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Camping Curriculum: Turning the Wilderness Into a Classroom

Family Camping

Camping is a great way to unwind, spend more time in nature, and bond with your family. But, for kids interested in the great outdoors or those that tend to do better with hands-on learning, camping can also be an incredible learning experience for your children.

It’s about so much more than pitching a tent and starting a fire — though, both of those activities can be lessons, by themselves. When you look at camping from an educational perspective, you can teach kids about things like ecosystems, wildlife, and sustainable living practices. As an added bonus, it gives them the opportunity to disconnect from electronics for a few days.

Whether you’re a frequent family camper or you’ve always wanted to plan an outdoor getaway with your kids, exploring ways to use your camping trip as an educational opportunity will make the experience more memorable for all of you. It’s a natural way to teach them life lessons, how to live more sustainably, and to make the science of nature more fun and interesting.

An Appreciation for the Earth

As adults, it’s our responsibility to educate the next generation on how to protect and preserve the planet. Sustainability isn’t just a trend. It’s becoming a more common way of life as more people understand the impact of things like climate change and waste production.

A camping trip is a great way to foster an appreciation for nature while teaching your children about sustainability and green living. Make your camping trip more eco-friendly by purchasing organic food, avoiding single-use plastic, and opting for natural body products. You can even make your traveling experience more sustainable by:

  • Packing lightly

  • Recycling and reusing as many items as possible

  • Carefully plotting out your route

  • Avoiding idling

  • Keeping your vehicle well-maintained

While camping, educate your child on principles like “leave no trace,” in which you make sure you leave your campsite the same way you found it. It’s also a great opportunity to teach them about things like water conservation and respecting wildlife and biodiversity. As a bonus, camping serves as an incentive to get moving. It can help you and your kids stay active, whether you choose to go hiking or kayaking. The more wilderness you can explore, the more opportunities you have to immerse your kids in the world they’ll need to preserve.

Important Life Lessons

In addition to teaching your kids about sustainability, there are plenty of useful life lessons that can be taught while camping. It’s a fantastic opportunity to teach your kids skills that might not always be fostered in a traditional classroom setting.

First, it teaches them the importance of taking a break from screens. There’s no question that today’s kids have grown up surrounded by technology, and no matter your policy on screen time, there’s a good chance you let your children play on a phone or tablet at least some of the time.

But, too much screen time can impede children’s sleep. It can stunt their social skills, reduce their attention span, and could put them at risk of things like cyberbullying. A digital detox in nature is a great way to show your kids that they don’t need a tech device to have a great time. Spending time away from those devices can help them de-stress and connect with nature.

If your kids tend to like hands-on learning or experiencing real-life situations instead of reading something from a textbook, you have countless opportunities to educate them while camping. Life skills like fire safety, communication, teamwork, and independence can all be fostered while camping, from putting up a tent together to learning the characteristics of a great campsite.

Bringing Science to Life

Science is all around you when you’re camping. Almost anything can be turned into a lesson, from teaching your kids about local wildlife they might see in the woods, to how certain animals and insects benefit the planet.

This, of course, goes back to inspiring sustainable practices. The more your children know and understand the living world around them, the more likely they are to want to preserve it. So, consider talking to them about the importance of pollinators like bees and butterflies, or how to fish responsibly.

If you plan on doing any hiking while camping, take the opportunity to educate your children on different plant varieties — including which ones are helpful and which are harmful. Some plants are known for their medicinal properties, while others can be poisonous if ingested or even touched. Some of the most common poisonous plants include:

  • Poison ivy

  • Poison oak

  • Poison sumac

  • Poison hemlock

  • Giant hogweed

Make sure your children know the distinctive characteristics of these harmful plants so they can stay away if they see them on the trail.

These ideas barely scratch the surface when it comes to what you can teach your kids while on a camping trip. It’s one of the best ways to make learning more fun and very hands-on. It’s also great for providing real-world experience and teaching important life skills to those who hold the future in their hands. So, if you’ve been putting off a family camping trip for a while, now is the time to start planning and start educating!

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