Are you looking for fun educational activities for your family to do at home while social distancing? Parks & Gardens staff has compiled the list below of activities and free online educational resources for all ages. Additional resources will be added as they become available, so check back periodically.
Our Environmental Educators have been hard at work bringing you new content such as educational videos and family friendly activities that you can do right in your own backyard. Check out the Environmental Education YouTube channel to begin exploring today!
Celebrate Earth Day by Nature Journaling
Nature journaling is simply recording your experiences in nature any way you see fit. It can help develop your art, language arts, and scientific observation skills. It’s also a fun and relaxing activity for anyone of any age! Learn more about nature journaling at plt.org/educator-tips/nature-journaling-ideas/.
Join the City Nature Challenge- April 24-27
The City Nature Challenge is a world-wide bioblitz to find and document as many species of wildlife and plants as possible over a four-day period from April 24-27. The challenge involves taking pictures of nature and uploading them to the free iNaturalist app. This activity can be done in your backyard, private property, or in the community while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Learn more at ilmnaturechallenge.com.
How to Fold Paper Pots
Ready to plant some seeds, but don’t have any pots? No problem! Grab some paper and start folding with us! Learn how to make compostable paper pots at home! Click here to learn more about the flowering plant life cycle.
Watch this video as four friends discover how trash from their playground can cause harm to plants and animals in the river running through their town. What do you think might be causing the problems in the video to happen? Think of ways that you can help to stop these problems and help keep our river clean and healthy.
Backyard Adventures featuring Pill Bugs
Ever wonder what’s living in your backyard? Check out this video to learn about backyard habitats and a little creature called a Pill Bug. Then try your hand at setting up a simple experiment to learn about the scientific method.
Reuse and Recycle at Home
How do you dispose of waste and other unwanted items? Improving the way you dispose of waste is an important way you can help our environment. Reducing waste, reusing items, recycling, and composting save natural resources, energy, and landfill space. Use this chart to analyze how you currently dispose of waste and whether items being thrown away could be reused, recycled, or composted. Then talk as a family about how you can make improvements.
Guess Who? – Animal Adaptations Part 1
Check out this video from Sara, Airlie Gardens Environmental Educator, for a little game of Guess Who! Learn about the adaptations you find in animals just by looking at their skull. You can learn a lot about what they eat and how they see, smell and hear!
All About Birds
It’s a great time to get out and enjoy your own backyard and see what’s flying around! eBird is an excellent resource for birders of all ages. It lets you know what birds are in our area throughout the year and lets you keep track of what you see! You can start a list for your yard and see how it changes throughout the year! Click here for a tutorial to get you started. Click here for some really fun bingo cards to help you start exploring!
Learn to Compost
Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 28 percent of what we throw away, and should be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In this activity you will learn composting basics, the benefits of composting, and how to compost at home.
All About Feathers
What makes birds unique? You may think of beaks, feathers, wings, laying eggs, or walking on two legs. All of these are important elements of bird anatomy, but only one of them sets birds apart from all other living creatures. Explore the fascinating science behind feathers in this interactive tutorial “All About Feathers” from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Academy.
How to Make a Toad Abode
Watch this video to learn how to make your yard even friendlier to our amphibian populations by making a toad abode! Now go outside and listen for amphibians calling in the spring and see how many you can hear! Visit the following links to learn all about the calls of our local amphibians and how you can help with their conservation: http://herpsofnc.org/frogs-and-toads/ and https://www.aza.org/frogwatch
Pollinator Backyard Activity Guide
Look for a patch of flowers and watch closely to see what sort of animals visit them. Then, follow the activities on your worksheet to record your observations, monitor what types of pollinators you see, and help attract more pollinators.
The Power of Pollination- Protecting the Honeybee
Honeybees’ role in the pollination process makes them vital to the food supply. In this lesson, you will learn about the importance of saving the valuable honeybee population, which is on the decline in some areas due to parasites, Varroa mites, and pesticides.
Trees for Many Reasons
Trees are important for many reasons! In this activity from Project Learning Tree, kids (and adults) can examine the importance of conserving natural resources through one of the world’s most famous environmental fables- The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. When you finish the activity, think as a family about what you can do to help save the trees in our community. Actividad también disponible en español.
