
point to a tiny photosynthesizer.
2. Ask students to go to a brand new plant that is just coming out of the ground and lay
down quietly next to it. Make sure that students are spaced out but not out of distance
from your voice.
3. Guide them through a process of getting to know their plant.
· Observe how many leaves it has, the shape of the leaves, do the leaves have veins or
· Is the plant smaller then your pinkie, smaller then your finger nail?
· Can you see the place where the plant pushed up through the ground?
· Breathe some oxygen from your plant and blow some gentle CO2 into your plant's lungs,
· Cup your hand around the plant and look at your plant in the darkness. Then slowly
move your hands away and see how the leaves catch the light.
4. Pass around a spray bottle so that students can give their plant some water to help it
in its new life.
5. We've given our plants water, air and light what else do they need? Tell the students
that they need to really know their plant now because you want them to find a handful
of good soil from another location and bring it back to their little plant. They will need to
be able to find their plant again. Point out some places where freshly decomposed
soil or good gopher dirt can be found.
6. "Now that we have given our plants the things they need so that they can
photosynthesize and make sugar, let's spend a quiet moment with our plants while I
read this poem." (see poem below)
7. "Let's clap for our little plants and wish them a happy life." In fact every time you see a
little plant think about the strength it must take to push through that ceiling of soil. So
let's clap again for all the baby plants."
BLADE OF GRASS
When time was autumn
I brought the summer earth
humming to my head
and looked at a distant mountain
through a single blade of grass
That blade of grass, I saw
was taller than the mountain
That blade of grass, I saw
was larger than the world
So I picked it up
and put it in my pocket
a mountain and a world.
Jupiter 2-7-94 (with inspiration from a friend from home)
* Read this poem while students are sitting down looking at the hillside. Ask how they
might make the grass as big as the hillside. Have everyone pick a piece of grass and sit
down holding the grass in front of an open eye with the other eye closed so that the
grass is bigger then the hillside. Read the poem again.
KEEPING THE MAGIC
Small Details That Make a Difference
Find A Tree, Adopt a Tree, Hug a tree
· Students sitting and focused during explanation
· Explain the activity with a demonstration; reach high, low, hug, smell, find out what
is on the ground, how many finger walk steps are around the tree?
· Tell students that when they think they know their tree they are to find the perfect
spot for their back to lean against. Demonstrate this as you give the explanation.
With their back resting in the perfect spot against the tree they are to wait quietly
and listen to their tree because their tree will whisper to them. Only when they are
resting quietly against a tree will they be brought back.
· Explain that when they find their tree again that they should think of a name for
it based on its attributes. Explain the word attributes and give an example.
· When they are all back and while their blindfolds are still on, tell them that when
they find their tree we will be coming around to ask them how they know that it is their
tree. They should also show their tree to a friend and give their tree a name based on
· Call students back to a standing circle to share how they knew their tree and the
· Avoid; Locations that don't allow for easy access to trees, Unfocused and rushed
explanations, Attaching another activity before completing this one.
Find a Tree Partner Variation
· When partners deliver students to trees they should return to the hub. The naturalist
can then direct when they pick up their partners. Just as with the non-partner version
they will take their blind folds off after they have all returned to the hub.
· Just as in the non-partner variation students are picked up after they are quietly
listening with their back in the perfect spot against their tree. This slows down the
activity and allows for some silencing time.
Card Hike, Burma Shave
USE THE ENVIRONMENT. If all of your cards can be placed anywhere
along the trail or can be placed in a Safeway parking lot then get rid of them.
·Live dangerously. Try to make half of your cards the ones that you
write as you go. This way you are intensely looking and discovering. It becomes dynamic
and you are living on the edge.
· Your pre-made cards and your spontaneously made cards should have directions that
have students looking at the environment in new ways and with catchy directions. Use
terms like; sun catchers, floating water, bees lunch box, 8 eyed eight legged meat eater,
mountain climbing plant, carpenter at work, who's having a party?, who had breakfast?,
· At the end of the hike ask students what cards they remember. Go through the cards
asking if they remember them and how they liked particular ones. This is good information
for the design of future cards.
