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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Go on a YouthShaped nature walk

Head out on a nature walk and let the world around us make you feel inspired.

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You’ll need

  • Camera or phone
  • Sticky tape
  • Magnifying glasses (optional)
  • Insect jars (optional)
  • Paper (optional)
  • Crayons or pencils (optional)
  • Binoculars (optional)
  • A guide to identify birds, insects, flowers, trees, mushrooms and so on. (optional)
  • Small mirrors – they can be great for exploring things from different angles (optional)

Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here.  Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers.

Contribution to the YouShape Award

This activity may contribute towards the ‘Central’ section of the YouShape Award, depending on the Scouts section you’re in. If this session completes the requirement for an individual or a group, you may want to hand the ‘Central’ badge out at the end of the session.

Setting up this activity

·       Choose an appropriate outdoor area such as outside your meeting place, a nature reserve, woodland area, riverside, canal, or park. If you’re going to meet at a location other than at your usual meeting place, make sure parents and carers know exactly where you’ll be, what people may need to bring, the day, the location, and what time to drop off and collect everyone. 

·       Make sure everyone knows to come dressed for the weather. Don’t forget to check the forecast and be prepared for it to change. 

·       It’s important to check the sunset times, making sure that you’ll have sufficient light throughout the activity. It’s best to run this activity on lighter evenings, such as in summer.

·       Remember to have suitable supervision, an InTouch process in place and activity consent forms. It’s important to make sure that anyone with medication, including an inhaler, brings it with them and gives it to a volunteer, too.

·       Make sure the area you visit is accessible for everyone, choosing a suitable place for drop off and collection. You may need to think about avoiding steps or steep gradients or including frequent breaks.

·       Make sure that all the plants, fauna and flora being touched are safe for young people. Remind everyone not to put what they find in their mouths, noses or ears. Never eat any berries you find. Ask everyone to avoid touching their mouths with their hands or licking their hands during this activity.

·       Make sure equipment and materials are age appropriate. Supervise the activity closely to make sure small objects are not put in mouths, ears and noses. Remind young people not to put anything in their mouth and wash hands regularly.

Introducing the space

1.     Everyone should head out to the outdoor space or meet at the chosen venue.

2.     Explain the boundaries of the walking area, or wider area if you’re letting people explore along the walk and tell everyone where the no-go zones are.

3.     If you’re walking along roads or footpaths, rather than in a woodland or park, give everyone a road safety briefing. You may want to remind everyone of the countryside code.

4.     Remind people to be calm, quiet and respectful, so you don’t disturb wildlife or other people. Avoid picking any flowers or plants, and only pick up nature objects. They should handle wildlife gently, put things back where they were found to make sure wildlife isn’t harmed, and take litter home. Remind everyone to never put anything in their mouths, never eat anything, and avoid touching their mouths or licking their hands during this activity.

5.     Tell everyone where adults will be walking in the group and what people should do if anyone needs help. Explain the signal to stop and how long the activity will go on for. A long blast on a whistle works well as a signal to stop the activity.

6.     Remember to take regular headcounts and have adults supervising young people at regular intervals throughout the group, including at the front and back. If you’re walking in a public space, young people should be paired up, so no young person is left alone, and they should run or move together.