All living things need water, so it is important to keep natural water sources like rivers, lakes, and oceans clean of pollution. Use this activity guide from our friends at NEEF (National Environmental Education Foundation) to learn more and explore the topic of water quality.
Hidden Worlds of our National Parks
Beat the rainy day blues with a virtual visit to the “Hidden Worlds of our National Parks!” Join park rangers on a journey to places most people never see at https://artsandculture.withgoogle.com/en-us/.
Ways of Watersheds
Complete this online lesson from UNC-TV Science. This interactive lesson will teach you all about water, the water cycle, and watersheds. When you finish the lesson, brainstorm some ways we can protect our watersheds and the land and water that surround them.
Bird Song Hero
Play The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “Bird Song Hero” game. Do you recognize any of the birds in the game? Now go outside and see how many different bird songs you can hear and identify in your backyard.
Sights & Sounds of Nature
Check out the sights and sounds of Yellowstone National Park in this cool video from PBS.org! Now go outside your home and look and listen carefully. What do you see? What do you hear? Keep a record of the sights and sounds at different times of day around your home while you’re out of school.
Backyard Scavenger Hunt
Check out this Backyard Scavenger Hunt! Activities like these can be done in your own backyard or around the neighborhood. If you do choose to go to a park or other public facility, please be sure to follow the guidelines of social distancing- remain at least six feet from others, and don’t congregate in groups of more than ten.
Airlie Gardens Environmental Education YouTube Channel
Check out these educational videos created by our environmental educators – Alyssa and Sara at YouTube.com!
Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Academy
ecoEXPLORE is an incentive-based citizen science program for children in grades K-8. Developed by The North Carolina Arboretum, this innovative pilot program combines science exploration with kid-friendly technology to foster a fun learning environment for children while encouraging them to explore the outdoors and participate in citizen science.
eek! Environmental Education for Kids
This website is full of educational games, activities and videos designed for upper-elementary and middle school students. Click here to access the site.
*Este sitio web está disponible en español – Haga clic aquí para español.
National Weather Service Educational Resources
Lessons, games, and videos to keep kids engaged in science. Weather.gov
NEEF- Environmental Education at Home
Activity guides and citizen science projects for children of all ages from the National Environmental Education Foundation. Check them out at NEEFUSA.org.
Keep Going, Keep Growing with ten fun pollinator-themed ideas from Pollinator Partnership staff!
Project Learning Tree- Activities to do with Children at Home
Avoid going stir-crazy during self-quarantines with these simple family activities; they’re the perfect way to keep kids engaged through active participation as they learn about nature, and suggest ways we can lessen our environmental footprint at home and beyond. PLT.org
UNC-TV Interactive Lessons
These are very robust, highly-interactive lessons, complete with opportunities for note-taking, multiple choice online quizzes and a final project, that a student can do with a parent/teacher or on his/her/their own, and they can take 1-3 50-minute class periods to complete. Click here to access the site.
Enjoy birding at the gardens an hour early the second Wednesday of every month, co-hosted with our partner Wild Bird & Garden! Enjoy a guided stroll around the grounds without the crowds. Recognized on the North Carolina Birding Trail as a Coastal Region site, Airlie offers some of the best birding in New Hanover County. Over 200-bird species have been observed in the garden, attesting to Airlie’s honor of being named a part of the North Carolina Birding Trail. To see what has been spotted, check out Airlie’s HotSpot on eBird.com, a free, easy-to-use, citizen science observation database.
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game that uses handheld GPS-enabled devices to find geocaches (containers) hidden in different locations. There are currently over 50 geocaches hidden in New Hanover County’s parks locations.
Geocaching in New Hanover County Parks & Gardens
NHC Parks & Gardens is pleased to support geocaching. We also recognize the need to maintain safe and aesthetically pleasing parks while protecting our county’s natural resources. If you plan to hide and/or seek geocaches in our parks, please be sure to read and follow our Geocaching Policies carefully. In order to hide a cache, you must submit a Geocache Registration Form for approval.
Parks & Gardens Geo-Challenge
Parks & Gardens has hidden 12 geocaches in 10 different parks for a new Geo-Challenge. To participate:
*Groups are welcome to participate in the Geo-Challenge, however, the group leader must contact the Parks office at (910) 798-7629 prior to beginning the challenge so that we can be prepared for your group. A “group” is considered any group of people larger than an individual family, including schools, daycares, summer camps, etc.
