Native Plants

An Outdoor Scavenger Hunt is a lesson plan created by 2000 HOST Teacher Glenda Pepin.  


The major objective of this activity is for the children to recognize various California native species by their physical appearances and characteristics. Other objectives include recognizing the adaptations that plants make to their surroundings, the interactions between plants and animals within a habitat, the particular growing conditions that certain species require, and how humans make use of plants.
This lesson plan includes a materials for download for each plant.  Click here to download.


This activity was developed to serve a dual purpose. The first was to teach proper identification of native species, so that the children are familiar with the physical appearance of the plant, its name, and could recognize the plant at a later time and another place. They would be building their own “collections” as their knowledge increased.

The second purpose was to go beyond physical appearance and recognize the types of plants that could successfully grow together in a particular habitat, the growing conditions that those plant need, and what they could supply to other animals and humans.

The reasoning behind learning the growing conditions, physical appearance, interactions and attractions is that children would then have enough information and knowledge to create native species gardens on campus. Garden types could be: a butterfly garden, a native use garden, a particular habitat garden, etc.


This activity requires an outdoor setting.  Suggested locales would be a reserve setting, a park setting, or any area with a large diversity of plants.

TIME REQUIRED: The scavenger hunt could be completed successfully in as little as 45 -60 minutes. It could also be extended to allow time to identify all the native plant species in the area. The activity could also be spaced out over a period of several days if so desired.

Teacher Set Up

  1. Take the 3 sets of cards (clue cards, information cards, and plant cards), hand lenses, spray water bottles, self adhesive labels, and marker with you to the selected location.
  2. Find a central area (preferably with a picnic table) to use as a meeting place. You, the plant cards, labels and marker stay here.
  3. Match up a clue card and information card for each native plant.
  4. Establish the boundaries for the hunt.

Scavenger Procedure

  1. Upon reaching the designated area ask the students what a plant needs to survive. Also talk briefly/ brainstorm about how plants can adapt to a particular environment to insure their survival and protect themselves from predators and/or natural events.
  2. Explain that the goal is to identify as many plants as they can in the allotted time.
  3. Explain the 


  • Stay within the boundaries
  • DON’T pick any plants!!

Divide the Students Into Pairs.

Explain and demonstrate the procedure without the students moving!

READ the clues from a CLUE CARD; have the students look around and try to locate the plant without moving from where they are standing.

SHOW the students the INFORMATION CARD. Explain that each member of the team needs to learn the information on the card.

SHOW the students the PLANT CARD that matches the plant you were trying to find.


  1. Each team of students will receive a pair of cards.
  2. They are to go search for the plant described on the cards.
  3. Once they find the plant, they return to the picnic table and find the picture that matches the plant they found.
  4. All 3 cards are then taken to the teacher to see if they have correctly identified the plant.
  5. The teacher will verify the plant ID and quiz the students about the plant.
  6. If they have correctly identified the plant they will receive a label with the name of the plant on it and be given another set of cards.
  7. If the students are wrong, they try again to ID the same plant with some suggestions from the teacher.
  8. KEEP identifying plants until time runs out!


  1. During the scavenger hunt, quiz each team member for about the plant they found. Questions can come from the INFORMATION CARD
  2. as well as general questions about location, distribution, abundance and adaptations.
  3. After the hunt is finished, have everybody group around the teacher in a half circle. Ask the students to share their favorite plant, least favorite plant, favorite/least favorite adaptations, etc.
  4. Ask the students if their perceptions about plants and their importance have changed.

Teacher Materials

Set of CLUE CARDSset of INFORMATION CARDSset of PRESSED PLANT / PICTURE CARDS self adhesive labelsmarkerhand lensesspray water bottles

Download Clue Cards, Information Cards and Picture Cards.

These cards could be made individually for the plants in your particular area if the pre-made ones aren’t sufficient.  To do so, take pressed plant samples or colored Xeroxes of plants and 35 mm plant photos and attach them to 8.5 x 11 inch white sketch paper with rubber cement.  Cover with clear contact paper and create Clue Cards and Information Cards for each species.


All information used in creating the information and clue cards can be found on the bibliography.