Have you ever had the experience of learning to recognize a new plant or bird species, only to realize that you’ve been crossing paths with it on a regular basis for years without realizing it? Getting to know our plant and animal neighbors is a lifelong endeavor, but it can begin with learning to look for the differences between them. Read on for some ideas to get your family noticing and appreciating your neighborhood’s biodiversity this week!
When you are OUTSIDE:
- Take the “around the block” challenge!” Tailor this to your own neighborhood by searching for something abundant yet varied as you go on a short walk. For us, that often looks like collecting fallen cones from the different conifers on our block. In other seasons, we’ve hunted leaves and acorns, or looked for flowers. How many different kinds can you find?
- If you find something collectible, sorting can be a great follow-up activity. Lay out your haul on a flat surface and work together to make piles of like objects, line them up in ascending size, sort by color or texture, etc. Keeping these items around for loose parts play will also provide opportunities for continued observation and comparison.
- As you get better acquainted with the wildlife you can observe from home, try keeping a list! Many folks like to keep a list of “yard birds,” but you don’t need to stop there! If your family enjoys friendly competition, start a new list each week and compete to see who will be the first of the week to spot a robin, squirrel, or any of the other usual suspects. If you do this for many weeks in a row, how do those weekly lists change over time?
When you head INSIDE:
- Harness the power of office supplies to make a field guide* scavenger hunt! Write and/or draw phrases that could apply to multiple species in your field guide on different sticky notes. For example, I paired phrases like “long legs,” “blue feathers,” and “long beak” with my bird guide. Have your child flip through the field guide and place each sticky note on an entry that fits the description. This activity is very adaptable — try focusing only on color for younger children, or scale it up for older children by using more specific phrases.
- Have your child look at a picture of an animal without showing it to you. Ask them to describe what they see as you attempt to draw it based on their description. A little playful exaggeration (“What?! You said it had a long tail!”) makes this a silly game and a great lesson in using descriptive language.
* If you don’t have a field guide, try using other books or a magazine with lots of nature photos.
Our educators, scientists, advocates, and naturalists are committed to keeping you connected to the natural world as we deal with the coronavirus situation together. Check in every weekday on our Connections page for family activities, parent/teacher tips, backyard birding, nature exploration at our sanctuaries, and more.