Professor Hike, Ranger, Expert, Waterfall
· I'm not convinced, but still open to hear arguments for giving students cheat sheet
cards. The problem is that students read the card and don't really look at what they're
· The magic behind this activity is that it puts the observation and presentation in
the hands of the students and it gives the naturalist some one-on-one time with the
· One way to keep this activity dynamic is upon receiving the next student you begin
with questions that lead to observations. You tell the student that they can then ask
those same questions to the students.
· Too often this activity is done without the students having enough information.
I believe that this activity should be toward the end of the guided practice spectrum
and after they have had some interactions with the environment around interdependence
and food chains.
· It bogs down when the naturalist tries to make it all connect perfectly. To get out
of this trap it should be stressed that the student holding the yarn can give the next
line in the strand to something that affects or is affected by the thing that they
represent. In other words one student may be holding several strands. If students have
experienced the "change artists" out there then they will understand that decomposers
and plants are the gateways between the living and non-living world.
· The activity works well in conjunction with John Muir's quote, "If you try and pick
up anything by itself you'll find it hitched to everything else in the universe."
· This is an excellent "through" activity for introducing new information and
getting kids involved in the environment right away.
· Pull things out from underneath the cloth one thing at a time. Because the
students are anxious to see if they got everything you can keep their attention while
you talk about the items you pull out.
· When you pull an item out ask, "who got this" and have them hold up their finds.
· If students are sitting in a magic spot so that they can write in their journals
about the international commodities market then why are those spots magic? There should
be some directed tasks in magic spots that have students interacting with the spot.
· Finding a magic spot is serious business. In fact a magic spot needs to find you.
Students should leave the sitting circle walking slowly and quietly, one at a time in
search of the spot that calls to them.
Mystery of Life Jars/Sun, Soil, Water, Air canisters
· My bias is that this is a quick activity that focuses student attention and is a
set-up for student opportunities to discover the abiotic mysteries of life.
· I feel that clues, little sun's inside the container and clear containers for the
sun jar take away from the magic and extend the activity longer then it needs to be.
· The magic comes when you catch the eyes of your students when you both hear a
sound at the same time and raise a finger.
· Use it for general sounds. Use it frequently. Use it to ritualize going into a
different environment or habitat.
· Use it frequently. Use it for a specific sound not general sounds.
WHAT IS INTO, THROUGH, BEYOND?
Small Details That Make a Difference
This is a lesson planning format that can be used for designing the entire flow of a
hike or for a particular activity during the hike. It also has application for guiding
the flow of activities for an entire week. Planning should also include process skills,
social skills and student outcomes. Remember that all things can't fit into neat
packages, that would be contrary to good teaching, but if you strive toward planning
in this format you will force yourself to revise, refine and create.
1. The INTO activities are those that draw upon the students' own experiences or prior knowledge. They may be activities designed to give students a shared experience. These activities may include grabbers, require students to use observation and description or give students the opportunity to make symbolic interpretations. These activities help to set the stage for learning and create a desire to learn.
2. The THROUGH activities are activities that introduce new material. These are the concepts and skills to be learned and practiced. These activities are planned in order to carry students toward the desired student outcomes. The concepts are learned through guided practice, a variety of experiences so that the students will look at the concepts in different ways and a variety of learning modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthetic). Teaching games, pictures, information written on cards or paper strips are some of the ways that new material can be delivered. Cooperative learning structures can be used when students are working with the new information.
3. The BEYOND activities are culminating activities. They are also springboard activities that examine other related concepts or provide a variety of applications for the concepts learned. These are the activities that ask the student, who has learned and practiced the concepts, to now do something with that knowledge. These activities aid the teacher in assessing whether or not the student outcomes have been met.
PLANNING BACKWARDS PLANNING GUIDE
Planning backwards will help you to provide a flow of activities that build on each
other so that the students will have the knowledge and skill to successfully complete
the culminating activity. Instead of looking at your hike as a conglomeration of activities it will have a flow where the activities serve the purpose of expanding on a theme. It requires you to analyze your lesson to see if the student is getting enough information and experience with the real environment to complete the final task.
