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Caregiver, Parent, & Educator Resources While at Home

Surviving at Home with Youth: Activities to Stay Occupied


June 2020

See the new Diversity Resources in the Outdoors, Science, and Environmental Justice for a wider perspective and more voices on opportunities and how to help build more inclusive spaces in the Outdoors.

May 2020

Resources for Learning Supports & Extra Learning Needs and Educator Resources & Professional Development Opportunities have now moved to their own pages.

Activities from Popular Centers, State Agencies, and Organizations also moved to their own page.

Tips to Help a Caregiver, Parent, or Grandparent Transition Into Remote Learning

So, we in DEC Environmental Education understand the anxiety. Some of us are going through it ourselves. Others are being questioned (remotely) by coworkers, friends, colleagues around the US and world on how to help parents, foster parents, grandparents, caregivers, even educators and teachers who are thrust into this, transition and help their charges transition into this world of digital and remote learning.

Big Tips gathered from many sources

  1. Breathe. No one expects miracles on the first day. Or even on Day 17.
  2. Let go of perfect. As you already said, it's high anxiety for all. Change is difficult as an adult, even more so for children and youth. Add in a learning challenge, and perfect is just a recipe for disaster. So, go a head: call a win at three hours of learning over an eight hour day. And guess what? That two hour time they were outside running around, climbing trees, swinging, and kicking a ball? That's called "gym" and "critical thinking" and physics!
  3. Getting back to that three hours of learning is a win. It is. School is social as much as it has work. So do not pack the schedule. But, yes, having a schedule will be hugely helpful for youth. They need some structure as much as they will need your flexibility.
  4. The first week(s) will be rough. You will make it through.
  5. Board games teach math, science, reading, critical thinking, and so much more. Do not be afraid to add them into your "school day"!

Now, for some professional tips!

  1. The Inclusive Class's Tips for Helping Your Child Learn At Home
  2. NESCA's Making the Most of School Closures During this Time (they are a neuropsychology & education services group for youth)
  3. NYC Dept of Education's Early Childhood section put together Early Childhood Learn at Home Instructional Resources

And some tips just on Google Classroom

DEC Resources in one Location

Lesson Plans

Printable Activity Pages (usually one-page printables) that can be used in your backyard for At-home Adventures or out at a local park

Color Pullouts of Animals of NYS … great resources to take while out on a discovery hike!

  • Conservationist magazine Pullouts
    • Examples: Mammals, Bats, Skull Science, Birds, Raptors, Owls, Frogs & Toads, Salamanders (2 issues!), Snakes, Turtles, Backyard Bugs, Freshwater sportfish, Winter Tracks, etc.

Local DEC Partners

DEC's Partnership with Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Hudson River Estuary Program are working on virtual content to help students, teachers, and families stay in touch with the River that Flows Both Ways with weekly videos about the Hudson River, ties to complimentary videos from partners, and lesson plans that tie in with some of the videos.

WXXI, the PBS channel in the Greater Rochester area & Finger Lakes, is curating resources for families, including modifying their programming schedule to a "Learn At Home" schedule for 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. For when you and your household are participating in outside activities (with responsible social distancing) and are in the Greater Rochester Area, you can participate in the WXXI Community Observation Challenge through iNaturalist. WXXI also curated Nature Exploring Apps for families and created tips and lists to help caregivers build a fun Camp @ Home atmosphere for young learners.

And speaking of PBS, their Learning Media Lab has a plethora of resources on every school subject and grade level you might need.

Speaking of Community Science: Places to Find Fun Projects to Get Involved With

Learn more about community science, also called citizen science, and check out these Ten Principles of Citizen Science. The websites below offer thousands of opportunities for all ages and all abilities to get involved in sciences. Some just require a computer and reporting on what is seen in videos, some projects are transcribing data, others are getting outside and making observations. Girl Scouts can connect troops to projects in SciStarter to earn badges.

SciStarter is an online community dedicated to improving the community [citizen] science experience for project managers and participants. Over 3,000 projects and events are searchable by location, scientific topic, and age level, and by joining SciStarter, members can track their contributions and provide valuable feedback. SciStarter also supports researchers in managing projects, including best practices for engaging participant partners.

The Zooniverse is the world's largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. This research is made possible by volunteers-more than a million people around the world who come together to assist professional researchers. Zooniverse's goal is to enable research that would not be possible, or practical, otherwise. Zooniverse research results in new discoveries, datasets useful to the wider research community, and many publications.

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies (Millbrook, NY) recommends Nature's Notebook as a fun community science project to track spring.

BudBurst, a community science project through the Chicago Botanic Garden, tracks spring and buds bursting into leaves and flowers. They have created a section For Families to get out and track spring and contribute to community science. There are activities for preK to kindergarten, Grades 1-4, and Grades 5-8 to help caregivers out. BudBurst has a number of on-going projects to get involved in for all ages and levels of community scientists.

A tool commonly used in community science, iNaturalist "iNat" is an app for smartphones & tablets or can be used on a computer with a digital camera. One of the world's most popular nature apps, iNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over 750,000 scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! What's more, by recording and sharing your observations, you'll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. iNaturalist is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. Parents & educators alike will find a ton of help in the iNat Teacher's Guide.

