Backyard Nature Activities: A Dozen Touches

This activity is taught in Hike NS’s Re-Connecting with Nature workshop offered each year in locations throughout the province. This is a one-day, hands-on workshop for adults held mostly outdoors to improve your ability to lead and share an appreciation and understanding of nature with children and youth. We plan to have a schedule available in May for workshops hopefully scheduled in late June and in the fall, if possible.

A Dozen Touches / Touch Box

Synopsis: Participants work in pairs to find small natural objects that they put in a “touch box” with each compartment labeled with an adjective describing a touch word. They then trade their box with another pair and while blindfolded or with their eyes closed, they have to guess what the word is based on their touching it. 

Set-up & Props: Tape or glue a strip of paper over the top of an egg carton and print “Touch Box” on it. Decorate the box and label with crayons, markers or coloured pencils. Write the following touch words in the bottom of the compartments of the carton: wet, dry, rough, smooth, soft, hard, round, flat, dull, sharp, fuzzy, prickly. Put a different word in each compartment. Have a blindfold for every two participants. Any area is suitable. 

Source: Adapted from Earthwalks by Kirk Hoessle & Steve Van Matre, Institute for Earth Education, 1980. 

Activity 

1. Intro Touch Box Challenge: Has anyone ever collected a box of touches? I have, I am an expert at it. I challenge you to see how good you are. Here is a box for a ‘dozen touches’… You thought it was an egg carton but it’s not! Here is the challenge. There is a touch word written in each compartment of the box. I want you to work in pairs and find a small natural object that has the feel described for each word. Put that object in the right compartment. When you return with your box full, we are going to have a guessing game. 

2. Pairs Find Touches: Help pairs as they search for touches to fill their box. Separate the pairs from each other. 

3. Split Pairs, Trade Boxes & Guess Touch Words: When the pairs return with the boxes full, have one person from a pair share their box with a person in another pair. In turn that person’s partner shares their box with the first person’s partner. In each case, give the guesser a blindfold, and then (s)he tries to guess the words in each compartment by the feel of the object. The person with the box helps the guesser and tells him or her if (s)he has the correct answer. 

Early Childhood Adaptation: Young children cannot read the labels, so call textures out verbally. Use a simple tray (e.g. aluminum pie plate) instead of egg carton; give one to each child to put their collection in. “Get your fingers warmed up, wiggle them and do some stretching moves.” Remind them not to pick living things. Have the entire group look for the same “touch” (ie. rough, smooth, hard, squishy, etc). When finished make a “gift for a tree or plant” by dumping the tray at its base. Discuss what plants and trees need to grow, decompose, etc. Or, make a Touch Box by cutting a hole in the side of a shoebox for a hand to fit in. Someone puts something to touch in the box, and someone else puts their hand in and tries to guess. 

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