Student Outcomes; These are the activities that the student does successfully at the end
of the lesson that shows an understanding of what has been taught.
Guided Practice; These are the activities during the "Through" phase of the lesson.
Guided practice allows the student to work with the new information in a variety of ways.
By having a variety of guided practice activities different learning styles,
(auditory, visual, kinesthetic), can be addressed. Guided practice should be designed
in a flow from less to more independent. Pointing out several examples to students,
for instance, that the chewed leaves on a tan oak tree are evidence of a herbivore would
come before an independent search for evidence of herbivores. Guided practice could
also apply to a process. If students are going to use visual discrimination to survey
types of trees or name their tree based on its attributes, activities like camera or
five-second survey might be used to prepare them. The idea of guided practice is to
allow students a chance to understand a concept by interacting with their environment.
Delivery Systems; These are the ways that new information is presented to students.
These should also account for different learning styles of students.
(See list on back of INTO, THROUGH & BEYOND)
Focal Center; When information is being delivered to students there should be
something visual and or kinesthetic that students can focus on. This should help enhance
the information. The naturalist talking is not enough for a focal center.
Teaching/Learning Objectives; A list of the concepts and experiences students need in
order to understand the theme. This would include vocabulary.
INTO, THROUGH & BEYOND; (see explanation on following pages)
Steps to Planning backwards;
1.Theme; You decide that you want to teach a lesson on interdependence
2.Teaching/Learning Objectives; For this theme students should become familiar with
predator prey relationships, the words carnivore and herbivore etc.
3. Student Outcome; From their magic spots students will pick three things and draw a
diagram of how they are "connected."
4. Revise Teaching /Learning Objectives; This is the real benefit of planning backwards.
You now ask yourself if students are going to be successful in completing the student
outcome. What other things will they need to know? You realize that they will need to
understand the role of the "change artists" (decomposers) in making things "connected".
You add to your list of Teaching and Learning Objectives some lessons on the role of
decomposers. You think of some of the connection that they might make in doing this
assignment and realize that making the connections with air and water are assessable to
students so you list that you should do some activities with the air and water cycle.
5. "INTO"; You might use the "Step in Step out" activity. Step in if you eat plants.
Step out. Step in if you eat animals. Step in if you are part of a food chain. Step in
if you depend on trees. Step in if you could turn part of yourself into a tree. You
could also include "Yuri Circle" for an INTO. Students stand in a "Yuri Circle" and
afterward you ask them what it might symbolize in nature.
6. Plan the Flow; This will be based on locations and what works best for the activities
and information you want to present. Continue to look back at the student outcome to see
if you have taught the information and skills needed to complete the task. Think of the
delivery systems that you want to use for the new information and the guided practice.
Think of the interactions with the real environment that will back up the concepts taught.
Also consider process skills. (see process skills)
INTO THROUGH AND BEYOND PLANNING PRACTICE
INFORMATION ON CARDS /IN ENVELOPES
BEYOND THE ACTIVITIES/LEARNING OUTCOMES
Tree and Plant Theme
· "Run and Find" after doing a professor hike
· Interview a tree
· Students tell their partners three true statements about trees
· Students write poems about their tree
· Students draw a picture of a tree and diagram how it is connected to sun, soil, water
· The student will draw a picture of something that can change the sun's energy into
food and label the picture with structures and materials that are involved in making food.
Interdependence /decomp /community/change/energy flow Theme
· Students draw in their journals a diagram of how they are connected to a hawk
· From their magic spot students find five things and in their journals explain how
they are connected
· Group drawing of a community
· Students diagram in their journals how they could turn their lunch into a frog.
· The student will draw a picture of a food chain with at least three links and show how the sun's energy flows from one link to another.
· The student will draw a picture of two living things that are losing energy and show how it happens.
· The student knows that the building materials of life must be used over and over again.
· The student will draw and label four things in a community and label the job of each thing.
· The student will be able to draw two living things that depend on each other.
· The student will be able to draw a picture of something changing.
