Nature In My Backyard: Exploring With Kids

Summer, winter, fall or spring.  In the country, in a town, or in a city.  A house, an apartment, or a tent--it doesn't matter!  You can find and explore nature anywhere. 

This page is just for kids who want to learn more about nature and then get outside and see it for yourself.  We have projects and activities, websites that you can look at (all kid-safe of course!), and ways to help you become a Super # 1 Nature Explorer!

As for technology, remember it is not the enemy, but can be another portal to exploring nature!  Here are some Nature apps to think about.


Explore Your Own Backyard

Exploring can begin in your own backyard and it doesn't have to be structured.  A great way to help your family get started is to view nature as a place in which to play.  Here's a great resource to give you some starting points.  If you are wondering what might be a good field guide for kids, Cornell's Lab of Ornithology has some tips.

A great family activity is posting a bird feeder in your backyard and watching the birds that come to it.  If you'd like to make your own suet feeder, which many birds love, you can find suet recipes that are easy to make as a family here.

What do you do if you find a baby bird that has fallen out of the nest?  Good advice here!  If you find an injured wild animal and need assistance, contact Diana Mullis, Wildlife Rescue Coordinator, 304-754-3753.

Help Kids Connect With Birds!  Ken Keffer, a frequent writer for Birds & Blooms, has been into bird-watching since junior high. Besides being a lifelong naturalist, Ken has worked with young nature lovers as an environmental educator for over a decade.  Here are Ken’s five tips to help cultivate an interest in birds among the young people in your life:  

 1. Connect with peers. Many clubs for young birders are available from coast to coast. Seek out these organizations online; you’ll find an outstanding network of active nature enthusiasts as well.

2. Legitimize the hobby. In an environment of endless practices, meetings and birthday parties, time spent in the natural world is often viewed as a luxury for children. Make nature a priority, and make time for sharing it with the kids close to you.

3. Diversify beyond birds. Growing up is a time for exploration. Encourage the young birders in your life to enjoy all aspects of nature. You don’t have to know all the answers to facilitate curiosity and wonder.

4. Explore citizen science. A great way to engage young naturalists is with citizen science projects. Collecting data helps build focus and observation skills while also contributing to real science efforts. You can do this locally with nature organizations or even turn your data in online to groups like

5. Find career mentors. Many careers relate to the environment, and professionals will often be happy to offer job-shadowing opportunities to young adults. Investigate internships, too.

Explore Your Schoolyard

Nature is everywhere, even your child's schoolyard, but if you'd like to help the school do even more to create a schoolyard habitat, this resource from the National Wildlife Federation has some super ideas and resources.

Explore Someone Else's Backyard

(Always get permission to go into some else's yard...but you knew that, right?!

Learn About Animals

How many different animals are there?  More than we can list here, but you can learn more about certain species here:

Amphibians, Reptiles and Fish          Birds           Invertebrates           Mammals          Plants

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has just released a new "advanced" coloring book about birds called "America's Favorite Birds: 40 Beautiful Birds to Color."  Here's a sample of what is included.  You can download them by clicking on each species.

Atlantic Puffin Black-capped Chickadee Eastern Bluebird           Great-Horned Owl Painted Bunting Pileated Woodpecker       Ruby-throated Hummingbird Wood Duck

When you've learned about animal species and want to tell others about the animals and plants around you, you can record your observations at Wildlife Watch or other online sites like those in the next section.

Be a Citizen-Scientist!

Citizens are people in the world.  Scientists study the world.  Citizen-Scientists are regular, everyday people who use their senses and their smarts to learn about the world around them.  You don't have to be an adult to be a citizen-scientist and there are a lot of organizations that could use your help.  Here are some of them.

Butterflies:                                                                                                                                                                     Monarch Watch: Tag and monitor Monarch Butterflies                  

Monarch Larval Monitoring Project:  Look for and report the number of monarch eggs, caterpillars, and pupae that you see each week.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         North American Butterfly Association:  Keep track of all the butterflies you see, not just Monarchs      

Birds:                                                                                                                                                          Christmas Bird Count:  Go out on one day and record all the birds you see. This count has been going on for over 100 years!                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Great Backyard Bird Count:  Observe birds for only 15 minutes over a four day weekend!                                                      

Project Feeder Watch and BirdSleuth:  It doesn't matter if you live in a city, a town, in the country, in the woods, or on a farm.  You can watch and observe the birds you see!                  Project Feeder Watch:                                                                         BirdSleuth:

Frogs:                                                                                                                                                           FrogWatch:  There's lots about frogs and toads to help you learn to identify them.                                                                                                                         

Music of Nature: Learn what different frogs sound like--and lots more animals besides!                                                                                                                        

North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP):  Learn what different frogs sound like, then go with an adult as you drive around, listening for frogs.  (This website is very slow to load.)    

Ladybugs:                                                                                                                                                                                               Lost Ladybug Project: Learn to identify different Ladybugs and record the pictures you take of them.                                                                                                             

BugGuide: If you've found an insect you can't identify, this is THE place to go for help! 

           © 2016 Potomac Valley Audubon Society

              P.O. Box 578 • Shepherdstown, West Virginia 25443
              phone // 304-676-3397

Yankauer Nature Preserve (Berkeley County)
Eidolon Nature Preserve (Morgan County)
Stauffer's Marsh (Berkeley County)
Cool Spring Nature Preserve (Jefferson County)

Kristin Alexander, Executive Director //   304-676-3397

Kimberly Baldwin, Program Director //

Katelyn "KC" Walters, Conservation and Land Manager // 304-283-7319

Krista Hawley, Adult Program Coordinator
// 703-303-1026

Amy Moore, Cool Spring Preserve Manager and Naturalist // 240-818-4714
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