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Outdoor Education

mother and father and daughter walking through a field at sunset

During our time of social distancing, spending some time outdoors in the fresh air is needed now more than ever. As the weather begins to warm, it’s a great time to take advantage of the wild and wonderful outdoor education opportunities West Virginia has to offer.

Visit a state park

No better time than now to consider visiting one of West Virginia’s state parks. Whether it’s for walking, biking, fishing, hiking or geocaching, visiting a state park is a great way for families and kids to get out and about while still being able to maintain social distancing and adhere to other COVID-19 precautionary guidelines. However, before making plans to visit a park, be sure to reach out for the park’s hours and any additional restrictions that may have been temporarily implemented.

Set up a sensory obstacle course

Consider setting up a sensory obstacle course outside in your own yard, in your neighborhood or even at a state park. Sensory obstacle courses consist of a sequence of activities that help to develop gross motor skills, such as balance, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness, while also providing sensory stimulation. The courses can be used to build teamwork, improve the ability to follow directions and most importantly, a chance for children to release some of their pent-up energy.

Follow the steps below to set up a course:

  1. Make a list of sensory activities you want to include in your obstacle course. Examples include hopping on one foot, bunny hops, crab walks, bear walks, side stepping, walking backwards, etc. You also can have “stop” obstacles where the participant must stop at that spot and repeat a set number of the exercises, such as squats, sit-ups, push-ups or other activities.
  2. Plan your distance and obstacle trail. If the obstacle course is being set up outside, try to incorporate as much of the natural environment as possible. For example, have the participants walking in circles around trees, limbo under tree limbs, walk backwards up hills—have fun with it!
  3. Come up with creative ways to get from obstacle to obstacle. This is a great time to use your crab walks, bear walks and hopping.
  4. If it starts to rain, take it inside! House plants can be your trees, broom handles can be your limbs and steps can be your hills.
  5. Have fun! Sensory obstacle courses are great for everyone—not just kids. So, participate with them, have a laugh and take a breather.

Remember to keep social distancing guidelines in mind!

Plan a nature scavenger hunt

With several states now under a stay-at-home order, another way to get your family outdoors is to plan a nature scavenger hunt. Make a list of items that easily can be found in your own backyard—specific tree leaves, certain color flowers, pebbles, twigs, etc. Then, send your children out to collect those items but make sure to remind them to stay close to home. Try starting with WVU Extension Service’s Neighborhood Nature Scavenger Hunt.