Education

Staff Blogs and Articles for Adults

The Story of My Land—Keeping a Phenology Journal: Connie O’Connor, our Director of Education, has kept a journal of her backyard nature observations for 18 years.

At Home Activities for Kids

Getting outside is vital for children of all ages. It helps build immunity, fosters creative thinking and play, and keeps them active. Below are some easy activities you can print out and do with your children in your yard or neighborhood. Click the name of each activity for a printable PDF of instructions.

We'll update this list weekly, so check back often!

 

Activities for Ages 2-5 Years Old

Story Rocks: Create characters and other parts of a story by decorating the rocks with chalk. Story rocks can be a fun way to engage creative minds and keep children’s hands busy while reading.

Shadow Play: Observing shadows is a great way for children to begin to understand that the sun determines the shadow’s position. This is one of the first steps to grasping concepts like the earth’s rotation, light, and cloud formation.

Create a Nature Obstacle Course: Using natural materials to build an outdoor obstacle course strengthens gross motor skills in young children and can challenge their budding engineering skills if they’re part of the planning.

Patterns and Puzzles with NatureHuman minds are great at recognizing patterns. In this activity,use natural materials to create patterns and strengthen math skills with your young children.

Nature Insprired Painting: Painting with natural items can inspire creativity and allow children to make new connections with familiar objects and build cognitive skills by thinking outside the box of the typical art activities.

Going on a Bird Hike: Looking for birds outside is a good way to explore and pairing it with a rhyming song teaches children how language works and brings their attention to different happenings in the world around them.

Be a Worm Detective: Finding worms can be a fun way to play detective and strengthen those observational skills!

Stick and Stones: From sticks to stones to Nature is full of materials to play with and make toys from!

Nest Building: See if your kids (or you!) can build a nest out of materials found in your yard or neighborhood.

Mud Kitchens: Encourage your kids to get dirty and create their very own menu of "food" for their mud cafe!

 

Activities for Ages 5-12 Years Old

Making Music with Nature: Explore the sounds of nature and exercise your ingenuity by designing your own nature wind chimes!

Hole Digging: Digging holes is a great way to explore what’s beneath our feet and find new ways of creating!

Create a New Species: Expand your creativity & problem solving skills by creating a new species that lives in your neighborhood.

Nature City PlanningSwap out those Legos for some nature building materials to plan and build a complex city. Building engages creativity and spatial awareness.

Insect Investigations: Looking for insects and other invertebrates is a great way to explore and learn more about different micro-habitats. We can discover more about how these animals survive in many human and natural landscapes too!

Making a Sound Map: Paying attention to senses other than sight is a great way to strengthen observational skills and experience a familiar place in a new way.

Hike Like an Ant: Taking a hike from the perspective of an ant is a good way to see a space differently and learn about others’ viewpoints.

Nature “Potion” Making: Making nature potions is a fun way to get stirring, exploring, and learning to make predictions! 

Fishing The Old Fashioned Way: Challenge your kids to make their own fishing pole and then “catch” natural objects. 

Nature Weaving: With some simple household items, your child can make a loom and create a beautiful nature design with treasures found in your backyard, park, or neighborhood walks. 

 

Activities for Teens & Adults

Creating Ephemeral Art: There are countless ephemeral things in nature: vernal pools, blossoming flowers, the flashing of fireflies, the burst of fall colors, and ice crystals. Part of their beauty is that we know they will not last. Create your own ephemeral artwork out of natural materials, and watch how they change over time.

Sunrise/Sunset Haiku Writing: Sunrise and sunset invite us to open and close our day with a peaceful moment outdoors. Let your nature observations inspire art with this relaxing writing exercise.

Create an Herbarium Collection:  An herbarium is a collection of pressed and preserved plant specimens accompanied by information like the date, location, and habitat. Herbaria can help you get to know your local plant life, practice identification skills, and can even turn into beautiful works of art!

Natural Patterns Photo Sets: There are naturally-occurring patterns all around us. Practice your nature observation skills by seeking out patterns in the plants, animals, and inorganic natural features around you.

Meditative Morning: Start your day with an early morning sit spot to focus on observing the nature around you. This peaceful activity is a great way to experience nature at a time when many animals are active.

Nature at Night--Spider Sensing: Take a walk after dark and test your “spider sense” by searching for eyeshine. What can the presence of spiders tell us about our backyard ecosystems?

Pollinator Portraits: Pollinators have an essential role in flowering plant reproduction and maintaining the health of our local ecosystems. Get to know your local pollinators and which flowers attract them by taking their portraits! 

Flower DissectionLearn more about the structure of common spring blooms and how they reproduce through pollination with this hands-on, investigative activity. 

Phenology Journaling: Follow in the footsteps of naturalists from time immemorial—watching, listening, and recording your nature observations in a journal. 

Birdwatching: Become a nature sleuth by observing the feathered friends that you see in your neighborhood. 

Videos for Kids and Families

For our staff, working from home still means working outside. We just get to have our children and families with us. Each week, we'll record short videos about the nature activities and play we're doing with our own families that you can also do with yours.

Click the video below for our YouTube playlist of these videos. Click the links below to go to each individual video. 

 

Individual Videos

Build a Home for Animals (or Fairies or Gnomes)

Building a Sand Cake

Making a Fairy Bouquet

Making Mud Cake

Neighborhood Nature Walk

Not a Stick Binoculars

Painting with Mud!

Nature Paintbrush

Rock Meditation Garden

Nature Tic-Tac-Toe

Stick Race Track

Wonderful Wind

Cloud Viewing

Sit Spots 

Staff Videos for Teens and Adults

Grow a Kitchen Garden

If you have some produce scraps and time, you can use those to grow your own kitchen garden. Our Public Engagement Manager, Anne, walks us through her own kitchen garden-and asks you to challenge for what to grow next!

 

Mindfulness and Meditation in Nature

One of the most beneficial and treasured aspects of nature is its ability to give us moments of peace and solace as we connect to the earth and the environment around us. Our Public Programs Fellow, Emma, created two mindful moments for you to be part of while you’re at home.

Mindful Moment: Waterfall Meditation

Mindful Moment: Wildflower Meditation

 

Resource Links

For Children

  • Sit spots are a great way for children (and adults) to relax outside and practice their observational skills.
  • Children can practice their environmental stewardship skills while playing outside; find out how to encourage this through the World Forum Foundation.
  • Take a Child Outside has numerous outdoor play resources categorized by different subjects in nature like what to explore when the sun goes down.
  • Children and Nature outlines how children can develop their problem-solving, reasoning, and planning skills through outdoor play.
  • Designing play spaces in your yard can encourage children to play outside and explore. 
  • Tinkergarten has a plethora of ideas for young children on how to play and you can even search for activities to strengthen specific skills areas.
  • For a collection of bird-themed activities and good bird watching resources, look into Audubon
  • Children in Nature has a great meditative guide to being mindful in nature for adults and families. 


For Adults

  • Nature journaling is a creative and mindful practice that can get you outside and making new discoveries.
  • Meditating outside can be a great way to practice mindfulness and better appreciate the nature around you. 
  • Bird watching can happen almost anywhere and for as long as you want; learn what to focus on when looking for birds through the Audubon.
  • Pressing plants is a fun way to either start your own herbarium or make a beautifully framed piece of nature art for your wall. 
  • Your yard or park is filled with beautiful little discoveries that you can capture with the magic of photography
  • Nature can provide amazing crafting materials, so try your hand at making a wreath from invasive vines. 
  • Help scientists and learn about your own yard through citizen science projects
  • Being mindful in nature can help calm anxiety, lower blood pressure, and reconnect you with nature.