And while iNat needs an account, iNat's app, Seek, does not and was created as more of a high-tech hunt & ID game for youth of all ages.

Where You Can Go to Watch Wildlife

To find interesting places to view wildlife, visit the Watchable Wildlife webpage. There are also tips on watching wildlife and some "Watchable Wildlife Species" info pages.

You can also visit the Outdoor Activities webpage to find more places to go around NYS, by activity like fishing, hiking, and animal tracking. Nature Mentor has 7 Practical Tips & Tricks for Finding Animal Tracks [leaves DEC website].

Before you head out to visit Five Rivers Environmental Education Center (don't forget the center buildings are closed but trails are open for humans!), print out the Five Rivers Trail Scavenger Hunt (PDF). Best part? You can use this fun seek & find adventure sheet at any park. Or even your backyard or tree-lined street to find things, maybe just not every one, so write down other fun things you do find in the blank space!

Educational Videos (Environmental Topics and Live Cams) Youth and the Family Can Watch

(links below leave DEC website)

We have a DEC YouTube channel!

You can learn about different careers, "On the Front Lines."

You can learn how to tell Lake Ontario Trout & Salmon apart with this fish ID video.

You can watch the amazing egg-take processes at a couple of our DEC hatcheries.

Many Zoos & Centers around the USA and World have animal cameras

Wild Jobs is a program through Animal Planet that explores all types of wildlife jobs. John "Griff" Griffith spends one day as an inter at different animal facilities to learn about the jobs, wildlife, and care that goes on there. There is also a Wild Jobs FaceBook channel to go with and add commentary to this program.

Jared Goodykoontz is a school naturalist and children's author/illustrator in Columbus, Ohio, who fosters nature connection with over 400 two through six-year-olds each week at Little Dreamers Big Believers and Balanced Family Academy. He started Little Adventures, Big Connections YouTube videos for his students. You can also connect with him through the Little Adventures Big Connections FaceBook.

Zoos and Science & Nature Centers Doing At-home Projects & Livestreams

Zoos are also doing at-home projects or multiple sessions per week on Facebook Livestream sessions with animals and keepers to help with enrichment for the animals. Check out each of these zoo's Facebook pages and their Facebook events to find out more.

  • Seneca Park Zoo right here in Rochester, NY! They are doing "Zoo Projects" on Facebook, but they will be hosting these projects and videos on a Zoo Projects web page you can check out. You can also help them identify species of wildlife they found in their camera traps as part of the Urban Wildlife Information Network program (this is an iNaturalist project and you will need an iNat account).
  • Sciencenter right here in Ithaca, NY! They are doing Educators on Zoom in Facebook, so visit their Facebook, usually at 10:30 AM EDT with science and STEM activities.
  • Utica Zoo has a Uti-kaZoo Kid's Academy Zoo, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) activities and learning about their animals. They have videos and then activities and worksheets to go with the videos.
  • Rosamond Gifford Zoo may be closed in Syracuse, NY, but they have a number of YouTube videos, including Meet the Keeper videos.
  • Montezuma Audubon Center has live Facebook activities and talks.
  • Bronx River Alliance is
  • Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Nature Centers (NC) has weekly Facebook content, including videos, activities, and fun tidbits of nature facts.
  • North Carolina Zoo is doing live Facebook sessions on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays at 10 AM EDT. They also have 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.
  • Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is doing "Home Safari Facebook Live" sessions daily at 3 PM EDT.
  • Blue Hill Heritage Trust has created a webinar series, "Friends from the Field" featuring local Maine naturalists, environmental professionals, and outdoor learning experts. LIVE Every Thursday, 4 to 5 PM EDT.

Tied-to-Science Resources, maybe not environmental: STEM- & STEAM-focused

Story Time From Space is a project, with curriculum, of the Global Space Education Foundation, where astronauts read books from space.

Reading e-books with a library card, Overdrive has a few options, but check with your local library which one your library supports. Libby is one of the apps they discuss and many local libraries use.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a series of activities for families to work on and explore at home.

STEM Ecosystems has a page of activities and resources, including webinars and workshops, online.

Explore the American Museum of Natural History's Dinosaur Gallery at COSI, the Center for Science & Industry, located in Columbus, OH, in 3D on your mobile device or computer.

Explore, color, and connect with libraries and their collections, with #ColorOurCollections. In February each year, libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world, including the NY Academy of Medicine, share free coloring sheets and books based on materials in their collections. You can download and color them. Betsy, NYPLT Coordinator, recommends the Getty Research Institute Coloring Book 2020, Virginia Museum of History & Culture Coloring Book 2020, MassGeneral Hospital Archives & Special Collections Coloring Book 2020 (not for the faint of heart!), and The Canadian Canoe Museum Coloring Book 2020 (who doesn't like to canoe?).

Google's Arts & Culture Collection has museums and iconic locations you can visit from around the world, from art museums like the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain, and the Tate Museum in London, United Kingdom, to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, NY and , to Museo Nacional de Antropologia, in Mexico, to places like the Anne Frank House, Eiffel Tower, and the White House.

More about Caregiver, Parent, & Educator Resources While at Home: