Backyard Nature Activities: Whiffs

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.


Synopsis: Participants have a party and make whiff sundaes with natural scents crushed on top. They name their whiffs and share the scents of the season by smelling, not tasting 

Set-up & Props: Choose a place with good materials for scents – fir, wintergreen, dead ferns, etc. – and know what you can use for a neat example. You need a small cup or dish for each person. An ice cream scoop for the leader is optional.

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


1. Invitation to Party: “How about a break for a party? Maybe some of you have heard of an ice cream party where you make your own ice cream sundaes? Well this is sort of like that only you make your own earth scoop flavours instead of using regular ice cream. Let me show you.”

2. Explain Whiffs: “We call these flavours whiffs because they are different from regular ice cream. You don’t eat these flavours, instead you smell them, and you can come up with some great sniffs. Let me show you.” 

3. Demonstrate Making of Whiff Sundae: Pull out scooper and a cup. Scoop up ingredients into a cup and then add some crushed natural materials that make for an interesting smell – leaves, evergreen needles, mint leaves, etc. (pick nice and strong smells).  Smell your sundae, “wow, that’s good, I think I will call it “earthy ripple” (make up your own name). Does anyone want a great whiff” – share it around.

4. Create with Care: See if everyone can come up with a neat and different flavour. Call it something new. “Let’s be careful not to destroy living things in the process, you only need a little flavouring if you crush it up and let the scents out.”

5. Distribute Props/Make Sundaes: Distribute cups. “Once you have your whiffs put together, come on back here for the party.”

6. Initiate Party: Start the sharing and the party as most people are finishing up their whiffs. Share your whiff sundae with others and encourage sharing all around the group, including the names of the flavours.

7. Propose a Toast: Comment “What a lovely party and great sundaes, they bring out the best smells of the season! I would like to offer a toast – to the beauty and wonder of spring.”

Early Childhood Adaptation: Emphasize not picking living plants, and to not eat anything. 

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