Your Outdoor Education Daypack: Must-Have Items for Kids and Teachers

You’ve gotten the green light from administrators and parents, you’ve planned your first lesson, and you’ve chosen a fabulous home base nestled amongst the trees in your local park. You’re all set for your first forest lesson, right? Not so fast! A well-stocked daypack is crucial for success. Here’s your must-have packing list for kids and teachers.

Kids

  • Reusable water bottle- Running around in nature, especially on a warm day, leaves kids parched and craving water. Hydration is key to maintaining energy levels and happy moods for everyone. Be sure to fill before you go, as your forest site may not have a potable water source. 
  • A hearty lunch is key to a successful day in nature.

    Food – Even if you’re only planning to be out for an hour, it’s always a good idea to have some high-protein snacks available. Fox-walking and searching for animal tracks have been known to lead to ravenous appetites. Extra points if kids can pack a waste-free lunch (but at the very least make sure they pack out any trash or food scraps)! 

  • Sun protection- Yes, they will complain about wearing hats, but if you make it the norm for everyone, it becomes less of a big deal. Hats offer unbeatable sun and rain protection. Additionally, at a minimum kids should always slather on SPF 30 or higher on their faces, necks, and any other exposed body parts before you head out to the forest. If you’ll be out for more than a couple hours, consider adding a “reapply break” to your routine. 
  • Journal and pencil- Some forest lessons require kids to have a place to record their findings, but even if the lesson doesn’t necessitate writing, it’s always great to give kids the option of journaling when they’re in nature. Having a pencil handy avoids the need for kids to write with mud (which is actually a great activity if that’s what you’re going for). 
  • Change of clothes– You never know what kind of conditions you will find in the forest, and it’s helpful to have a fresh pair of pants or dry socks at the ready if needed. Some kids won’t mind getting muddy and dirty (in fact, many will seek this out), but for those who find it intolerable, you can extend their enjoyment of the forest by giving them the option to change. 

Teachers 

  • First Aid Kit – The vast majority of medical issues you will encounter at forest school can be resolved with a simple bandage. Just in case, though, make sure you always have at least one fully-stocked First Aid Kit at the ready, including rubber gloves, bandages of various sizes, antiseptic wipes, anti-itch cream, gauze, and scissors. I like this hard-shelled kit for its durability.  
  • Student medications– Always bring any medications your students might need, including EpiPens and inhalers. If you’ll be splitting up into small groups, be sure to give the medications to the adult who is with the student who needs the meds. 
  • Class set of emergency forms– Just in case you need to contact anybody’s parents or seek emergency medical attention for them, it’s good to have these on hand.
  • Charged cell phone– Put the local emergency number on speed dial, as well as your school’s main office number. Even if you don’t get cell reception where you’re going, most cell phones can still call 911. 
  • I never leave home without my hat and trusty water bottle.

    Reusable water bottle– Adults get dehydrated too! Pro-tip: bringing the bottle is not enough. Remember to take a swig every 20 minutes or so to stay at your best for your kiddos! 

  • Food– Ditto what I said about water. You are useless to your students if you are not well-nourished. 
  • Extra pencils- We all know that a good 20% of kids will mysteriously lose their pencil between the time you leave school and the time you arrive at the forest. Best to be prepared. 
  • Sun Protection– Lead by example! Research shows that kids are 635% more likely to wear their own sun protection if they see a trusted adult wearing theirs (OK, I made that last part up, but trust me, kids are copy cats!). 

 

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