Run the activity

  1. Gather everyone together at the start of the walk. Give a safety briefing and let everyone know where you’re going on your walk. Remember, a nature ‘walk’ doesn’t have to mean a long walk through the woods. It could also involve going to a set area outside and exploring there.
  2. Explain that you want people to use all their senses to look at nature, making sure to remember what they like and what their favourite things are on the walk. Everyone might want to wear gloves to touch the items and keep their hands clean or avoid certain textures.
  3. If you’re using any equipment, hand it out and suggest ideas for what they could use it for. Explain how to safely use equipment and set clear boundaries so everyone knows what’s allowed. For example, paper, pencils and crayons could be used to make tree rubbings, draw things they see, or you could add things to the paper, such as mud, blackberries or grass, possibly using sticky tape.
  4. If young people are unsure of what to do, at the first stop adults or young leaders could join in with a magnifying glass to investigate something in the surroundings, so people feel more confident of what they’re expected to do.
  5. An adult should lead the walk, letting the young people set the pace for the walk. If some people are drawn to somewhere or something, let them stay and explore. You could have regular stops. Others could then carry on if there are enough responsible adults with the group to follow the Yellow Card and young people to adult ratios.
  6. Remind everyone to have regular check in with all their senses while on the walk. What can they see, smell, touch and hear? You could then ask prompts or ask young people to discuss and explore the different senses further.
  7. You could take photos of the things which young people notice or enjoy looking at. You can invite them to capture this themselves if they’d prefer to.
  8. Everyone must wash their hands after the activity has finished.
  9. When you’re finished, make some time to reflect and discuss what you saw, as this might influence your themes for YouShape. It’s a chance for everyone to share their experience of the walk and explore it further.
  10. Take time to expand on what people found. If they heard a bird singing, you could all try to recreate the sound, imagine how the bird flies or think about where the bird lives throughout the year - does it stay here for the winter or fly away, and where does it go? For the YouShape theme, the person or group could then explore migration or try birdwatching. Remember, different individuals, pairs or groups could set different themes, rather than having a whole section theme.
  11. Everyone should be curious about what each other discovered or found. You could invite people’s questions to deepen into their ideas. Ask each person about what they found, what they liked about it, what they want to know more about, what inspired them. Listen and note down what everyone says. Based on how the nature they found inspires everyone, talk about what you might like to continue exploring for the Squirrels YouShape Award.
  12. Ask everyone to think about or write down what their theme for YouShape is. It could be based on what they’ve made. People could create a theme individually or together, in pairs, in small groups or as a whole section. This can be useful, especially if people have similar themes or ideas.
  13. You may want to save the natural objects you’ve picked up in this activity to use for some more YouShaped activities, such as Bits and Bobs.


This activity was all about exploration, discovery and using our senses. What did you find? What did you see or hear? What did you feel or touch? Was there anything unusual or unexpected? What were your favourite things?

We used different things, such as magnifying glasses, to explore the area. Did you see or hear anything in a different way? Did you see something in a different way to someone else or think differently about what it might be?

Look or think about something you’ve found. Can you think about a question you might have about that thing, such as where it lives?

Let’s be creative. Look or think about something else you’ve found. Can you think about how it could be something else? For example, a mushroom could be an umbrella for ants.

This activity was all about being inspired. Think about your favourite discovery. Why did you choose that as your favourite? Is it something you want to know more about or enjoy doing? Looking at what you’ve found, seen, heard or discovered, can you think about one thing you want to learn about, have a go at or know more about? What would you like to do or learn at Scouts?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Outdoor activities

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast, and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.

Visits away from your meeting place

Complete a thorough risk assessment and include hazards, such as roads, woodland, plants, animals, and bodies of water (for example, rivers, ponds, lakes, and seas). You’ll probably need more adult helpers than usual. Your risk assessment should include how many adults you need. The young people to adult ratios are a minimum requirement. When you do your risk assessment, you might decide that you need more adults than the ratio specifies. Think about extra equipment that you may need to take with you, such as high visibility clothing, a first aid kit, water, and waterproofs. Throughout the activity, watch out for changes in the weather and do regular headcounts. 

Road safety

Manage groups carefully when near or on roads. Consider adult supervision and additional equipment (such as lights and high visibility clothing) in your risk assessment.

If you wanted to go somewhere further away from your local area and/or for a longer nature walk, you could have a special weekend session.

·       If you can’t get outside, bring nature inside by gathering different objects and setting up magnifying glasses, mirrors and identifying books and have the people explore nature this way. Make sure that all the plants being touched are safe for children.

·       Choose an area that’s suitable for all members of your group. You could visit the area before the session and remove any large or obvious obstacles.

·       Make sure your route’s accessible for everyone. You may need to think about avoiding steps or steep gradients or including frequent breaks. Areas with well-maintained footpaths or purpose-built roads may be more accessible than wild land.

·       Make sure that anyone with medication, including an inhaler, brings it with them and gives it to a volunteer

·       This activity may involve touching certain textures or items or involve getting messy. People should only do this if they’re comfortable too. People could wear plastic gloves if they don’t like the feeling of a certain material on their hands. They could also work in a pair, so someone else could do that part of the task and explain what it feels like to their friend.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

For your next session, create activities based on what came out of your group discussion. If they were really fascinated by bugs, you might make a bug house to keep near your meeting place and talk about what bugs they would like to visit there. You might also go on another nature walk, then another, and notice how the landscape changes by day, week, month and season. You can return to the nature walks throughout the term/year to continue building on their understanding of environment and change.

Make sure you pay attention and note down the ideas the young people have generated. You can ask them questions about what they've made, experienced and shared. You might choose to do this individually towards the end of the walk or during a closing circle time. What emerges is your starting point for the direction that the YouShape Award will take at your group.