Leading a Nature Hike
Don't be afraid to say "I don't know" to the boys. After all, none of us has all the answers. You will command more respect in the eyes of the boys if you admit it. However as a leader you have the duty to find the answer. Therefore you should say "I don't know but I will find out and let you know".
As you start the hike have one of the boys pick up two small sticks, each about 1 foot in length. Push the first stick in the ground. Locate the end of the shadow cast by that stick and place the other stick in the ground at the end of the shadow. Ask the boys if they think the shadow will be in a different position at the end of your hike. If they think the shadow will move, ask them which way. At the end of the hike stop back and check the sticks.
Remind boys to be as quiet as possible since animals are easily frightened and can hear sounds from long distances. During the hike if you wish to take a rest break, have the boys sit in an open area and ask them to be quiet for about 15 minutes. At the end of the time, ask them what sounds they heard.
The use of all five senses should be emphasized. It is not enough to merely look and listen..but they should taste, feel and smell, too. A frog and toad look pretty much alike, but how do they feel? The frog has a smooth skin and the toad has a rough skin. Crumble a handful of dry sycamore leaves and you'll find they smell like cinnamon. Let them feel the velvet softness of the fuzzy branches of the staghorn sumac. Even if the boys don't remember the name of this shrub the next time they see it, chances are they'll remember how it feels. That is more important. Take care in what the boys taste. Some berries are poisonous - others are edible.
After a cool night, look for spiders in the warming sun rays. Often they are found on goldenrods at the edge of the woods or in the field. Take a strand of web between your fingers and show how the spider will go up and down the web strand like a yo-yo. If a breeze comes along, the spider might 'fly'. Actually, this is known as ballooning. Often the wind will carry a spider and his web strand several hundred feet into the atmosphere.
Try a night hike in the woods. Have the boys identify objects in the dark. What can they tell about it? Is the tree's bark smooth or rough? Is there any particular odor connected with it? Get to know plants and trees without the use of your eyes.
At the end of the hike, get each boy to describe what he liked the most. You'll find they usually remember the simple things. Don't worry about your knowledge. Get out in the fascinating world of nature and enjoy it with your boys.