Nature-based Classroom Icebreakers

Here are great ways to start infusing the natural world into your classroom every day and why not start out on the first day of school!

Who Am I?

For this activity tape or pin the name of a wildlife species on the back of each participant and make sure everyone has paper and a pencil. Each person tries to figure out what animal he or she is by walking up to other participants and getting clues from them. For example, Person A gives clues to Person B by briefly describing what Person B is in one to four words. Person B writes down this description and then briefly describes what Person A is in one to four words. Person A writes down this clue and both people move on to other participants for new clues. Be sure to set a time limit before the group begins the activity. Wrap up by asking for three to five volunteers to guess what they think they are, based on the clues they received.

Guess My Name

Ask the participants to make a list of ten words to describe an animal of their choice on a sheet of paper. They then tape the sheet of paper to themselves and move about the room, reading each other’s lists. They introduce themselves to each other and try to guess what animal each list describes.

Artistic Introductions

Ask participants to draw or model out of clay an animal they feel represents themselves. Divide the participants into groups and have each explain why (s)he chose the animal (s)he did. Or, put pictures of a variety of animals on a large table and have participants choose one they feel represents themselves. Divide into groups and have each participant explain why (s)he chose a particular animal.

Human Knot

Participants stand in a circle and introduce themselves one by one to two other people in the circle. As they introduce themselves, they grasp the hand of the other person and hold on. When everyone has introduced him/herself, each person should be holding hands with two other people. You have now created a human knot. Their task is to untangle the knot without letting anyone in the circle go!

Sound Off

Write out cards with the name of one animal on each. Make two cards for each animal. Hand out a card to each participant, making sure that pairs of animals are distributed. Arrange the participants in a circle. Explain that they are to make the sound of the animal on their card to find the other animal of their species. No talking is allowed. Once they find their partner, they are to stand by them. Participants can also be blindfolded and/or groups of more than two animals can be produced by making more cards for each animal.

Significant Stories

Ask each participant to relate a story about a significant experience involving nature, animals, trees, etc.

Human Scavenger Hunt

Have participants go on a “tree” or “wild” human scavenger hunt using one of the lists included here. The object is to find other students who fit the criteria and have them sign their names on the appropriate line. This is a good way for participants to find out interesting, and often little-known information about others in the group, relating to wildlife and forestry.

Ice Breaker ideas from Project WILD and Aquatic WILD:

Project WILD

  • Animal Charades – learn the difference between wild and domesticated animals
  • First Impressions – react to photos of different animals and discuss their different contributions to the planet and distinguish between reactions to an animal based on myth or stereotype and those based on accurate information; and recognize the value of animals’ contributions to ecosystems

Aquatic WILD

  • Are You Me? – match pairs of juvenile and adult aquatic animals
  • Fashion a Fish – classification of fish according to their body shape and coloration, describe their adaptations and the importance of their adaptations

Cross-reference to these WILD units for more information: