A Camping Curriculum for Kids
As a former elementary school educator and administrator and a parent, I search for those "teachable moments." Translation: a teachable moment is that great opportunity all parents and teachers have to give a mini-lesson about life. The key is that the children don't realize it's educational.
A new world of teachable moments opened for our family about ten years ago when we began camping. It has provided a multitude of learning experiences and the best part is that it's FUN!
The ideas here may be adapted for children of all ages. Mother Nature provides the ultimate classroom and it is in constant flux with the change of seasons.
~ Develop map skills by reading maps, use a compass rose to determine direction and locate camp on the map.
~ Draw and label a map of the campsite and/or campground.
~ Visit local historical sites and museums. Pick up brochures beforehand in state visitor centers, call the department of tourism or look up information on the internet for possible places to visit.
~ Document the trip (or trips!) by keeping a journal. A journal may be pictures or written.
~ Read fictional camping stories and factual articles. Camping Life and Ranger Rick are two of my favorites.
~ Write a story about a particular event on the trip.
~ Log wildlife observed. Include the date and time, weather and location.
~ Make a list of camping vocabulary words and define.
How to Make Plaster Casts of Animal Tracks
3 x 18 inch strip of waxed cardboard (a milk carton works well)
Plaster of Paris
gallon size plastic zipper bag
large paper clip
1. Locate a good track. Ideally, the soil should be moist but it is not necessary.
2. Carefully remove debris from around the track. Form a circle from the cardboard and place around the track. Push the circle at least one-half inch into the soil. Fasten the ends with the paper clip.
3. Pour Plaster of Paris into zipper bag. Add a little water at a time. Seal bag and squish to mix. Add more water if needed but work quickly. Consistency should be like pancake batter.
4. Gently pour the mixture close to the track and fill to about one to one and a half inches below the top of the cardboard. Leave for about 10 to 15 minutes. Delicately loosen the mold and pull out cast from well beneath track. Allow to dry completely.
~ Make plaster casts of animal tracks (instructions included here).
~ Sketch plants, animals, the campsite, a creek, etc., with colored pencils.
~ Photograph the trip and create a scrapbook of the photos when back home.
~ Make leaf or bark rubbings.
Health and Safety
~ Assemble a camping first aid kit. Discuss the purpose and use of each item.
~ Practice basic first aid for sunburn, cuts and scrapes, insect and other bites and injured limbs.
~ Identify (and avoid) poisonous plants, snakes, insects and spiders.
~ Recognize different types of clouds.
~ Identify plants, animals, birds, insects, spiders, etc. The National Audubon Society Pocket Guides and Peterson Field Guide series are two excellent sources.
~ Use binoculars and a magnifying glass correctly.
~ Study the stars, learn the constellations and locate the Big and Little Dippers. Astronomy for All Ages: Discovering the Universe Through Activities for Children and Adults by Phillip Harrington, et al. (Globe Pequot Press, 2000) and The Stars by H. A. Rey (Mariner Books, 1976) provide abundant information to guide you.
~ Demonstrate environmental safety and awareness: no picking flowers or feeding wildlife, "leave no trace" that someone was even there (http://lnt.org), build fires only in established rings, etc.
~ Create a leaf collection. Store leaves in envelopes and press at home. Mount and label in an album.
~ Build a campfire (and enjoy!).
The possibilities are endless!
The possibilities for an educational curriculum on a camping trip are endless. Even the adults can benefit. Learn and have fun together.
More Ideas for Camping & Learning with the Family
- Alphabet Activities for Preschool and Kindergarten Children
Alphamania: An Alphabet Resource for Teachers and Parents is an electronic book that allows teachers and parents of two to six-year-old children to explore the world around them in a fun and exciting way using the alphabet.
- Birding with Children
In an age where so many young people are glued to the TV, electronic games and cell phones, activities involving nature should be encouraged. Birding is entertaining and educational and fun for all ages.
- The Top 5 Reasons to Go on a Family Camping Vacation
Camping as a family can be a blast. Here are my top five reasons to explore a family camping vacation.