Nature hikes are a great way to explore outdoor areas, and Saratoga National Historical Park’s main hiking trail, the 4+ mile Wilkinson Trail, has much to offer. Named for British mapmaker Lieutenant William Wilkinson, the trail has a shorter, 2 mile option useful with students. This activity sheet accompanies the 2-mile hike, encouraging students to look around them and engage with the natural world around them.
Students will be able to:
- identify a list of things found in nature
- describe, in writing or art, something they enjoyed during their nature hike
- begin to develop an appreciation for nature
This a fairly unstructured activity. Students just need their worksheets and a pencil as the group does the 2-mile hike. While there is a checklist of items to look for, which students should be encouraged to read through before the hike, it's just as important for them to simply walk and interact with the natural and cultural environment around them.
Downloadable PDF lesson materials:
Distribute worksheets to students and be sure everyone has a pencil. Read through the checklist with them so they know what are the items they should look for. When explaining what SCAT is, there will be an "Ewww!" factor involved, but it's a great teachable moment to note how environmental scientists can use such indicators to learn what kinds of animals are found in a given area, what/how much they are eating, and how healthy the animals are.
Also let students know the trail they are about to walk on follows some of the original paths/roads used by soldiers during the Battles of Saratoga. This is a nature hike, but it's also a history hike.
Please inform students that nature items found--leaves, acorns, branches, frogs, etc.--must be left at the park. If people collected these things, they wouldn't be there for others to enjoy!
There will be an inevitable question: will they'll find artifacts, and what to do if they find them. Explain that National Parks take care of and protect both natural and cultural/historic resources, and can learn important things from them. If an artifact is picked up off the ground, important information is lost. Best thing to do if something is found: leave it be, mark the location on your map, and let the park rangers know.
Best part about this activity: there's not much requiring assessment. Certainly, check to see the students are paying attention. The writing activity, or even the drawing activity, could be turned in as an assignment, as the teacher sees fit.
Schools wishing to do the nature hike should contact the park to arrange the trip and get important logistical details about planning.
Assign groups of students to take digital pictures/video to make a poster, slide show, or video of their experience here.
Have students do another nature hike, perhaps even walking around your school and noting different plants and animals (or animal signs).
SCAT --animal droppings; sounds gross, but it's an excellent way for scientists to see what kinds of animals live in an area, and determine what and how well the animals are eating