Quick Concept for Leave What You Find

Grabbing Your Group’s Attention (15 minutes)

Ask participants how scientists know what dinosaurs looked like. (They find fossils and reconstruct the skeletons.) It is important for scientists to find the pieces in their original positions (relative to one another) so that they can see how the pieces fit together. The same is true for cultural—human-made—artifacts.

The Activity

Use three simple picture puzzles. Break the puzzles apart. In a yard, sandlot, or playground, scatter all the pieces of one puzzle in a small area. In another location scatter just two or three pieces, and in another location leave just one piece. Split the group into three teams and have one group at each location recover the pieces. Ask the groups to try reconstructing their puzzle or describe the picture based on the pieces they have found.

The Discussion

Ask each group how easy it was to reconstruct the puzzle. Discuss the following:

  • The importance to scientists of finding fossils or artifacts where they were originally deposited
  • The effects of intentional vandalism or theft of fossils or artifacts
  • The effects of unintentional impacts (driving off-road, hobby collecting, campsite construction). Ask participants if they can think of other ways fossils and artifacts can be lost or damaged. Discuss how these resources can be viewed and enjoyed onsite without damage. Remind the group that on public lands it is against the law to remove or destroy these resources. Refer to the Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace for more details to help stimulate this discussion.

Although this Quick Concept deals with fossils and artifacts, the principle leave what you find applies to all things that should remain undisturbed in the backcountry. Wildflowers, petrified rock, and nests are examples of other discoveries to leave for others to enjoy.