Autumn scavenger hunt

At a friend's recent forest school birthday party, the small boy was challenged to do a scavenger hunt.  He quite enjoyed running round finding things in the mud, whilst chattering away about the things he was finding.  After my failed Autumn leaf craft attempt (following a lot of fun collecting the leaves), I thought maybe it'd be better to talk a bit more about Autumn whilst wading through muddy puddles and leaving the leaves where they'd fallen.  I came up with a list for a scavenger hunt in our nearest local bit of open space which would give lots of exercise and fresh air, a napping opportunity for the baby, and hopefully some conversations about science.

It worked really well, and we had an hour and a half of fun, until someone splashed a bit too much in muddy puddle number (approximately!) 100, got wet feet and then discovered he was really quite cold and hungry.  We went equipped with some paper, wax crayons, a laminated page with the challenges on (to save it being soggy and which we'll use again next year), a dry wipe pen to write on it, oats and a children's waterproof digital camera (which he's just getting into using properly).

Our challenges were:
1. Find a fallen oak leaf.  Take a photograph.
2. Make a wax crayon rubbing of some tree bark.
3. Take a photograph of some yellow leaves.  What type of tree are they from?
4. Find something that has feathers. What is it?  Take a photograph.
5. Splash in a muddy puddle! Take a photo of your Welly boots in the water.
6. Find a stone. Is it rough or smooth?
7. Find a footprint. Is it a human or an animal? Take a photograph of the footprint.
8. Find a bramble which had blackberries on it in Summer. What is happening to it now?
9. Look at the sky. Is it cloudy? Take a photograph.
10. Find a Holly plant. What do you notice about its leaves? Take a photograph.

Collection of scavenger hunt photos from his camera (hence the poor quality images)

It was easy to find an oak leaf (I'd picked oak for a reason as there are several in the park we went to), and he spotted it immediately.  We also did the crayon rubbing on the bark of the oak tree; last time I'd done this with him as a stand-alone activity he wasn't interested, but this time he got the hang of it, even if the paper did wobble a bit!  We talked briefly about how the bark protects the tree from damage.  The yellow leaves we found first were hawthorn, but there were plenty of others to choose from.

Bark rubbing

Next up was the feathered creature, and this is where the oats came in.  You're not meant to feed waterfowl bread, so we bribed them to come close enough to photograph with oats instead, and were met with a vast number of ducks, coots, swans and a lone robin in the tree next to the little lake.  Interestingly, there were no geese, when there are usually a large number, and we had a chat about why.  We discussed how some birds migrate to go and spend the Winter somewhere warmer, like a swallow in a book we've recently read ('Follow the Swallow' by Julia Donaldson).  I wasn't sure if Canada Geese migrate, and the RSBP suggests that they don't, but they had definitely gone somewhere...  Anyway, he clearly mulled on this as he wanted to see on his globe where the swallow migrated to when we'd been back home a few hours.

Oak tree bark rubbing

Splashing in a muddy puddle had already happened several times over before we got to this challenge, but he duly obliged again and took a photo of his boots.  He also had fun investigating the ripple pattern in the water of the bigger puddles when he stamped his foot, and saw the waves spreading outwards across the puddle.  Not a bit of science I'd thought we were going to discuss, but interesting and fun (if a little wet) nonetheless.

Three of his scavenger hunt photos, and one of him having fun running through puddles

Finding a stone was a very simple task, although the one he chose was an interesting shape, with lots of jagged edges which had been worn down so were actually smooth to touch.  He admired it briefly, insisted we bring it home, and then moved on to the next thing on the list which was finding a footprint.  Being very muddy, it was easy to find human footprints, but when we were overtaken by someone with a dog, he went to look at the dog's paw prints in the mud.  I'd hoped we might find a sign of something resident in the park, but we didn't notice any other footprints; I might try this one again in a slightly less well-trodden area.

His chosen stone

The brambles where we'd picked blackberries, before making jam, were turning yellow and red, and he told me they were dying.  I explained that they would grow back in the Spring, and we'd be able to pick blackberries again next year.  We then turned our attention to the sky, which was blue with a few clouds.  We had a chat about how puddles evaporate, and the water turns into water vapour which then condenses to form clouds when it gets colder, and then it rains.  He had remembered this later when we saw a small puddle and he told me it was going to get smaller in the sunshine, and also the next morning when he told me the water vapour had condensed on his bedroom window.

Our last challenge was to find a holly bush.  When I wrote the list, I knew where one was, but he ran out of energy and I thought going further was a bad idea, so we cheated a little here - there's one in front of our house.  He duly took a photo of this on the way back, and told me the red berries weren't edible.

We also found lots of things he showed an interest in that weren't on our list, including a ladybird and a prickly thistle. He was also fascinated by his shadow, and explored different shapes he could make, and showed me where the Sun was, which was a nice throwback to our sundial activity in the Summer.  Remarkably he didn't once ask to go to the playground, so I considered this to be a huge success as an activity and I'm planning to do a Winter version when it's colder.