This past week a reader asked about nature activities for her child. It thought it was such as good question I turned my answer into a blog post. But this isn’t a post just for young people, it can work for adults who seriously want to embark on learning about their local land and ecosystem, manage a backyard habitat, and participate in conservation efforts.
The readers main question was about classes, activities, and summer camps with a nature-related focus. She mentioned her child’s deep involvement in backyard bird feeding and using native plants. I impressed with the depth of her child’s commitment to environmental issues.
When adults are pessimistic about the environmental future of Mother Earth, I am always given hope by the wonderful committed young people I’ve had the privilege teaching and serving for over thirty years.
So here are my suggestions for encouraging a child’s love of Mother Earth. See biophilia in Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biophilia_hypothesis
Classes, Activities, and Camps for Kids
My local environmental center hosts both a nature preschool, school holiday activities, and nature-focused summer camps. There are nature activities year around for both children and adults. See Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.
Environmental Centers need ways to produce multiple streams of income from more than just donations and memberships fees. Summer camps, day camps, and schools are some of the ways they accomplish this. And educating the public in environmental education fits their missions.
Check out local organizations for clubs and activities for kids and adults.
- environmental education or nature centers
- recreation centers and YMCAs
- national wildlife refuges and parks
- state and local parks
- environmental monitoring organizations
- nature clubs (birding clubs, gardening clubs)
- aquariums and zoos
- local school summer programs
- religious organizations
Audubon Bird Walks and Talks
Audubon Society Chapters host local field trips and birds walks. Several times on local Audubon chapter birding field trips, young birders accompanied us as we searched for neotropical migrants and other birds. The young birders need to accompanied by an adult of course. Audubon birding trips are free to the public. Check out your local chapter at NAtional Audubon Society – Audubon Near You https://www.audubon.org/about/audubon-near-you
Create a Backyard Habitat
How fun would it be for a family to create and maintain their very own backyard conservation park? For over a decade the National Wildlife Federation has sponsored a program for adding features to your backyard to benefit local animals, native plants and pollinators. My backyard has been a Certified Wildlife Habitat for over a decade.
National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat Program: Garden for Wildlife https://www.nwf.org/garden-for-wildlife
National Audubon Bird-Friendly Yards https://www.audubon.org/get-outside/activities
Xerces.org Society Pollinator Conservation Resource Center https://xerces.org/pollinator-resource-center – checklist and guides for resources to aid in planning, establishing, restoring, and maintaining pollinator habitat using native plants
Further reading: Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard by Douglas W. Tallamy (on Amazon.com/affiliate link)
Citizen Science Projects You Can Do at Home
Backyard Conservation rises to a new level with your backyard becoming a site for scientific research. This isn’t hard to do when you and your child monitor and record activity in formats that scientists and researchers can use.
The Citizen Science Project I participated in for years is Project FeederWatch sponsored by Cornell Lab for Ornithology. https://feederwatch.org/
There hundreds of nature activities and projects that children and their families can do to participate in conservation efforts. SciStarter.org and Zooniverse are clearinghouses of citizen science projects for all ages.
Scistarter.com, whose motto is “science we can do together”, a clearinghouse of various citizen science projects categorized by topic and place of activity.
A project conducted and maintained by the Citizen Science Alliance to provide a catalog of citizen science projects across many fields of scientific studies, which provides support and hosting for projects. https://www.zooniverse.org/
For more info see: Citizen Science and Nature Journal Keeping
Aim: a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change
Aim: to collect careful observations of the phenophases of a diversity of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses in their local area.
Aim: Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North America. http://feederwatch.org/
Christmas Bird Count
Aim: The longest running citizen science survey in the world, Christmas Bird Count provides critical data on population trends. https://www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count
Xerces Society Community Science Projects – Xerces Society Community Science Projects
Aim: to support science based community conservation efforts of pollinators https://xerces.org/community-science
Keeping a Nature Journal
Imagine an adult finding a box of nature journals they created twenty years before when they were 10 years old? How precious would those journals be? If your child doesn’t already keep a nature journal introduce them to this enjoyable pastime. Here are links to some of the pages on this website on nature journaling and books to guide you.
And deepen your relationship with the Earth
Best Books on Nature Journaling
Here’s links to my picks for the best nature journaling books. The links lead to the books sale page on Amazon.com. Amazon affiliate links provide small income to support this website and my writing.
Keeping A Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie. The classic book on nature journaling. The third edition is due in spring 2021.
Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock – the classic handbook originally written for elementary school teachers but useful for nature study for many beginners.
Did I Cover Everything?
In conclusion, think this post discusses every place that provides extracurricular nature study and nature-related activities for children and young adults. I tried to be thorough. I hope this information is helpful.
If you are a staff member of an organization that provides nature activities for children and young adults, fill out the comment form below, I will check out your organization’s website and approve your comment so others can click to your organizations offerings. 🙂
Any questions and comments, as always please leave them in the box below.