A nature observation activity suitable for all ages in which participants focus on a particular site at different distances.

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Description: This is a nature observation activity in which participants focus on a particular site at different distances. The idea is to define a limited space in which to observe nature and encourage closer observation.

Suitability: This works well for all small children through adults, although because it requires getting down on the ground, it might not be appropriate for people impaired for health reasons.

Number of people: one or more; for debriefing purposes, the ideal number is 5-25

Time: 30-60 min

Equipment Needed:
• Something waterproof to kneel or lie on if the ground is wet
• Something to delineate an area of approximately 1 sq ft (0.1 sq m). Metal hoops used for making dreamcatchers work well. For example, see 12” hoops at Noc Bay Trading Company (http://www.nocbay.com/prodDetails.asp?ID=314&link=207). A string or square can also be used to delineate the area.
• Something for writing or drawing

Associated worksheet or handout: Zooming In Activity worksheet (download from link)

Space: This is an outdoor activity. A natural site is best. See alternatives for other options.

Set-up: Hand out the worksheets, ground covers, and whatever is used to delineate the area the participants will focus on.


Step 1: Explain that this is a solo activity. The worksheet is self-explanatory but you can explain that they should mark off a square foot (approximately 0.1 sq meter) of ground in any natural habitat, using string or sticks or a hoop. Then they should look at it from a standing position for a few minutes and notice what they see and describe the area. They can make sketches on the back of the worksheet if they want. They should then kneel down and observe it from that vantage point for a few minutes, noticing the things that they missed while standing. Next, they should lie on their bellies or lean closer to explore the area in detail. Tell them to look at it as if they were astronauts on a strange planet. If they find something that captures their attention, such as an insect, worm, or plant, they should observe it as long as they want, then explore somewhere else in their square or circle. This should take at least 10 minutes. Finally, they should stand up and look at it from their original viewpoint. This is a chance to just experience and appreciate the difference in how they originally viewed the miniature landscape.

Step 2: Gather for a debriefing and sharing of any sketches and thoughts.

Step 3: If there’s time, do the exercise again, but this time in a different habitat, or even in a more human-altered environment, such as a cultivated garden or lawn.

Debrief: Debriefing should mostly be about sharing their experiences and observations. Ask what they noticed up close that they hadn’t noticed from farther away. Did they use any other senses besides sight? If they compared two habitats, what differences did they notice?

Possible variations:
1) Afterwards, have them return to their closest position and gently lift some of the litter or organic soil. They should look for organisms below the surface and look at the organic soil for evidence of decomposing plants and other organisms.

2) Move their square or hoop to a human-modified site (e.g., dirt road, lawn, garden plot). Repeat and compare their observations.

3) If using a hoop or square object, they can also focus in at different scales by holding it up to look at various distances.

4) For people who can’t get down on the ground, this activity could be done in a raised garden bed or in a greenhouse. You could also experiment bringing in a wide variety of objects and putting them in a group, or even dig up a small plot of ground to bring indoors.

5) This activity can also be done with bigger areas, such as within the size of a hula hoop. It can include data collection: how many green things did you see, how many different shapes of plants, how many living animals, etc.

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