Backyard Nature Activities: Meet a Tree

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.

Meet a Tree (Tree Friends) 

Synopsis: Participants are split into pairs, a leader and a visitor, and the visitor is then led to and introduced to a tree friend while his/her vision is “blocked.” The visitor gets to know the tree through the sense of touch, and then is led back to the starting point. The visitor takes the blindfold off and then must return to find the tree by sight. The pair then switches roles. 

For older youth and adults, this activity may be pitched as an open ended “tour of touch”. Instead of the leader taking the visitor to a specific tree, the leader gives the visitor a tour of the area and lets them explore various objects and touches while blindfolded. 

Set-up and Props: There needs to be one vision mask for each pair of participants (bandana or scarf to cover the eyes). Pick an area with a lot of trees to give choice, but make sure it is an area with relatively good footing and an absence of thick bushes and undergrowth. The risk management issue for this activity is that the leading child will be silly or cavalier with the visiting child, and that the visitor will fall and get hurt. This is a major concern and must be dealt with through (1) choice of a good site, and (2) careful instructions to the participants. 

Activity 

1. Lead In: Point out that you have a great chance for them to practice meeting the kinds of friends that are most frequent out here in the forest. Move the kids to the area where they will meet the new friends. 

2. How to Visit Tree Friends: Explain that these friends are different – tree friends to be exact. But emphasize that you don’t meet or get to know tree friends in the same way you get to know people friends. In fact you have to meet them in a different way because they are shy, they do not like their friends looking at them at the very start. So, here’s what you have to do: 

-Have kids form pairs – you pick pairings to get good combinations.
-One person is the leader, and one person is the visitor.
-The leader decides on a tree friend s/he wants to introduce the visitor to. The leader takes the visitor over to the tree friend and allows the visitor to get to know the tree. 
-But there is a catch, trees are shy and you can’t look at them when you are getting to know them. So, that means the visitor must wear this vision mask during the whole time he or she is getting to know the tree friend. 

3. Review Process: So we will start here (demonstrate with a volunteer), the visitor puts on the vision mask and the leader takes the visitor to a new tree friend. The visitor gets to know the tree, then the leader leads the visitor back here, and the visitor takes off the vision mask. Then the challenge is for the visitor, using your eyes, to go back and find your new friend. After you have done this, you will switch roles and the leader will become the visitor and the visitor will become the leader. Also, to make it tougher, the leader can spin the visitor around at the start and the end so that it is harder for them to know where they are headed to meet their tree friend. 

4. Important Expectations: Two things are very important about getting to know a tree [Cover these next two points in a serious tone]: 

-When you meet your tree friend, you have to get to know your friend very well – without using your eyes. You want to feel its shape, the touch of the bark, how many branches there are. You might want to rub it with your cheek, give it a hug to know how big it is (include your own ideas). Get to know it really well. [While you are saying these things, demonstrate with a nearby tree] 
-Second, the leaders have to be very careful when they are leading the visitor. You have to hold the person carefully and lead them like this [demonstrate with one of the children—hold the visitor at the shoulders or side, do not pull the visitor using their arms]. Lead the visitor slowly and carefully and tell the visitor if the footing is bad. If I see that any leader is not being careful, the leader will lose the chance to continue and will have to sit over here. Everyone will get the chance to be the visitor so you all will realize how important it is for the leader to be careful. 

5. Do Activity: Start the activity and supervise to make sure everyone is being careful. If a given pair is too slow or fast, talk with them to help everyone finish at near the same time. 

6. Final Sharing About Friend: When everyone is done, have everyone sit in a circle. Go around and have each person share one thing they really liked about their new friend. Each person has to come up with something different. 

Early Childhood Adaptation: We do not recommend using vision blockers with this age group. It works without the vision-blockers just fine. 

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