To learn how to identify local trees; to develop observational skills using a range of senses
Take the group of learners outside.
Divide the group into pairs, and blindfold one member of each. Have the seeing partner take his or her blindfolded partner to a particular tree within 20 to 30 yards of where they are standing. Help the blindfolded kids learn everything they can about their tree by calling out such hints as “Is your tree still alive? How does it smell? How does its bark feel? Can you reach its leaves? If so, how do they feel? Smooth? Rough? Toothed or smooth edges? Can you put your arms around the tree? Can you find plants or lichens growing on it? Does it make a sound when the wind blows?”
When the blindfolded partners are done exploring, the seeing partners lead them back to where they started. (This is the fun part, where lead partners can come up with imaginary objects— logs, streams, rocks, etc.—to step over and can turn their partner in different directions so as to entertainingly mislead them from finding their tree.) Now, when they have returned to the starting point, the kids remove their blindfolds and try to find their trees. What was once a forest now becomes many individual trees. Repeat the activity with the other partner.
You can also reverse the order of activity. This time, the kids can walk up to a tree, greet it by shaking a branch and saying, “Good morning,” and then hug the tree, feeling the bark with their cheeks, arms, legs, and hands. They can smell the bark, listen to the sound it makes against their clothing, and hear the sound the wind makes as it blows through the leaves. Ask them to describe what they notice and, after a few trees, how the different barks compare. If you have given names to the trees, you can then have the kids return to a gathering spot, blindfold the kids, and ask seeing partners to guide them to the trees they just looked at, which the kids will try to identify based solely on their impressions of the bark, smells, and sounds.
As a follow-up, the kids can adopt their individual trees. They can do such activities as:
- Drawing a picture of their tree
- Writing a poem or story about it
- Taking care of it for a period of time (e.g., watering it and fencing it so livestock can’t damage it)
- Learning its name and labeling it so others can learn what it is,collecting its seeds and planting them
- Collecting the insects that live on the tree and attempting to raise them in a glass jar
- Noting the birds and other animals that have been seen in the tree
This lesson plan is an activity from the Environmental Activities for Youth Clubs and Camps, a resource developed by the Peace Corps Office of Overseas Programming and Training (OPATS). It was contributed by Peace Corps/Armenia. Peace Corps/Mexico, and Peace Corps/Paraguay.