Danger Outdoors

Lesson Objective:

Teach children not to touch, taste, or smell plants or insects that may be poisonous. 

Children will understand that some things that LOOK safe are NOT. They will be able to identify things outdoors that aren’t safe.

Children should learn to:

  1. Stay away from things outdoors that can hurt them. 
  2. Never touch, taste, or smell something that could be poisonous, especially if you don’t know what it is.
  3. If you don’t know what it is – stay away and ask a grown-up.
  4. Tell a grown-up if you see something that could be dangerous.

Teacher Preparation:

Before the lesson, print pictures and collect items that can be used as teaching aids. Note: Everything you bring in as a display should be secured so children cannot handle them. 

  1. Print or show pictures of things found outdoors that can be harmful if touched or tasted. Examples can include poison ivy, poison oak, mushrooms, berries, spiders, or stinging insects.
  2. Print or show pictures — or, if possible, bring examples from outside — of items that ARE safe, such as rocks, safe flowers, etc.

Key Terms:

  • Poisonous
  • Poison Ivy
  • Mushroom
  • Insect
  • Pest
  • Wasp

Teacher Narrative:

Did you know that there’s a plant out there that looks safe but, when touched, can give you an itchy rash? It’s called poison ivy, and this lesson will teach you about the plant and how to spot it in nature.

There are other poisonous things in nature too. Certain mushrooms and berries can make you very sick if you eat them.

We should never play with, touch, or taste poisons. If you see something, but you don’t know what it is, stay away! Tell a grown-up.

Lesson Instructions:

  1. Show children examples or pictures of things in nature that are safe to touch, and pictures of things in nature that can be dangerous, like poison ivy, mushrooms, or stinging insects.
  2. Teach children how to identify plants like poison ivy and poison oak, and practice rhymes that help them remember. Have you ever heard the saying Leaves of three, leave them be? What about One, two, three. Don’t touch me? These helpful little rhymes help teach you not to touch poison ivy. Poison ivy is a three-leafed plant that, when you touch it, causes your skin to get really itchy and form a rash. Poison oak has three leaves too, however, it may be in groups of five, or seven and look more like an oak leaf.
  3. Have children count the leaves on pictures of poison ivy and poison oak plants. Then, test them by showing pictures of harmless plants: Can you count three leaves?
  4. Use pictures again to play a “SAFE” or “NOT SAFE” game. Show pictures and have children call out whether a place or an item is safe or not. Reinforce the lesson by asking students what to do if they see an unsafe area or item.
  5. If possible, take a nature hike to let children enjoy the positives of nature while keeping an eye out for things that are unsafe.