Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Activities & Experiments from Outside DEC

More Resources for At-home Adventures in Your Backyard and at Local Parks

These links leave the DEC website.

Other States are putting together resources

  • Alliance for NJ Environmental Education's Remote EE Hub with activities and lessons by grade level.
  • Arizona's Maricopa County Air Quality Department has fantastic air quality lessons & activities by grade band and online class for 6th - 12th grades all about air quality!
  • California's State Parks has an Adventures in Learning, with resources and tools, youth activities, teacher materials, and interpreter resources.
  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources has Learn at Home activities for caregivers and educators.
  • Michigan's Department of Natural Resources' Natural & Historical Education Resources for Home, organized by videos, virtual trips & videos, easy ways to explore & engage with nature, indoor experiments & projects by grade, Outdoor investigations & scavenger hunts by grade, science reading, and fun natural resources info.
  • Michigan Sea Grant is doing a webinar series H.O.M.E.S. at Home! all about the Great Lakes. They are live on Tuesdays & Thursdays at 1030 to 11 AM EDT. And they are available later on YouTube from the earlier link.
  • North Carolina Environmental Education has a giant, searchable database of online resources and programs. If you search for "COVID-19 Educational Support", all the resources are on-line.
  • North Carolina Zoo, the state-run zoo, has a public FaceBook group, Adventures in EdZOOcation, where each week they bring a variety of materials from at-home experiments to crafts to outdoor play ideas.
  • New Mexico Mathematics, Engineering, & Science Achievement has a great curated list of StEM resources … in English and in Spanish.
  • Oregon State University's Outdoor School has a number of activities and resources.
  • Rhode Island Environmental Education Association has resource list of online and digital tools and lessons.
  • Texas A&M Forest Service has Activities-To-Go with "Flat Smokey", Leaf Rainbow Print, practice using a dichotomous key lessons, and Home Adventure Bingo game, among others.
  • Texas Wildlife Association has a Critter Connections magazine, with information specific to a species each issue. And they have on-demand webinars for youth that run from 10 to 30 minutes in length and have worksheets to go with them.
  • Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries has a list of resources for teachers and lessons to do at home.

Organizations and Agencies Working on Virtual Content

We have tried to keep these free, vetted, and from trusted sources. You will find tons of content out there. Feel free to send cool things you've seen via email to Education staff and we'll take a look, no promises.

Water-focused: Rivers, Lakes, Oceans

Center for the Urban River at Beczak, at Sarah Lawrence College, has created an Online Resources for Teachers. This includes an at-home lab, Exploring the Estuary in your Kitchen, exploring properties of water, and looking at a watershed model video with explanation of the Hudson River Estuary. They also have a listing of podcasts and online videos, mostly for older learners.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Education's Hands-on Science Activities are ones that take 15 to 30 minutes to get young scientists thinking about how things work.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's education section for K-12 has articles and videos on water-related topics, coloring pages, Classroom Activities, Teacher Packets, Dive & Discover with Online Expeditions!, and tons of fascinating videos, slideshows and interactive science.

Billion Oyster Project, a NY Harbor project to increase biodiversity and healthy harbor built with education and now includes over ten thousand volunteers, over six thousand students in over 100 NYC schools, and 75 restaurant partners. They created a remote learning support page with activities.

The Waterfront Alliance has education resources and is now creating lessons and building at-home parts to the Estuary Explorers labs.

ECHO: Leahy Center for Lake Champlain has an ECHO at Home section full of activities, community/citizen science fun, and stories.

Wildlife-focused: Fin, Fur, Feathered, Scaled, & Exoskeleton

National Wildlife Federation's Ranger Rick is offering free access to their online activities for youth. And you can learn about different wildlife and plants around the United States in their online Wildlife Guide.

Project WILD has turned some of their activities into shorter lessons that are available online for parents and caregivers.

The WILD Center has virtual visits, lunchtime segments, digital learning, and a digital content all contained in a Digital Hub.

American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) has a science website for kids, Ology. They are number of "ology"s to explore, including Biodiversity, Marine Biology, Climate Change, Earth, Water, and Zoology.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology has tips to helping identify birds, using four key tips. You can practice them with a series of videos they created on their All About Birds website. You can also play Bird Song Hero to learn bird songs. And participate with your youth in community science with Project FeederWatch.