· "Recipe for a Forest"
Tree and Plant Theme
· Students pair share about a special tree in their lives
· Students write three true statements about trees
· Students close their eyes and get an image of a tree then they draw their image
· Students write true and false statements about trees which are then used in a game of Owls and Crows
· Students answer how a tree is like someone they know
· Students share what the first word that comes to mind when they hear the word "tree"
· The naturalist explains that students should put their fingers on their nose when they
"knows" the answer, then reads the following to the students;
1) Sometimes I'm small and at other times I'm very tall.
· Students play "mingle freeze". Naturalist calls out questions about students'
lives and about trees.
2) I have a heart that doesn't beat.
3) I breathe but I don't have lungs.
4. I eat but I don't have a mouth.
5) I'm brown and green.
6) I'm a sun catcher
7) All animals need me to give them air to breathe.
8) You might like to swing on my branches.
· Students discuss with partner's 5 reasons why they are thankful for plants.
Naturalist refocuses group by having them hold up five fingers and to share their
· Prickly tickly
· Students think of what they had for breakfast and which foods were plants
· Students look at a black dot on a piece of paper and say what it is
· Students look at pictures then share their observations with the group
· After doing a Uri Circle students share their thoughts of what it might symbolize
· Students look at a cycle drawn on a Frisbee and explain what it means
· Students look at an inner tube and say what it is
· Students eat lunch with their thumbs taped down to their hands
· Naturalist introduces adaptation by asking students what they would do if they woke
up to find snow outside their cabin
· Step in Step out Activity
· Stand-up Activity
· Partner Parade: Two lines face each other. One line is stationary while
the other line moves down one person after each question. The student on the end
runs to the other end of the line to face a new partner. The naturalist asks a
question and all students discus it with the person they are facing until its time
to move down and get another question.
· Students pick up something that represents them
Tree and Plant Theme
· During a green day hike students play Camera
· Play Call and Find; naturalist calls out, point to a producer, shake hands with a producer, evidence of omnivore, evidence of 8 eyed meat eater etc.
· During a Green Day hike students do the call and find activity where they have to shake hands with a producer.
· On green day students take a handful of water from the stream and ceremoniously throw it into the air
· Students play leaf steal the bacon
· Tree silhouettes
· Students hold up some sorrel and say, "thank you green plants for taking water, soil, air and the sun's energy, so you can go, into me."
· During "live for the moment" students point to a sugar factory
· While doing the duplication activity the Naturalist takes one item at a time out to explain the various structures and functions of trees.
· Roots: Group lies down holding on to ankles and wrists to experience how redwoods spread their root systems. Convey enthusiasm and amazement about the fact that there are roots under your feet everywhere you walk in the redwood forest.
· Naturalist gives students a redwood tattoo by pressing a redwood leaf against their arms
· Naturalist yells "glorious plants" and students form a circle.
· Students discuss the ways it would be better to be a tree and the ways it would be
better to be a human
· Tree Food: Group sits in redwood circle have them hold out their hands with their
eyes closed. Take from a film canister a little brown sugar to put on each palm.
After it is all passed out have them keep their eyes closed while they taste what
you put in their hand. This is what trees make with sun, soil, water and air.
· Naturalist has students hold up a leaf from the ground then asks the question
"How do you know your leaf is dead?"
· Look up and find a sugar factory. Look at eye level and find a sugar factory.
Bend down and find a sugar factory. Walk twenty steps and repeat trying to
find the same things.
· After opening a "mystery of life" envelope containing a leaf another students
opens an envelope and reads the following; "honor the leaf, through we eat,
through you we breathe, through you we live."
· Students put charcoal from a burned tree on their fingers and put their fingers
in the air while naturalist leads students in a call and response activity.
I, state your name, after going into trees, licking water off their leaves,
becoming a tree and eating sugar, I realize that everything needs green plants
to survive. I am now an official member of the burned out club. Put charcoal on face.
· Naturalist yells "Photosynthesis" and students run to find sun spots
· During photosynthesis discussion a student finds a spider. When students are
finished looking at the spider the naturalist asks how that spider is dependent on
· With a partner students compare the shapes of two leaves. Then students count how
many different shapes of sugar factories they can find as they walk.
· Build a tree
· After a discussion about redwood circles partners split up to find three
generations of trees.
