This activity is an interesting way in getting children to think about their surroundings and empathise with the natural world around them. It is a two-step process and is best served on a picnic or camping / hiking trip. An adult needs to be the facilitator to ensure healthy discussion and participation from all members of the group.
Have the children walk around the campsite (or any open space with a lot of nature) and ask them to pay attention to all the various elements that make up the world around them. Instruct them to think of an animal, plant or physical aspect of nature (river, hill, etc). This does not have to be in their immediate surroundings but let them know that they can be anything of their choosing, just urge them to be inspired by what they see.
After about 15 minutes or so get them to gather around in a circle and distribute the card-stock to each child. Instruct them to draw the animal, plant or physical nature-object they have in mind and help them make masks based on it. Tell them that this will be their ‘nature-ally’. It should take no more than an hour and a half for the children to make their masks. Encourage them to incorporate natural materials on their masks as well.
Once this is done, you are ready to call your council to session. Be creative when welcoming the different beings to council by making up a story behind how everyone came to be sitting in this circle. In this welcome, give the council a solid overview of the scenario which could be something as simple as a natural disaster to a complex idea such as deforestation. Make sure it suits the needs of the group. How you do this is crucial because it sets the tone for how the children will engage in role-playing. You want the council to focus on a non-human experience and you can do this by suggesting ways in which humans can stop harming ‘us’ or knowledge we can pass on to ‘them’.
When you feel like it’s time to wrap up, help the characters transition back into human form and go over major talking points from their non-human experience. A good way to end the entire activity is a ‘ritual burning’ of the masks. Build a small fire and have the children throw their masks into it one by one, thanking their nature-ally for the experience. Explain to them that by doing this they are releasing their nature ally back into the world
- Card-stock the size of a face equaling the number of children doing the activity (you will make masks out of these)
- Tape and/or glue
- Thread or elastic
- Colour pencils/ crayons/ sketch pens
We have a huge collection of other Nature activities for kids that you can check out here.