“Walk in a Bag” activity brings the outdoors inside

Help youth explore and learn about the great outdoors, through this fun, hands-on science activity.

As winter nears, it becomes more difficult to get outside and enjoy nature. For children, the outdoors can be one big playground to burn off that extra energy and an excellent place to learn about the natural world around us. So if weather is limiting the amount of time youth can spend outside, how about bringing the outside … inside!

Michigan State University Extension’sScience Blast in the Class activity “Walk in a Bag”is a fun and easy hands-on activity that can be done anywhere to help increase interaction with nature, even when the weather is not cooperating. Just collect a variety of leaves, branches, cones, dry seed heads and other natural objects from an area and bring them inside. Items found in a single natural area can tell a lot about the life and the ecosystem of that area. Youth can use them to identify the trees, plants and wildlife and explore that area’s ecosystem.

All that is needed for “Walk in a Bag” is a few paper bags and a quick walk outdoors to pick up items you encounter while walking through nature. Place each item in a paper bag so that children cannot see what it is. Instead of using their sense of sight, they will have to use their other senses (touching, hearing, smelling) to figure it out. While this adds a sense of fun and curiosity, it also helps develop important skills like problem solving and critical thinking. Youth need to reach in and feel the object, and really use their senses along with knowledge of the environment to form ideas of what the objects could be.

If more than one youth does this activity, they will often have different ideas on what the object is. It is okay that they have different observations and different ideas – in fact it is great! Ask each young person to talk about what they felt and why they believe the object is what it is. Having youth investigate something by making observations (feeling the object), forming ideas (determining what the object is), asking questions and sharing opinions helps them develop skills that will enable them to succeed in the classroom and in life. Who knows – in these cold winter months, you may be helping develop the next generation of scientists!

To check out the details of this fun activity and several others, visit the Michigan 4-H Youth Development webpage “Science Blast.” This free web page has several hands-on activities that are not only simple and fun, but also help young people learn and grow.

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