• Bird Academy
      Bird Academy
      Cornell Lab staff shared their favorite ideas for engaging their kids in nature. What is your favorite tip for engaging your child in nature?
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    • Ruhama
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      As a kid I used to love to trap butterflies and ladybugs, I could spend hours doing that. My boys love to chase bugs, capture, observe and then release them.IMG_8473
    • Augusto
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      20221113_092534I am a Tourist Guide in Machu Picchu and I teach English as a volunteer in a school in the rural community where I live, here we have the Vilcanota River, the Kimsachata Volcano, the Auquisa Lagoon and the Apu or Ausangate snowcapped mountain. Once a month I ask the parents of my 6th grade students to accompany us on a short walk along the river bank or to the volcano crater or to visit the lagoon or climb the mountain, the children are the most enthusiastic and happy. I always carry some bags with me and along the way I collect waste left by visitors to our town, soda bottles, snack wrappers, plastic bags, etc. The kids and their parents watch me doing this activity as we progress on our walk. One of them always approaches me and asks if they can help me, others ask me for a bag so they can also collect solid waste. With the permission of the parents I give them gloves and bags, the parents join in the collection and when we arrive at our destination we leave the bags in the places designated for the park rangers to collect the bags. This is how we have fun walking observing birds and flowers and we take care of our tourist attractions. The park rangers always approach the group and thank the children for their support and give us brief talks on how to be friends of nature and why we should take care of our environment. At the end, they give us soft drinks and candy.  
    • Elise
      Participant
      Chirps: 22
      I enjoyed Leo Sack's "Exploring With Equipment" comments! As a teacher, sometimes I find myself hesistant to bring equipment like binoculars for my students to use while birding. Mainly because they grow fatigue with trying to use my cheap ones or they have not picked up the habitat of using it for our purpose outside. His comments reminded me that I think moving forward, I have to give my students time to explore with equipment and with their DIY binoculars. If I don't give them exploration time, they will never get in the habit of using them for their purpose. unnamed
    • Erin
      Participant
      Chirps: 23
      One tip that stood out to me in particular was Becca Rodomsky-Bish's idea to combine nature and imagination. When outside watching my students at recess, I often observe that the students will use rocks, twigs, branches, or even leaves to create something unique or to use it for pretend. As a first grade teacher, I believe this is the biggest motivation for my students and their desire to stay outside. Alum Creek Shoreline Treasures IMG_4853
    • Patrick
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      I've fallen in love with taking my son out for picnics.  I like to involve him from the very beginning in order to incorporate life skills such as meal planning and preparation.  Picnics are also excellent opportunities to practice leave no trace principles because there usually is a little bit of waste.  Even the waste is an opportunity for recursive learning; next time maybe we can plan a better meal with less trash to carry out with us.
    • As a teacher, I'm a big proponent of free play. Taking kids into natural areas designed for kids, like Prospect Park's natural playground and just letting them explore is incredibly beneficial. I've noticed that when classes first come, they try to play games from the playground, like Banana Tag. As we return multiple times, they start to create their own games and noticing that are involved in nature. For example, they pretend to make food or money out of natural objects or they concentrate on trying to build a structure out of natural materials. I try to be as hands-off as possible and let them find their own activities and adventures.
    • I am partial to the idea of following your child's interests, as it can make exploring or connecting with nature a lot more interesting and personalized. There are so many things to explore in nature, so why not start with the most interesting topics first and see where that takes you. To that end, I think that the "Choose Your Own Adventure", "Imagination At Play", "Exploring With Equipment", and the activities suggested at the end of the lesson are great ways to foster your child's interests in exploring nature together.
    • Natasha
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Loved the ideas!! The ones that work best with my kid, is throwing rocks into the water and also looking for insects and try to identify them, for instance if we can't identify the insect on site we take photographs and usually it's him who reminds us to go look for the bugs name, he loves it!!
    • Sandy
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Pinterest has really good nature ideas with kids
    • Mary
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Great ideas. I have a 3 year old grandson  with whom I want to share my love of nature. At this point it is pretty much child led walks :)
    • Vicki
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Using scientific tools - binoculars, waterproof journals, cameras for taking pictures. The kids love feeling like "real scientists".
    • Melanie
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      When my son was young, we would give names to places on our property as we walked and explored. (I am very blessed to own an old, overgrown farm). We made signs for some of these places and trails. Most of the signs still exist and we still refer to areas of our farm as "Rivendale," "North Forty," "Fernwood Trail" and "Sophie's Grove." The names and memories are special to us and we like to note how much things have changed over the years. His friends still come to visit and like to visit these special, named places, too. I could imagine leading a group of kids through a park and having them name special natural areas after things that are meaningful to them, then making a list of the natural things that occur in their special place.
    • Kassie Diehl
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      As we hike we usually make up stories about where we are and what animal friends or woodland creatures we might find. They find the perfect stick to carry with them too and love to look at cool insects or bugs along the way. My youngest usually carries a toilet paper roll with him to be his "spy glass" and the two have to take turns being the leaders. They lead us all around and in the end it usually ends up with us running from an imaginary bear, fairy, silly monster or troll to get energy back in them if we stay out too long! The toilet paper roll is a must! :)  They also like to "cook" imaginary foods with leaves and mulch and flower petals in our backyard when we aren't going anywhere. I've tried quite the array of dishes! Lastly, a new hobby of digging for dinosaur bones has started and this is the easiest activity yet. They just find some dirt and spend a lot of time digging! :)
    • Ditsha
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I sometimes babysit my younger cousin and whenever it rains we would make paper boats, put on raincoats and float them in the streams and puddles. During camp, I would also do an outdoor scavenger hunt with the students. Whether it was rainy or sunny, there's plenty of outdoor activities to do with children.
