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Caregiver Resources While at Home

Surviving at Home with Youth: Activities to Stay Occupied

DEC Resources in one Location

More Resources from Places Outside of DEC

These links leave the DEC website.

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 highly recommends their books. And his curriculum for teachers. You can find links to both here.

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 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".

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 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.

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

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.

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).

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.

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.

Speaking of Community Science

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. Our 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.

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 (don't forget the center is closed!), 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 the Youth 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is doing "Home Safari Facebook Live" sessions daily at 3 PM EDT.

Tips to Help a Caregiver 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. For Parents navigating through Google Classroom Tips
  3. NESCA's Making the Mot of School Closures During this Time (they are a neuropsychology & education services group for youth)
  4. NYC Dept of Education's Early Childhood section put together Early Childhood Learn at Home Instructional Resources

EDUCATORS: Professional Learning Opportunities

Project Learning Tree's E-Units: if you are a formal teacher* in NYState, please contact the NYS Coordinator, Betsy Ukeritis, to discuss access to K-2nd grade; 3rd-5th grade; or 6th-8th grade E-unit online opportunities. These links are to provide an overview, if you are interested in the online training, please reach out to Betsy at either edprofdevel@dec.ny.gov or 315-314-0768 (Before you purchase them). *NOTE: I say formal teacher for these because they are truly tied to in-class learning and correlated to learning standards.

Green Teacher's free webinars are available for up to 30 days after the date of the webinar. There are three in April: April 1st on Art & Science of Teaching Climate Change; April 8th on Joy of Garden-based Education; and April 29th on Earth Partnership: Indigenous Arts & Sciences: Connecting STEM to Indigenous Science. (After 30 days, they are available to Green Teacher subscribers.)

National Wildlife Federation, Project WILD, and Project WET's Earth Day 50 Climate Change Course, a free, self-paced online course. This course is will be available through June.

National Wildlife Federation's Lesson Plans by Topics with Grade Levels are free. They also have webinars at the bottom of the page, you might want to check out the BATS! series.

Project WET has created a page for their Educator Online Trainings and it includes some free, at-home learning opportunities.

For educators (& caregivers) of young parents, WXXI has curated a list of online teaching resources. Including virtual learning events through PBS Learning Media.

Children & Nature Network Natural Teachers Network eGuide, Grow Outside Tool Kit, and Natural Leaders Network Tool Kit (in English and Spanish) on their Guides & Tool Kits page.

Tied-to-Science Resources, maybe not environmental

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.