Here, I am going to give you some ideas for teaching the principles of Leave No Trace (LNT), the outdoor ethics programme, to children. I’ll go through the seven principles one by one. If part of your event is indoors, then try to use photos to illustrate points, preferably in a slide show. Even outdoors, a laptop may be used, weather permitting.
Running an event like this requires more than one supervising adult.
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
Take photos of various items, from a woolly hat to a pair of shorts. Print the photos off, maybe three per A4 page and then laminate the pages. Cut the laminated page into the three parts, each part with a photo. You might make a total of some 30 photos.
The photos should be a mix of sensible and less sensible items for being active outdoors. Examples : matches, lighter, novel, map, sandals, hiking boots, banana, water melon, etc.
Spread the photos on the ground, or the floor if you are indoors. Ask the children to choose, say, 10 items only from the 30, that they would bring with them when on a camping trip or scouts outing. Discuss what should be brought and what not.
2. Be Considerate of Others
Ask the children to form groups of, say, 5. Then ask them who they should be considerate of, when outdoors. Have each group give you just one example, so the following groups can participate. Hear them reply with farmers, group leaders, each other, other walkers, other campers, themselves, bus driver, etc.
3. Respect Farm Animals and Wildlife
Depending on the age of the children, have some pretend they are an animal of their choice – one that is found in their area. Some will choose to be a sheep, others a fox, cow, bear, whatever.
Then have the others pretend to be adult humans (not children). Tell them to begin to do things that are not nice to the animals. Watch as they scare the animals, shoot the animals, shout at the animals, etc. Then discuss.
4. Travel and Camp on Durable Ground
If you are outdoors and have some mucky ground available to you, all the better. Split the children into groups of, say, 5. Choose one group and place them so that the muddy area is situated between them and where you think they might choose to hide (e.g. trees, a building or a hilly area). Ask that group where they would go if they wanted to hide and how they would get there. Watch them go and wait for them to be hidden. Then choose another group and ask them to go find the original group.
Call both groups back and discuss, with all children, any tracks they have left behind and the paths they should have chosen.
5. Leave What you Find
Take a re-usable hard plastic container that can hold enough niceties (chocolate bars, Actimels, sweets in wrappers, etc.) for around 80% of the children you have. All items should not be the same – try to have at least three different types of goodies – and all should have some kind of wrapper or packaging.
Place the container outside the view of the children (behind a tree, for example) and split them into groups of, say, 5. One group at a time is sent to pick one item each out of the container and keep it and move to a second location. By the time the last 20% of children get to the container, it will be empty. They will get nothing.
Discuss this idea of taking things from nature (e.g. flowers) and how it would mean there would be nothing left for future visitors. Always have a nice thing in reserve for the children who got nothing during the exercise. Allow the children to eat or drink whatever they got from the container.
6. Dispose of Waste Properly
Following the exercise above, retire to a different point and gather all the children together. Then select 4 or 5 of the best behaved children (you will certainly have identified them by now !). Ask them to return to the point where people consumed their food and collect any litter left behind. Discuss.
7. Minimise the Effects of Fire
Use a fire blanket of at least 1 m x 1 m in size. Split the children into groups of, say, 5. Ask some groups to gather whatever stony materials they can find that would help to build a mound of tiny stones, gravel, river bank sand, etc. If there is an upturned tree nearby, the stony sandy material from the root system underneath is also perfect. Ask other groups to gather very small sticks – but not to break any off living trees. Ask other groups to collect slightly larger sticks, again not from living trees.
Build a volcano-like mound on top of the fire blanket, using the stones and sandy materials. Then scoop out a crater in the middle, that is half as deep as the mound is high. The mound should be at least 15 cm high and the crater 6 to 8 cm deep. Place the small sticks across the top of the crater, with some dry grasses, if available. The pocket of air below those small sticks (in the mouth of the crater) will allow you to start the fire. Then begin to place the larger sticks across on top.
I am a registered trainer of Leave No Trace in Ireland. I strive to follow the principles of LNT each time I bring groups on guided walking holidays in Mayo. Contact me if you would like me to run a LNT Awareness session for your group.