The Bug Chicks have some awesome articles about, you guessed it: bugs and insects! They also have some cool short videos on insects. They do have low-cost, pre-recorded workshops ($5 per households).

Aquarium of the Pacific has an Online Academy, with offerings by grade-band. There is a Daily Bubble show updating the public on the aquarium, an Online Learning Center to learn more about the animals at the aquarium.

Flora-focused: Trees, Plants, and leaves

Project Learning Tree has a number of free Activities for Families that are easily printed and done at home, from "walking in the forest" to "when all else fails and you are inside". Be guided through PLT activities on thePLT Videos YouTube channel and follow Maine Project Learning Tree on Facebook for the activities and more suggestions.

The Adirondack Experience, the Museum on Blue Mountain Lake, has online activities for youth and families, explore the Life in the Adirondacks exhibit online, and explore 70,000 items through online collections. Don't forget to join them for FolkLore Fridays to hear regional legends and lore (aimed for Grades 2-4, but we all love a good legend!).

NY Botanical Garden has NYBG at Home resources where families can watch a video of spring unfold in the garden, talk with fellow plant lovers through the Plant Talk Blog, learning about growing things at home from plant experts and videos, dig into teacher resources and try new recipes. There are also ways to connect with NYBG collections, including 360-degree virtual access to some of the garden's collections like the Palm Dome or examining Steere Herbarium specimens. You can even get involved with a virtual research expedition or help transcribe projects.

The US Forest Service has Natural Inquirer magazine with resources for youth and educators and FS NatureLIVE, a series of distance learning adventures. And there is Discover the Forest where you can learn about identifying plants and trees, explore places with the game Agents of Discovery, an augmented reality (AR) game, find places to hike near you, and even the tried and true activity: CloudGazing!

City Blossoms, a DC-based non-profit organization, fosters healthy communities through community-engaging programming and green spaces. They have activities in English and Spanish, and resources to help build a safe community green space, or to explore and enhance your own backyard for your family.

Journaling & Reflecting on Nature

John Muir Laws is one of the predominant nature journaling experts. He and his co-author, Emilie Lygren, recently announced they were releasing the PDF of their new edition of How to Teach Nature Journaling FREE to help families and teachers during this transition to remote & distance learning. If you have ever wanted to learn about nature journaling, Betsy Ukeritis, NYS PLT State Coordinator, personally recommends their books. And his curriculum for teachers. You can find links to both here. He also has a great YouTube channel if you prefer more visual learning!

Exploring the use of "sit spots" by Nature Mentor. A sit spot (or secret spot) is simply a favorite place in nature that you visit regularly to cultivate awareness as you expand your senses and study patterns of local plants, birds, trees, animals, etc. This is a great practice to have youth slowdown and practice mindfulness. Building off the use of sit-spots, Nature Mentor has an Easy Guide to Nature Observation and How to Be a Naturalist the Easy Way. And if you want a whole series of activities to connect & share nature with beginners, Nature Mentor has those, too.

Libraries of Resources, Kits, & Lists

Rochester Museum & Science Center, with Cummings Nature Center, have created a series of Science At-home Activities families can do along with a Virtual Classroom of activities and demonstrations by grade bands.

The Smithsonian Institute has a ton of activities, games, and collections for youth of all ages to explore on topics covered in all of their museums & zoo! Air & Space, Art, Portrait Gallery, American History, and Natural History.

The Nature Conservancy has the Nature Lab, a youth curriculum platform, where they are hosting week-long thematic family teaching guides to explore nature right inside your home.

National Geographic has Classroom Resources, including a resource library with filters by grade level, content type, and subject. They also are doing Monday through Friday broadcasts at 2:00 PM EDT in the Explorer Classroom.

Children & Nature Network has a Nature Clubs for Families Tool Kit (in English, Spanish, French, and Chinese [both Traditional and Simple]) on their Guide & Tool Kits page.

National Environmental Education Federation (NEEF) has an EE at Home to help parents and educators to keep getting families outside with safe activities to do, with activities, infographics, and educator resources. (This will be updated regularly so don't forget to refresh the page!)

The Environmental Learning Network has a great list of trail activities, learning outside activities, parenting at home projects, and things to do outside.

Captain Planet Foundation has a recommended resources for learning at home, searchable by grade-band, topic, and activity type.