This week I took two classes on a nature hike at Paris Mountain State Park. For those of you who live in the area, the park has a wonderful school program for 2nd and 5th graders. On this day, the 5th graders were going to complete a Creative Writing Journal.
We talked about using their senses but I stressed that we would NOT be using our sense of taste for anything!
At various stopping places, I had the students sit and finish the writing prompts that were in the journal that I gave them. I stressed using their senses of sight, hearing, and smell. It was perfect when the geese decided to take a bath in the water right in front of us. The turtles came out of the water to sun bathe on the logs which is always a hit for children and adults. Students had to use descriptive word for certain things. In one section of the journal, students fill in the blanks to write a poem about what they are seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling.
I loved the first stop the best. Students sat on the steps outside the park center and filled in the first two pages of their journal. This set the scene for the rest of the hike. It helped students to notice what was all around them. Quietly they sat and observed nature around them. Both groups, one in the morning and one after lunch, really seemed to enjoy this activity the best.
I learned some things about working with this age group:
1. Not as many parent volunteers come with this age group like they do with the 2nd graders. They really didn’t need many chaperones with this age group.
2. Very few of these students had visited this state park before. It was good to tell them what activities were available at the park in case they returned with their families.
3. It is important to tell students what to expect in advance. It helps them be less anxious when in a new environment.
4. 5th graders like to learn “big words.” They love to think they can show off how smart they are later.
5. Students like to share their knowledge. Before telling them things, I liked to see who knew the information first. Many times they knew things that I had been prepared to tell them which would have bored them or made them feel like I was talking down to them.
6. Students are fascinated with nature. It was important to give them time to just observe, admire, and enjoy all that was happening around them.
7. It is good to motivate students at the beginning of a lesson by letting them know what to expect at the end.
8. Students need to have a reason to complete an assignment. When told that only those who finished would be able to participate with the fun activity at the end, more students were motivated to complete each task.
9. If there is a log available, children will climb on it. Telling them to look on and around logs before getting on them is a safety tip that they need to learn in advance!
10. Turtles are a big hit no matter what age you are.
I think the best thing that happened all day was this:
Near the end of our hike, one young lady behind me gasped, “Are we EVER going to take a rest?” I was shocked since we had already stopped about 4 times for a 5 minute journal writing activity each time. I told her it was almost lunch time and we were about done. She looked at me and said, “Boy, you sure walk good for an old lady!” I just had to laugh. Being with young people really do put me in a good mood, especially when they make me laugh!
Original photo by Pat Hensley