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From the Spring 2014 Conservationist for Kids

student exploring stream

Photo: DEC

More Exploring

By Gina Jack & Jeremy Taylor

Exploring wet worlds is fun to do on a hot day.

Shallow streams are home to all kinds of critters, from crayfish to aquatic insects. Ponds and wetlands contain fish, tadpoles and more. Wear water shoes or rubber boots and wade in! Turn over rocks and look around plants. Be careful to stay in shallow water, and always take a buddy. As you're exploring, be gentle with all of the animals you handle. Put everything back in the water where you found it.

Birdwatching is a great outdoor activity.

Start by learning about the most common birds in your neighborhood. Eventually, you can learn about more birds and go beyond your neighborhood in search of favorite species. Sometimes parks and nature centers have lists of the birds you might see during different times of the year. Many birdwatchers keep "life lists" of all the species they've seen. To start your own list, get a journal and write down each different type of bird you see, with the date and location. Share the information with your classmates, and chart the number of different species and locations everyone has listed. Which bird is most common? Compare notes with your friends and look together for your favorite birds. Share the information you collect online at such websites as eBird, where you can keep track of your lists and view other data, and scientists can use the information to learn more about different birds.

Boy looking through binoculars by the water.

Have a scavenger hunt with a list of natural objects to find. Start a collection such as leaves, rocks, flowers for pressing, and more. If you don't want to do a physical collection, take photos and use them to create a scrapbook of your adventures! You can make a scrapbook online at such places as Shutterfly, Snapfish, and Mixbook. There are many more websites to choose from!

There are lots of other ways to explore outdoors.

Pretend you're a great nature explorer. Where would you go? How would you share what you've found with others? Draw a map showing where you discovered interesting things in your neighborhood. Many websites allow you to create your own maps; two examples are Google MapMaker and ZeeMaps.

Make sure you follow nature ethics when out exploring. Ask permission before going on private property, respect the rights of other wildlife viewers (be quiet), don't feed or disturb wildlife, and leave baby animals where you found them. Report all environmental violations to 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267). Pick up litter, but don't disturb habitats, and try to leave no trace of yourself.