Explorer Days

What is a Nature Mentor and what do they do?

  • Simply mentors are people who have something to teach.  They have a specific expertise, skill or have new information to impart.
  • Mentors also have to be able to disseminate that expertise or information in an interesting and engaging way to children (aged 5-12).

So what makes a good Explorer Day?

  • Explorer Days are fun.  They do usually involve an educational component, but the idea is to allow kids to explore and play and discover the natural world in an active and hands-on manner.
  • The best Explorer Days are a magic combination of imparting knowledge and allowing kids to explore and come to knowledge on their own.  There is downtime and playtime.  And the best mentors are able to facilitate the interaction of parents with their kids, kids with other kids, and kids and their environment.
  • Be sure to engage your audience, not always “telling” them, but rather getting them to think about the topic at hand and allowing them to come to their own conclusions or make their own observations.
  • Your presentation should be a mix of talking/demonstrating and physical activities that are as hands-on as much as possible. Bring props or find ways to visualize what you are teaching; incorporate activities; lead games, etc.
  • A successful day may not always be about learning something new or about nature interpretation, it can just be about the activity.
  • Here are some characteristics and needs of 5-12 year olds that can help with planning age appropriate sessions.

Suggestions for how to organize and Explorer Day:

  • they should involve some kind of physical aspect, it can be as simple as going for a walk in the forest, or using nets in ponds.  And Explorer Days should be outside as much as possible.
  • It is a great idea to start the event off with a physical activity, like a game or simply letting kids run around.  This focuses their energy and then you can move onto the more “formal” part of the event.
  • Attention spans are limited, and so is the ability to take in knowledge constantly.  Be sure to balance the event with playing, running and unstructured time.
  • There is no need to be able to identify a species down to their scientific names.  Don’t get too technical.  NatureKids is about giving kids skills and tools with which to interpret their natural world.  For example, ask questions that focus observational skills or get kids to experience new environments using their senses; this is enough.  Build skills, not species IDs.

What does an Explorer Day look like and what are my responsibilities?

  • Events are usually about 1.5-2 hours in length.
  • NatureKids clubs have kids aged 5-12, but each club will have a slightly different make-up, so talk to the local club leader about the age range in their specific club and how best to tailor your presentation.
  • Group size ranges from about 5-15 families depending on the size of the club. Events can be capped, so talk to the local club leader if you want to limit the group size for a specific event.
  • The club leader will look after the planning and logistics of the event. Your role as mentor is to be present on the day of the event to share your expertise. Preparation is left very much up to you.
  • Events usually run rain or shine, and club members know to dress appropriately for the weather conditions.

Sample events:

  • making nets and discovering pond life
  • snowshoeing and animal tracking
  • beach walk with tidal pool interpretation
  • star gazing with telescopes
  • fossil dig
  • discovery of medicinal and edible native plants
  • forest walk and bird identification