· Students become plants and put hands up to feel the sun. Naturalist tells students
to check partners hands to make sure there is enough sun on them for making sugar.
Then the naturalist asks what it would be like to be a tree.
· Students turn to partners to discus how sun, soil, water and air made their clothes
· Naturalist leads students in flattening hands together while showing the difference
between redwood leaves and fir leaves
· Naturalist touches the branch of a small tree and asks students to raise their
hands if they know if it is a redwood or fir. Naturalist tells those who have their
hand up to find someone who's hand is not up and tell them what it is.
· Students do eye centering and 5 second survey before counting shades of green.
Students do eye centering and five-second survey before counting shades of brown.
· In small groups students perform a charade for sun, soil, water or air.
Interdependence /decomp Theme
· Find and Connect; Students pick up something they find and show it to their partner.
Each pair tries to explain the connection between the two things that they find.
· Students interlink their fingers and say "they're interdependent"
· students play food chain tag
· Students play Cycle Frisbee
· Students look for evidence of the FBI
· Students find a centipede under a log and are asked if it needs the trees
· Students hold pictures and stand up when appropriate; stand up if you are a
carnivore, herbivore, decomposer etc.
· Picture Find; Partners go find an animal picture.
They discuss plant or meat eater, something around here that needs or needs it,
what community. Naturalist walks around to watch and listen to their process. This is
an opportunity for students to use descriptive language for later use in writing.
· Students do finger listen. Naturalist asks if anyone heard something that depends
on a producer to survive.
· Hold my red tailed hawk or you're walking on my grandfathers bones
· Interdependence montage
· Animals on back
· Predator spray
· Predator prey games
· Students pull a strand of hair to place in the duff at Big Red
· Decompose dance
· At a decomposing log the naturalist asks the students if they can feel the
tree still falling.
· Students smell the three layers of the forest floor
General Use & other themes (community, diversity, cycles decomp. Etc.)
· Rainbow chips
· Call and find
· Strange Planet
· Ten second survey
· Three ways to see a creek; Students lie down on the edge of the creek as the
naturalist leads them in focusing first on the surface, the bottom, then the reflection.
· Naturalist asks students to find three different leaves, seeds, sounds,
types of bark, fungus, insects, etc. After each find the group says "diversity rules"
· Students walk barefoot from grassland to forest. Naturalist holds a discussion about
the different textures and temperatures.
· During "live for the moment" students point to a something that is part of a cycle
· Students do Coyote ears before going down to the creek or before going into a new community.
· Students find three different leaves and say "diversity"
· Unnatural hike
· The student understands that everything is changing over time.
· The student understands that many kinds of plants and animals face the same problems in getting the things they need but often have different ways of solving them.
· The student understands that the shape and behavior for each kind of plant and animal is suited to the kinds of problems it must solve.
· The student understands that plants and animals can only live where conditions are suited to them and that each has its place and role in an area.
· The student understand how plants and animals trade O2 and CO2
· The student understands that water is moved by the heat of the sun and through a cycle to be used over and over again by living things.
· The student understands the factors that break down waste and return it to the soil cycle.
· The student knows that the differences in living things provide for the success of all life.
· The student understands that the leaves of green plants are the only things on earth that can change the sun's light into energy rich sugars.
· The student knows that the sun is the source of energy for all living things.
· The student understands that the sun's energy follows certain paths once it is captured by green plants.
· The student understands that as energy moves from sun to plants to animals that much of the energy is lost.
· The student understands how various plant structures help plants to function and survive.
The ultimate student centered activities are discovery activities. When we set kids free
to explore and discover on their own we allow them to have a hands on experience using
their natural sense of wonder and curiosity. The tidepools and pond study are excellent
discovery activities because they allow students to have freedom of exploration while
maintaining a focus.
I would like one of the goals for the school year at SMOE to be, to collect,
create and develop effective discovery activities. Please consider the following
ideas as you work towards giving students these opportunities.
Provide guidelines and parameters for discovery.
· If you are taking an "upside down hike" then demonstrate to students the care
needed in lifting and returning logs. Challenge them to be patient and to look for an
extra 30 seconds beyond their initial desire to look elsewhere.
