Would you like to share nature connection with beginners?
Being able to help new naturalists make their first discoveries about a local environment is an incredibly rewarding skill.
We all know nature is one of the best ways to promote mental, physical & emotional health, but many people still struggle with guiding others (or yourself) to get started.
Learning about nature is something that can easily be made boring or complex if you don’t take the right approach.
Luckily if you start with the right activities, your nature lessons can be surprisingly simple and effective with minimal effort.
So today I wanted to share 22 nature connection activities that are perfect for sharing nature with beginners.
I chose these activities specifically because they’re some of the easiest and most effective ways to help newbies really open their senses and get immersed in full bodied nature connection experiences.
Let’s get started!
1. Naturalist Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are a great activity you can use to help folks look more closely at nature.
Start by making a list of some cool natural artefacts that can be found in your local area…
This can be anything from specific plants & flowers, to acorns & nuts, bird feathers, rocks, and more.
If you’re working with a large group, you can have folks break into pairs or teams.
Try to mix the more knowledgeable naturalists with the new folks so they can learn from each other.
The key to making great scavenger hunts is to include things that are easy to find… and also throw in a few more advanced or unusual items to keep participants on their edge.
When it’s all over, you can go back through the collection and revisit the stories of the day.
You can also gear scavenger hunts towards different topics or seasons in order to recycle this activity in unique ways.
2. Bio Blitz
A bio blitz is similar to a scavenger hunt except rather than starting from a specific list, your goal is simply to find as many local plant & animal species as possible.
It’s best to do this activity with someone who already has a fair bit of knowledge about the landscape because they can help guide the newbies.
Have a dedicated list keeper to keep track of everything you find.
By the end of the exercise, you’ll be amazed by how many new species you’ve encountered.
If you have multiple groups you can add in a bit of friendly competition by having a prize for whichever team finds the most diversity.
It’s unlikely that folks will actually remember everything the found on an outing like this, but it’s a fun way to explore and participants will walk away with a handful of new plants, birds & trees to look for again in the future.
3. Create A Nature Museum
A nature museum is a collection of natural items you gather before an adventure and have available for folks to look at and examine.
This activity is amazing for young kids because it gives them a curated set of cool things they can put their hands on and ask questions about.
It’s a great way to inspire people to get interested in nature even before you step outside.
If you start by showing the group a sampling of flowers and plants you collected on your walk earlier, they will be much more excited to try and find those plants for themselves.
You can create nature museums for many different topics or lesson plans, and it’s one of the best ways to ease folks into more focused naturalist studies.
4. Wild Edible Harvest
If you have experience with the wild edibles of your local area, doing an edible harvest day is a great way to activate curiosity about plants in your environment.
People love to eat things, so it’s often easier to get beginners excited about plants when it’s associated with food.
You can use the promise of food to help people look more closely at plants in general by exploring different types of leaves, flowers & branching patterns that apply to all types of plants.
You can guide students to see the differences in ecology by comparing growth habitats (which plants grow in sunny fields VS in the deep forest?).
Then after the work of harvesting is done, you create a feast and enjoy the fruits of all that work.
A certain percentage of people who have an experience like this will be inspired to go much deeper with herbal medicine and plants in general.
5. Ask Awareness Questions
Whenever you go outside, one of the easiest ways to enhance the experience for yourself or your students is simply by asking questions that expand awareness.
Rather than walking along with your eyes focused squarely on the ground, take a few minutes to stop and ask questions like:
- What are you noticing right now?
- Have you ever seen this plant?
- What are you hearing?
- Do you hear that bird call?
- Why are the trees so much bigger here?
- Do you smell those flowers?
The purpose of asking questions is not to have a direct answer… It’s about opening awareness and helping people to experience more.
Each time you ask a question, it causes people to shift their perspective.
Some questions direct attention towards the little details. Other questions direct attention towards the big picture.
This is one of the best ways to help people make connections for themselves by facilitating self discovery.
Questions can be integrated into almost every activity you do as an overall enhancement to the quality of interaction with nature.
6. Sit Spot/Secret Spot
The sit spot activity is possibly the simplest method you’ll ever find to promote deep connection with nature.