      • Hi Ditsha, I like the idea of using weather to your advantage in trying to find ways to enjoy nature at anytime!
    • Bernadette
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      During summer vacations, I use to give my children a camera and have them go on a scavenger hunt.  The goal was to find all the items on the list and take a picture of each item before returning.  It kept them busy, they had fun, and they worked cooperatively.  Sometimes, I would reward them with a special outing if they found all the items within a time limit.  They looked forward to their scavenger hunt days.
    • Evelyn
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      As an offshoot of my local Pollinator Pathway group,  I have been organizing a small group of youngsters and leading them in Nature Journaling. I am trying to keep it quite open and varied,  to accommodate different ages,  interest and skills.  It meets ever other week, for sharing and questions. I currently have a middle school girl who gives little talks about insects and such, and I hope to draw other "guest speakers" in the future with different info to share.  I give a couple of suggested prompts each week for anyone looking for a bit of focus. I also have them leave with a Question of the Week. I follow up the meeting with an emailed summary of sorts.  They can write (even poems), draw,  paint,  collage from printed matter,  take photographs, whatever they are drawn to. I don't want it to feel like school,  but rather a adventure that we then discuss collectively. The idea is to go out in nature,  relax and see what you can find and would like to report about. That is why I am taking this course,  which has been quite helpful  and all this individual input .... I have noted down so many ideas and am quite excited about this project. Thank you!
    • Cheyenne Carter
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      My niece and I search for butterflies and she loves hiking with my Golden retriever, Summit. I also watch kids that love to play a game they named as white-tailed deer, and one of the kids is a deer that is injured and we have to capture them and treat them.
    • Kathy
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      I thought these tips were terrific and I plan to start trying them out. My grandson does enjoy building things so I think that we will try out building a natural shelter first.
    • Emily
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      When working with toddlers giving them a magnifying glass or even make binoculars out of cardboard tubes and have them decorate them. They will run and find things or even sit and explore in a small area. When working with school-age kids I like to take the library with me. My backpack is full of field guides, wild flower guides, and an assortment of optics. This gives the students an opportunity to do some exploring of their own choice. Lots of times we just don't have the bandwidth to look things up on our phones so we use the books. They think it is pretty cool that some of them are signed by one of the authors.
    • I like playing “eye spy” with my younger kids. It’s a great way to build mindfulness, observation, and vocabulary skills. Plus, it leads to interesting conversations in between each turn— “why do you think that cardinal so red?” “Do you think those leaves will be the same color in the fall?” “About how tall is that plant?”
      • Evelyn
        Participant
        Chirps: 9
        I Spy in Nature .. great idea! My kids and grandkids always liked that,  as we sat in a restaurant waiting for our food! Thanks for sharing
    • Stephanie
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      For Christmas a couple of years ago, our family collaborated on providing an "adventure backpack" for my child. We provided the backpack, and everyone chipped in with additional presents. Grandparents provided binoculars and a magnifying glass. an aunt gave bird and plant identification. A family member who used to be a paramedic provided a small first aid kit. It was a memorable gift. Before we venture out into nature, my son packs his bag from his supplies depending on where we plan to go.
      • Kathy
        Participant
        Chirps: 9
        That is an excellent idea!
      • Evelyn
        Participant
        Chirps: 9
        Wonderful idea and I am going to suggest ît in my nature journaling group. Thank you for sharing.
    • Laura
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      I always have some sort of interactive activity or craft that I carry out with youth. I provide them with a nature journal and Crayola products and tell them to draw their favorite animal or flower in nature, or tell them to draw something they might find in a stream. A popular activity is rock painting. You can tell children to draw something in nature, even a word, on the rock, have them take it home and place it in their yard or in the community to spread the word about the environment.
    • Alexander
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Not just a walk, but The Expedition Sometimes where you're going outside with a kid or a group of kids  there should be a goal to achieve. It could be more or less artificial — e.g. to have at least 10 species on your checklist in 20 minutes. For some kids works something more «serious». And it is rather flattering for them to be asked to participate in real scientific projects. For a few years now I have been gathering data for The European Breeding Bird Atlas here in Latvia and when it's possible I try to engage little folks into this process. I explain to them the idea behind the project and the value of our observations for birds surviving. And apparently it's fun for the group that it's not just another lesson outside or a recreation walk — no, we're all scientists' helpers here and we have our mission. Before the expedition I try to give everybody their own role according their tempers or current moods. This little fellow wants to be responsible for our the expeditions supplies, this girl wants to make a checklist and so on. It doesn't work for everybody but sometimes it's quite a good way to go.
    • Dorothy D
      Participant
      Chirps: 21
      I  also have had my students gather sticks and dried grasses(checking for poison ivy & ticks!)to make brushes.When we had the 17 yr cicadas last year, that was fun collecting the dried carcasses! I had my students draw along with me for a cicada drawing demo during one art class last year too. For our art journal sessions, we go out with a theme (how do the  plants/trees shows "signs of the seasonal changes") or using selected focus on rocks, landscape or observation viewing of birds. We will stop drawing to observe when I point out birds in the sky (hawks, swifts etc.)so they can be more familiar with the bird rather than just look at a photo of them inside.Our school has a dedicated nature "Discovery" room in one of the classrooms that also has housed Chesapeake Bay turtle on loan and supports out Green School initiative.