· Demonstrate hand lens use by having them keep the lens close to the eye. Show them
that this is the way they can truly experience the micro world.
· From your magic spot look for…… listen for…..
· Try to find five different colors of fungus.
Discovery activities can serve as "Guided Practice"
· If students are looking for evidence of a decomposer, producer or consumer
they should understand first what the word "evidence" means and be given some examples as
a whole group before being on their own. If they have been given some examples of what
evidence of a carnivore might be, then when it is their task to find it on their own it
is an opportunity to put into practice what they know.
· Some activities work fine while walking down the trail while others are better done
in an open area or from a hub. I believe that Scavenger hunts are best suited for a hub.
Tie Into Lessons
· Try to create a discovery component that follows the lessons/themes in your hike.
If you're teaching interdependence then the goal of lifting logs might be to find
examples of interdependence.
A personal relationship with nature.
· Sometimes the objects that students find create in them a powerful emotional response.
Some discovery activities can be designed so that the student gets to know one thing well.
Know the Purpose of "Gimmicks"
· Some gimmicks create the magic. Collecting interesting smells into a film
canister is made fun when the purpose is for a smell tea party.
· Some gimmicks help set the parameters and the focus. Throwing string down in a
circle in order to "Lasso an ant" helps students thoroughly investigate one area.
These can be used with various activities. Some work well with card hikes, some with "live for the moment", some with "call and find" and some with "camera."
Eight eyed eight legged meat eater
Mt climbing plant
Something that came from Japan
Bee's lunch box
Shake hands with a producer
Something that moves in a cycle
Giver of life
Something that came from 93 million miles away
Something older then you
Something younger then you
Something we depend on
Something smaller then you
Something taller then you
Part of the food chain
Something that depends on producers to survive
Evidence of an herbivore, carnivore
Vitamin C tree
WHY CLUBS ?
We have found that kids are motivated by clubs. Some try to make it a goal to join all
of the clubs. On the negative side some students can become so obsessed with clubs that
they don't want to do anything unless its a club.
For those kids obsessed with clubs or for those who ask how many clubs there are we
have this explanation. We tell them that there are an endless number of clubs because
naturalists and students are continually inventing new ones. Anyone can make a club.
You just have to decide what thing in nature you want to highlight. Sometimes that
thing in nature decides for you because it and you both seem to be in the right place at
the right time. If you want to invent a club then the only requirements are that you
give the club a name, that there is some sort of interaction with the thing that you
are honoring and there is a handshake. One should also be selective about what is a
club because its more meaningful to choose a few things then to allow everything to be a
This idea is similar to Byrd Baylor's, "I'm in Charge of Celebrations." "You can tell
what's worth a celebration because your heart will pound and you'll feel like you're
standing on top of a mountain and you'll catch your breath like you were breathing some
new kind of air." My discussion with a student about clubs led to lending her this book.
She seemed to really get it after that.
Naturalists report that clubs can turn a potentially negative experience into a
positive one. A student fell in the pond and the naturalist brought smiles to his
face by proclaiming that he had joined the "Pond Club."
Here is a list of some of our clubs.
Banana slug club
Burned out club
Gopher dirt club
Fungus smeller club
Hard core club
Mt. mama and Mt. man club
Big five club
Freeze out club
River rock club
Forget me not club
10 minute tidepool club
Hermit crab club
slip and slide club
Dead Fred club
Nature's carpet club
Contacts for Steve Van Zandt;
San Mateo Outdoor Education
Jones Gulch Rd.
La Honda, CA 94020
e- mail; firstname.lastname@example.org
Banana Slug String Band
101 Rustic Lane
Bonny Doon, CA. 95060
Please let me know if you used any of the ideas in the workshop and how they worked.
If you have any questions comments or feedback don't hesitate to call. Please feel
free to come and visit the outdoor Ed. site in La Honda. We hire 10 naturalist/interns
each year and begin the interviewing process in April for the following year. Check out
the Banana Slug String Band web site for CDs, news and itinerary. If you can't remember
the melody to a song give me a call and I'd be happy to sing it into your answering
machine. Happy naturalizing, singing and teaching.