In this nature observation activity, participants focus on a small site at different distances. It's suitable for all ages and takes 30‑60 minutes.


  • Learners will focus their observations more narrowly than normal. 
  • Learners will discover that even small areas on the ground have a diversity of life. 

This nature observation activity encourages participants to focus on a small area on the ground and observe it from various distances. Participants choose a place they think is interesting and mark off an area of 1 sq ft (0.1 sq m) using a hoop, sticks, or string. They then observe that area while kneeling, then on their bellies, and finally while standing. By ignoring everything outside of the delineated area, they can thoroughly explore something they would normally pass by.

We are often distracted by everything going on around us. The point of this exercise is to learn to focus our observations and discover that even a small area can be full of life and beauty. A side benefit is that being this close to the soil reveals decomposition processes and the soil fauna and flora that help keep the soil healthy. The activity can be modified in various ways to change the focus, compare other sites, or accommodate people of different abilities.

This exercise was adapted from Tom Brown’s Field Guide: Nature Observation and Tracking (Tom Brown, Jr. 1986) and prepared for educators by Sherry Ritter.