How to Turn a National Forest Visit into a Lesson Plan

Chelsea Day and her children walking down a bath in the forest

Want to combine family RVing, homeschool and the best timberlands that our beautiful nation has to offer? Heck yeah, you do. Here’s how to take a woodsy jaunt into your nearest national forest and turn it into a meaningful lesson plan for your kids.

Navigate the National Forest System

National forests offer a wealth of opportunities in backwoods isolation to really immerse yourself in nature and explore together. You can find everything from totally free boondocking opportunities (yes, even with an RV!) to unparalleled cabin rental opportunities with views of glaciers, roaming bears and soaring eagles.

Head to the U.S. Forest Service website to explore opportunities near you. You can find free dispersed camping in primitive campsites without access to electric, water or sewer hookups. If you want a developed site, you can book reservations on We often have the best luck by simply calling up the rangers in the area we want to explore, and asking where they recommend we go. Rangers can also hook you up with the most up-to-date maps and information, such as alerting you to potentially washed-out or closed areas and recommending highlights in the region.

Explore Flora and Fauna...for Science, of Course

Now that you have a destination in mind, it’s time to learn all about it. The Forest Service and their partners offer a ton of educational resources. You can find helpful, family-friendly activity guides for kids of all ages at Project Learning Tree, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, and NEEF sites.

For upper elementary grades, Natural Inquirer’s Investi-gator series has downloadable booklets that teach kids about the scientific method through hands-on investigations of nature. For Pre-K through 2nd grade students, their Reader Series highlights individual USDA Forest Service scientists and includes fun coloring activities.

If your children have access to a smartphone, the Agents of Discovery mobile app guides them through scientific learning in a fun game of geo-challenges. Of course, we can’t forget good old Smokey Bear. His website has a ton of printable resources for all ages.

Look for Historical References

Many national forest locations have visitor centers that offer fascinating historical insights. They share the region’s geographical history as well as facts about interesting people who have contributed to forest preservation. You could even have kids do a research project about Theodore Roosevelt’s quest to create the US Forest Service.

Math is Magical

Albert Einstein once said that mathematics is “the poetry of logical ideas.” Math can easily be incorporated into forestry lessons. Project WET has a ton of activity booklets and downloadable PDF products that weave math into nature learning.

You can also lead a lesson by coming up with forest- and camping-related questions to work through together, such as: 

●      How many gallons of water rage through a waterfall each minute?

●      How many trees burn in our state every year?

●      S’mores math! An average bag contains 35 marshmallows. There are 9 graham crackers in a pack with 3 packs per box. There are 12 segments of chocolate per bar. How many boxes of graham crackers, bags of marshmallows and chocolate bars should we pack if we want 10 people to have 3 s’mores each?

A little Googling and group work can turn any camping trip into a fascinating, real-world mathematical activity.

Reflect in Writing

Now that you have enjoyed all the wonders of the forest, it’s time to journal about the experience. It’s a good idea for kids to keep a small composition notebook where they can record their incredible memories. You can give them prompts, have them turn their adventure into a story, or just let them free write.

Creating Lesson Plans

I like to organize my lesson plans in individual 3-ring folders when we travel. I print off any worksheets for the kids along with one for myself (with answers, if applicable) to work off of. I hand my kids their folders, tell them which page we’re working on first, and then guide them through our exploration activity. We tackle homeschool with a one-room approach, discussing ideas objectively and conversing a lot.

The idea of a formal lesson plan may seem daunting at first, but it’s really simple if you approach learning with an eye for opportunity. Look for every chance to dive deep into individual subject areas and remember to leave time for independent exploration. And above all else, enjoy your fun bonding experience and the great outdoors!

The Day family RVs in a Highland Ridge RV.

Find Your Perfect RV

Whether you're new to the world of RVing or you're ready to narrow your search, we're here to help you sort through it all and find the RV that's right for you. Explore RVs based off of your lifestyle and the features important to you.

Find Your RV
An travel trailer RV parked in a green field.