It’s incredibly simple. You can do it anywhere, and people love it because it combines nature observation with the psychological recharge time that so many people desperately need.
All you have to do is find a place to sit quietly outside and focus on tuning in with nature rather than tuning out.
Sit spot practice is ideal for people who already know they want to connect with nature, but don’t yet have any ongoing routines for doing it.
If you ever hear someone say they want to get closer to animals, this is probably the most important activity you could share with them.
It’s very common for people to have animal encounters while doing sit spot.
It’s also very common for people to report dramatic release of stress & accumulated emotional tension by sitting quietly in nature.
As an enhancement, you can do this activity alongside the sense meditation that I’ll share later in the article to really maximize the benefits.
A lot of adults can be led into sit spot as a personal growth method even if they aren’t directly wanting to become good naturalists or trackers.
7. Go Tracking
Wildlife tracking is an activity that humans have been using to connect with nature for thousands of years.
If you can find some snow or sand, it’s easy to spend an afternoon looking for tracks and talking about what you see.
Simply find some tracks and ask simple questions like:
- How many toes do you see?
- Do you see claws in these tracks?
- How many tracks can we find here?
- What is the overall track pattern?
- How do we think this animal was moving?
It’s always helpful to remember that animal tracking isn’t just about finding clear prints on the ground.
It’s about looking for all types of clues to explore what animals are doing and why.
So even if you can’t always find clear prints, you can still practice tracking by asking more big picture questions like:
- What animals live here?
- What signs of animals can we find that aren’t tracks?
- What can we learn from the ecology of this forest?
- What are the animals eating here?
- Why are they doing what they do?
8. Sit By A Fire & Tell Nature Stories
Before humans began sitting around televisions, we sat around campfires and told stories.
Fire has been called primitive television because the dancing flames help people calm down and relax at the end of a day.
When you combine the relaxation of sitting around a fire, with the basic human desire to share stories… you have a magical combination that gets people excited about nature.
It’s often easier to introduce conversation topics related to animals & nature connection when you’re already sitting out in nature.
An easy way to do this is simply by sharing your own stories. What’s a time when you saw an animal in the wild? Where were you? What happened?
Then notice how after you share a story about nature, very often others will chime in with their own stories… all while exchanging knowledge & experiences.
Even people who aren’t formally invested in learning about nature will jump at the opportunity to sit around a campfire.
If you’re lucky, you might even hear frog sounds or an owl off in the distance.
It’s a great way to create organic opportunities for star-gazing and learning about how different types of wood burn.
9. Start A Garden
Gardening is a great way to help people explore nature because it’s so interactive and life-enhancing.
This is a great activity for people who aren’t formally interested in geeky naturalist skills, but still want to invest in their relationship with nature.
It’s an easy way to bring more diversity of plants & insects right into your own backyard so you can watch them grow and evolve before your eyes.
If you don’t have a great space to explore nature near your home… gardening is a great way to bring nature to you.
It gives you a reason to come back to the same place repeatedly and check up on how things are doing.
You get to learn about how soil works, the importance of insects & nutrition.
You get to see how plants go through different phases from sprouting, to the early growth, root development, flowering & seeds.
Then at the end of the season, there’s the promise of edible plants & herbs to collect and enjoy.
This is especially great when you get to work with the same people over a period of months because they can participate in the entire process from start to finish.
10. Ninja/Jedi Training
Ninja training is an excellent way to get kids engaged in mindfulness activities while keeping it fun & exciting.
Sometimes it’s hard to help kids slow down and really tune in with their surroundings.
Nature connection is all about mindfulness and listening to the subtle messages coming from the landscape… but it doesn’t always work so well when you have 30 wound up kids running around screaming!
This is where engaging the imagination comes in…
If you can get kids excited about being ninjas or Jedi, you can use these passions as a jump off point for training nature awareness.
You can setup logs for training balance & mindfulness, teach them how to expand their senses and give challenges required to graduate from novice to master Jedi levels.
Each step along the way can include sensory awareness standards, quiet movement & stalking, knowledge of edible or poisonous plants, and it’s all great fun to them!
11. Sense Meditation
The sense meditation is a simple activity you can practice anytime you go outside as an overall enhancement of quality experiences.
