Exploring the Forest at Night

One of the great joys of Halloween time, besides the candy, is the spooky, dark and eerie  theme of the holiday. And what better location to represent this theme than a cool, foggy redwood forest at night. The tall trees, the profound silence and the chilly fog dampening the back of your neck… it is easy to understand how this experience could elicit fear, especially in a child.

Photo by: satosphere, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by satosphere, Flickr Creative Commons

Darkness in general can be a scary thing, particularly in an unfamiliar location like a forest. For this reason I love taking children out into the forest at night. It is a great way to teach them to use their senses, educate them on how the forest comes to life after dark, and help conquer their fear of the darkness. While exploring a forest at night, the first thing to do is to allow your eyes to adjust to the available natural light. This can be difficult in a redwood forest, but consider doing your nighttime exploring during a full moon to ensure that some light is available. Once you turn your flashlights off, it is amazing how quickly your eyes adjust to the darkness and how much you can still see.

Nighttime hikes are a great way to teach children about nocturnal animals and the senses they use to navigate through the forest. One game I like to play is “Bat and Moth,” which is similar to Marco Polo.  During this game you can talk about how bats use echolocation to find their food. Have one person be the bat, blindfold them and have them stand in the middle of a circle. Have two or three moths circle around the bat. The moths will yell out, “moth,” and the bat tries to hear where they are and tag them. Once a moth has been tagged, they step out of the game. Repeat the game as many times as you like with different people being the bat and moths.

The more time you spend in a forest at night, the less scary it becomes and the more one learns to rely on senses other than sight to navigate. Nighttime becomes a fun and educational experience rather than a frightening one.

About the author

Deborah joined the League's staff in 2013 as the Education & Interpretation Manager. She brings with her extensive experience teaching science, developing curriculum and connecting kids to the natural world.

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