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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Scavenging for Fun

Air Date: Week of

Commentator Whit Gibbons offers another way that youth can enjoy the summer, outdoors. He says local scavenger hunts can teach children how to connect with their surroundings.


CURWOOD: If you have children around this summer, commentator Whit Gibbons has some advice for you.

GIBBONS: One beetle. A green leaf with points on the edges. Something that lives in the water. A bird with red on its head. An animal with more than six legs. Sound like a recipe for the bubbling cauldron in Macbeth? It's a recipe, of sorts, but not for witches. It's for making children more aware of their environment by spending more time outdoors. I call it an Ecology Scavenger Hunt. To complete the scavenger hunt, one has to find different living things and then read and write something about them.

Many of today's children spend too much time indoors. Television and computers make it easy to do. And indeed these can be useful learning tools. But the living world is outside, and that's where children should be encouraged to spend as much time as they can.

The idea of an ecology scavenger hunt is to catch or see each item on the list. In the front or back yard, the park, or the nearest woods. An additional requirement is to read something about the plant or animal, and write a meaningful statement.

More species of beetles live on earth than any other group of animals. So anyone can find a beetle, and a lot has been written about them. What kind of tree or shrub did the pointy-edged leaf come from? Does a tree lose its leaves in winter? The reading might be about why some trees are evergreen and some are not.

Take children to any body of water and they will have plenty of living things to see. You might be amazed at just how much life is there, even if it's not all moving or some has to be seen with a microscope. For the bird, look at a field-guide to find out which ones would qualify. Lots of woodpeckers have red on their heads, as do ruby-crowned kinglets and turkey vultures. And anyone can identify a cardinal.

Finally, what has more than six legs? Millipedes, centipedes, and spiders, to name a few. Look for them under rocks, logs or tree bark. My list for an ecology scavenger hunt is only an example. Make up your own list, for your area. It will keep children, and maybe a few adults, outdoors -- a place everyone ought to become more familiar with.

CURWOOD: The comments of Whit Gibbons, an ecologist at the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. He comes to us from member station WUGA in Athens, Georgia.



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