This method works extremely well with people who are already interested in meditation or mindfulness because they understand the benefits of calming the mind.
With a little bit of guidance, most people will quickly discover that mindfulness in nature actually works a lot better than sitting in a dark & quiet bedroom.
The steps are simple:
All you have to do is go outside and consciously focus your attention on each of the five senses.
First, spend a few minutes really listening deeply to all the sounds like bird calls, squirrels, wind in the trees, even insect noises and highway sounds.
Then move on to your sense of touch, sight, smell, and even taste… relaxing all the way through to help your mind become calm & quiet.
Start by opening each sense individually, then gradually putting them altogether until your entire awareness is completely open and receptive.
With repeated practice over a period of months, you will actually extend the overall capacity of hearing, seeing, feeling & sensing capabilities.
This exercise also works well for kids who are a bit quiet & emotionally sensitive.
You can incorporate the sense meditation into their ninja training and sometimes even the most rambunctious kids can be led into stillness.
If you ever struggle with wild and noisy kids who can’t seem to be quiet, this is often a great way to help them experience nature while disguising it as something cool like ninja training.
12. Wandering & Exploring
Wandering & exploring is definitely one of the best activities to share with beginners because it’s so incredibly simple.
All you need is an accessible landscape and a bit of curiosity.
Imagine you’ve been given a mission to learn this landscape and find all the best hiding spots, camping locations, biggest trees, waterways, etc.
You can think of yourself as like a scout, going into the wild in search of useful information & resources to harvest.
Simply ask yourself:
- How are you going to learn this landscape?
- Where are you curious to explore?
- What parts of the land have you visited? And what parts are still a mystery to you?
- What happens if you follow the creek upstream?
- Where might you be able to find a new berry patch to harvest?
Then allow yourself to wander and explore. Follow your curiosity and spend a day wandering the landscape.
When you get back from your adventure… see if you can draw a basic map using some general landmarks to record where you went and any cool discoveries.
13. Meet A Tree
Trees are one of the foundational building blocks of ecological knowledge… yet when was the last time you really took time to connect deeply with a tree?
The “meet a tree” exercise is a great way to break people out of their normal awareness patterns and really connect with trees in a new way.
Here are the basic steps:
- Have the group split into pairs (or if alone, do this with a partner)
- Each pair takes turns blindfolding each other.
- The blindfolded participant is led to a tree, which they explore with their sense of touch, smell & sound. Go slow and allow time to really get to know the tree without the use of their eyes.
- They’re led back to the starting point, and the blindfold comes off. Then they have to try and find their tree, this time with the use of their eyes.
- Then switch
This activity is incredibly powerful for beginners because it gets them to slow down and engage with the world in a new way.
Many people find their tree becomes imprinted in their memory for years and facilitates a new and permanent relationship with the natural world.
14. Go Barefoot
Another excellent way to break beginners out of dull city awareness habits is by having them remove their shoes.
Shoes are a lot like blindfolds for our feet.
As soon as the shoes are removed, suddenly people start to slow down. They’re quieter and more conscious about where they’re stepping.
The bottoms of the feet are incredibly sensitive with nerves that provide all sorts of useful information about the environment.
Walking barefoot in different environments requires a lot more concentration and sensitivity than bundling everything up in heavy boots.
The result is a much more mindful and sensitive state of awareness that produces deeper connection with the land.
If you find this too easy, you can also try walking barefoot with blindfolds on. Just make sure you have spotters to keep everybody safe.
15. Build A Camp
Building a camp in the forest is a great activity to share with beginners because it’s very accessible & exciting, and it requires absolutely no knowledge to start off.
If you’re working with people who feel insecure about their lack of nature knowledge, this can be a great way to get them out of their head and do a project that’s much less intimidating.
Humans come with built-in instinctive knowledge about how to build shelters, so it doesn’t take much to get started.
First you need to explore and decide on the best location, then you work on building the shelter, gathering stones for the fire pit.
As you revisit the same place over and over again, it becomes a jump-off point for other adventures.
Gradually you begin to have new sensory experiences.
You get exposed to new plants & trees without the direct pressure of needing to learn them right away.
After a few solid days of work out there, you’ll be surprised how connected you’ll feel. There will be a real sense of knowing the land and being home.
