Go on a Biodiversity Expedition

This activity is designed to be used in part or as a whole and is adaptable for classroom or informal educational settings.

By Julie Brown, National Geographic Project Manager

© Crazy80frog/Dreamstime
Photograph © Crazy80frog/Dreamstime

Laptops are closed, the car is packed, and you’re headed to where your kids can run wild and free. Here’s a new way to keep them busy and curious along the way and while you’re on vacation.

The Great Nature Project team has created a set of ideas for your vacation with a plant and animal scavenger hunt, biodiversity themed car games, and ways to talk about nature with the young explorers in your life. This could be the trip that sparks a lifetime of curiosity about the world around them.

Download this mission to get started!

Your Great Nature vacation mission starts here!

Road Trip Approved

I recently tested this with my own family on a road trip from Washington, DC, to northern New England. Armed with old cell phones and briefed on their mission, my kids went over their scavenger hunt list and explored our city lawn while I loaded the car. Each of them took 20 or so pictures and had a blast. We identified what we could while uploading them to the Great Nature Project through the iNaturalist app where other people will help identify what we couldn’t.

During the first hour of our drive we talked about urban wildlife and about how to take a good picture. They then retreated to the usual road trip activities of movie watching and snacking. When we took a break in the middle of Pennsylvania, the kids each found ten more things to photograph in a weedy gas station parking lot. When we returned to the car we played  20 Questions using our earlier observations as subjects. I was Queen Anne’s Lace, my son was an American Robin and my daughter was the trickiest organism… clover. “In Grandmother’s Trunk I Packed” led to an interesting conversation about the xylem of a plant and zonkeys. The best part about these games was how much we each had to think about the questions to ask to help us guess each other’s discoveries.

When we reached our destination there was a whole new habitat to explore. My son took some great pictures of mallards by the lake. Out on walks, my daughter was quick to point out mushrooms saying, “we have to take a picture for the Great Nature Project!” She loves that she is contributing to science – she is only 6, yet feels empowered. Even without completing our scavenger hunt (yet), I call this experience a success.

Photo by Julie Brown
Photo by Julie Brown

As a teacher and a parent, I am determined to share my passion for exploration and respect for all living things with my children. My parents gave me the space to be independent, explore, and ask questions and I’m sure this freedom to get dirty and look at the little things helped shape me into the environmentally conscious adult I am today. I wrote this mission for like-minded families looking to instill these values and a sense of curiosity in their children.

See how this mission can expand your view of biodiversity. Upload what you find, and take a look at what others have discovered on the Great Nature Project photostream.

If you have stories or experiences from our learning missions that you would like to share please email us at greatnatureproject@ngs.org or comment to this post. I hope you can get outside soon and explore. Remember to see it, snap it, share it, and identify it!

The Great Nature Project

National Geographic’s Great Nature Project encourages you to explore nature directly by sharing your own photos of biodiversity from anywhere in the world. The Great Nature Project site is powered by iNaturalist to help crowd-source species identifications and share the information with scientists.

Julie Brown is a conservation biologist, certified teacher, and project manager at National Geographic Society. Julie’s work can be found throughout our collection of educational media and curriculum for classroom use, and she has frequently facilitated our online and in-person professional development opportunities.

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