Education – All Content

Education...ALL CONTENT

Experience Nature When We Can't Embrace Each Other
We humans are social creatures

Even our so-called “anti-social” behaviors, like staying in and getting online, are in search of a connection with others. We also have to acknowledge that humans at their core are still animals – and as animals we are all part of nature and respond to it in various ways.

Study after study shows the connection between our health and access to nature, from such obvious factors as the health effects when we lack access to clean water and fresh air, to those not so obvious factors like the connection between spending time outside and increased focus and concentration.

While social distancing may feel constraining, it also provides a great opportunity to step back and embrace our connection with nature. If we cannot seek out physical connection with other humans, what better place to seek a physical connection than in the woods, the meadows, the ponds and beaches?

Elder man fishing by a wooded pond


What do I do once I am outside?

Nothing! You can start with that. Just find a spot to sit and be comfortable, where you can take in the sights, sounds and smells of nature.

Getting outside can be as simple as stepping out onto your stoop. Take in the fresh air; look around at the change in light and moving leaves; listen for birdsong, the buzz of insects and the movement of plants in the wind.

catepillar on a white background

Okay… Well, I want to do something while I’m out here!

Here are a few suggestions

taking in nature in your neighborhood

Start with taking a short walk.

You can pay tribute to, or honor, someone special to you with a gift that will last for generations to come. We will send a card, as appropriate, to convey your appreciation…

write about or sketch nature

Start a nature journal!

Take a notebook on your walk and find a place to sit and make observations—maybe there is a rock that faces a creek, or a patch of plants just pushing through the soil. Look around and take note of everything you observe, hear and smell.

Next Level: hone in on a specific item. Perhaps there is a tree that is just getting its spring buds.

What do the buds look like? How quickly do they grow – is it a weekly change, daily, hourly? What sort of insects and animals like this tree? What kind of moss, lichen or fungus is growing on it?

walking on a trail

Take an extra-long walk…

And bring your furry pal along! What new places can you find by spending an extra ten minutes walking?

Next Level: challenge yourself to walk further. Pick a distance (maybe you walk half a mile each day) and see if you can go a little further, then a little further.

How does the extra distance feel? Have you discovered a new neighborhood? Maybe a small street you hadn’t seen before, or a cool new spot along your favorite trail?

kayaking on a river

Trails for hiking, biking, snowshoes, and paddles

Are you looking for a great place to see water falls, perhaps go a hike in a quiet woodland, or explore the wetlands and meadows when looking for amazing birds?

wildlife in the sanctuary

A Sanctuary for beaver, fox, songbirds, and more

Open year-round to the public for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and XC skiing, the Joseph A. Blake Wildlife Sanctuary is the perfect place to visit with kids.

Monarch butterfly on a white background

These are all great, but I have kids…how do I get them outside and interested?

Ways to explore and learn outdoors!

What are you curious about?

Getting creative is a great way to engage the kids.

Look around the back yard or neighborhood and create a scavenger hunt.

Ask for some simpler finds, like pine needles or a pinecone, and then dig deeper: are there any plants with purple leaves in the neighborhood? Maybe a certain yard has a red flower (look but don’t touch!)

taking a closer look a nature
rolling out dough or clay to press leaves, sticks and natural items into

Got Playdoh?

Discover textures in nature. Compare the imprint of different trees.

Next Level: identify the trees and start a nature journal with your findings.

volunteers collecting trash

Trail, creek or neighborhood cleanup.

Put on a pair of work gloves, grab a bag, and do your part and help clean up a trail, river or creek bank, or street in your community.

Next level: Categorize what you have found in your nature journal. What is the most common material you found? What can be recycled? Composted? Put in the garbage?

a craft to indicate the day's weather

What’s the weather today?

Create a weather wheel.

Draw or print out different types of weather and put them in a circular pattern. Use a paper clip or laundry clips to mark the days weather.

Next Level: Be more specific. Record the temperature, humidity, percent rain or sun and log it all into a nature journal.

after a snowstorm
Bev Pellegrino

Storming outside?

If there aren’t hazardous conditions, put on your raincoat and head outside to watch!

Or you can head to your window or your car and watch in a protected place too. Describe the sounds and sights you observe. Does the way the rain or snow falls change in strength? Does rain change to snow or hail, or vice versa?

Next level: Place a measuring cup outside on a stable surface in a place where there is only open sky above it. Grab a notebook and write down how long the storm lasts. Record the amount of rain or snow that fell into the measuring cup once the storm has ended.

backyard birdwatch

Do you speak bird?

No? Then here is your chance.

Download a birding app, like, and start identifying what’s in your backyard. Learn birds’ songs and characteristics.

Next level: Visit bird feeder web cams to observe birds found nearby or in different parts of the world (start here: allaboutbirds/cams). Install one or more birdfeeders and fill them with different types of seed. Keep a feeder journal, try to draw the birds you see and describe their outstanding features.

Next, next level: Become a citizen scientist! Sign up to participate in the Tug Hill Tomorrow Bird Quest at in the spring, or sign up to collect bird sightings November through April for Cornell’s Project Feederwatch at

Education Pg Image

Backyard Pines?

How many different pine cones can you find?

As you explore outside, look for different sizes and shapes of pine cones. Look up! Do the pine trees still have cones on their branches? Can you find which trees the different pine cones you see on the ground came from?

Next level: Put one of each type of pine cone next to each other on the ground. How are they alike? How are they different? Why do you think each tree's cones are the way they are?

Next next level: Take three of the same kind of pine cones home with you. Gather three see-through containers. Put one cone in each container. Draw or take a photo of each cone in each container. Fill one container with cold water. What happens to the cone? How fast does the cone change? How does is change? Fill a second container with hot water. What happens to the cone? How fast does the cone change? How does is change? Compare the cones in all three containers. What is different? What is the same?

Want to explore how to do this?

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