You can even build up to spending the night out there… the possibilities are endless.
16. Natural Artwork
For more artistic students, sometimes being creative is a great way to subtly introduce nature without being too focused on boring facts & figures.
You can have them use natural materials to build things like medicine wheels, fairy houses & natural sculptures.
When it comes to nature connection, it’s important to remember that sensory experiences are much more important than facts & information.
This doesn’t mean that information isn’t important. But if you focus on experiences first, then the information will be stored more easily.
Art is a great way to bypass the analytical & judgmental parts of the brain to simply allow people the freedom to connect.
17. Visit Different Landscape Types
Every environment has many distinct types of landscapes or ecologies.
There are fields, deciduous forest, coniferous forest, wetlands, barrens, highlands, lowlands, swamps and more…
Each different landscape type can have dramatically different plant communities, trees & animals… and these are key driving factors for sustainability & biodiversity.
This is one of the easiest patterns for beginners to grasp about nature. It requires no knowledge about trees or plant identification.
But most people have simply never been exposed to how landscapes change from place to place.
So all you have to do is plan a walk through an area with several different landscape types.
Simply plan a day where you visit several different ecology types and invite the group to talk about what they’re seeing.
By the time this day is done, forests will never look the same again.
If you want some really clear examples of how this works, check out my free book – the forest field guide!
18. Follow Squirrels Around
Watching live animals is an incredibly fun and engaging activity for beginners.
Have you ever met someone who doesn’t like watching animals?
It seems to be a built-in human trait for almost everyone, and you can use this to your advantage…
Start with something simple like a squirrel.
Grab some binoculars and try to watch it from a distance. See if you can follow it around and keep track of what it does in different areas.
- Where does it feed?
- What does it eat?
- Does it go into any tree cavities?
- Does it collect things?
- What vocalizations does it make?
- Why might it be acting this way?
- What trails does it use?
The cool thing is that the same skills & thought process required for following squirrels around, will also apply to any other animal you might find.
It’s all part of the nature observation toolkit and since squirrels are so common, it’s an easy way to develop the skill.
19. Setup A Bird Feeder
Bird feeders are another great activity that can help develop animal watching skills.
All you have to do is get a bird feeder & some seed, then wait for birds to show up.
It’s a great way to help people develop identification & bird behavior skills under controlled conditions.
You can keep monthly lists and track patterns over time like spring migration, nesting activities, territorial squabbles, and even noticing how the feeder attracts squirrels, cats & deer.
20. Watch Insects
Insect watching is a great activity for beginners because it’s so easy & engaging.
Insects are incredibly common & diverse, and they often are slow enough that you can successfully watch them for long periods of time.
With young kids, all you really have to do is point out the ants traveling along the ground or a worm in the mud and you have a recipe for instant engagement that can last hours.
Adults might take a bit more encouragement. They might worry about getting their clothes dirty and not want to kneel down, but if you can get them past the initial discomfort it works great.
Some insects are predators. Some are prey. They occupy all different types of micro habitats, in the garden, the forest, fields.
This is a great way to introduce concepts of animal behavior & ecology that are normally invisible with larger & more sneaky animals.
21. Inviting Attunement
No matter what activities you choose to focus on in nature, the most important thing is always doing it in an embodied & experiential way.
There’s a huge difference between exploring nature academically vs being connective and sensorily focused.
While facts & knowledge about plants, birds & trees are helpful for long term depth & naturalist skills, memorizing facts should never be the main focus of your time outside.
Keep things interesting & fun, and you’ll get much better results, even if you have a very specific curriculum of learning goals you need to accomplish.
The goal is to invite people out of their own head, and into their senses in a new way.
22. Start With Your Own Passions
Whether you’re looking to guide others, or just seeking the benefits of nature connection for yourself, it’s always best to consider what are your passions?
It’s not necessary to do every single activity listed here… especially if any of them seem difficult or uninteresting to you.
You might not be passionate about insects, but you might be very passionate about birds… and that’s totally fine!
Simply start with the activities that are most exciting for YOU and your passion will transfer much more easily to your students or whoever you decide to share with.
- Which activities are most exciting & interesting for you?
- What other activities would you be excited to try that aren’t listed here?