*There is a charge for admission to Airlie Gardens. Geocachers may gain complimentary access to Airlie in order to complete the Geo-Challenge IF & WHEN they have found all 11 of the other Geo-Challenge caches (you must show your completed Geo-Challenge passport to the Ticket Agent to gain free entry). Also, admission is free for New Hanover County residents on the first Sunday of every month.
The Kids in Parks TRACK Trail is a self-guided tour that leads kids and families on the 1.3 mile paved multipurpose trail around the lake at Smith Creek Park. It is designed to turn an ordinary walk in the park into an educational adventure by offering four brochure-led tours: Nature’s Hide & Seek, Nature’s Relationships, Animal Athletes and Hikin’ to Find Lichen. The trail is part of a nationwide network of over 130 TRACK Trails in seven states and Washington, DC which inspires kids and families to be more active outdoors. Kids can register their participation on the Kids in Parks website, www.kidsinparks.com, to earn prizes for each trail completed.
The Smith Creek Park TRACK Trail was made possible through a grant from Kids in Parks and the North Carolina Recreation & Park Association (NCRPA).
Check out a Nature Discovery Kit at Airlie Gardens and explore the gardens in a new way! The kits include activities and books to help you learn more about Airlie Gardens and all the plants and animals that live there. Kits are free to use- just stop by the front desk when you arrive to check one out!
Nature kit options include:
Create your own stick-bound journal and use it to document your nature observations in the gardens. Kit includes a story book, materials and instructions for making your journal and art supplies.
Birding with our Feathered Friends
Learn some basic birdwatching skills, identify common birds found at Airlie and test your nest building skills with the Build a Nest Challenge. Kit includes a story book, bird field guides, binoculars, birding bingo sheets and instructions and materials for a fun hands-on activity.
Become more familiar with the features and functions of plants. Complete a plant scavenger hunt, take some leaf rubbings and play a seed matching game. Kit includes a story book, materials and leaves for leaf rubbing, a box of seeds with a matching sheet and a laminated scavenger hunt.
Parks & Gardens has partnered with the New Hanover County Library to bring you Park Pages, also known as, Little Free Libraries. Park Pages are located at Arrowhead, Kings Grant, Long Leaf, Northern Regional, Ogden, Smith Creek Parks and Pages Creek Park Preserve where visitors are encouraged to “take a book” and “leave a book.” Park Pages is part of the Little Free Library movement whose mission is “to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.” There are currently over 32,000 Little Free Libraries around the world.
Did You Know that reducing the risk of chronic disease while increasing health and happiness can be as easy as spending time in your favorite park? Studies have shown that spending time in natural environments increases physical activity, and physical activity reduces the risk for obesity and many chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and certain cancers. Spending time in nature also decreases anxiety and negative thinking and lowers levels of depression and stress.
Public parks have long been an underutilized healthcare resource. Parks facilities are open to people of all abilities, ages, socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities and best of all- they’re absolutely free. With the rising cost of healthcare as a barrier for many, public parks can be the perfect solution to building a healthier community.
New Hanover County Parks & Gardens and the City of Wilmington Parks & Recreation are partnering with area healthcare providers, public health agencies and other groups to help build a healthier New Hanover County by encouraging citizens to get outside and exercise!
Attention Healthcare Providers!
If you are interested in partnering with New Hanover County Parks & Gardens to promote physical activity and improve the health of your patients through the Park Prescriptions program, contact Jodi Rich at firstname.lastname@example.org or (910) 798-7629.
Become a Parks Star by completing a fun-filled activity book while learning about New Hanover County Parks! Upon completion of the age-appropriate workbook, you will receive a certificate and prize. Parks Stars will receive email newsletters, additional activities and invitations to upcoming Parks & Gardens events and programs.
There are two levels of Youth Parks Stars (click the link below to print the workbook):
Printed Parks Stars workbooks may also be picked up at the Parks & Gardens office at the Government Center.
StoryWalk® encourages both family literacy and physical activity by posting pages from a children’s book along a path or walking trail. Families walk along the trail, reading a page at a time together and interacting with the story and with each other.
StoryWalks are currently located at:
Long Leaf Park– Bug Safari by Bob Barner
Smith Creek Park– Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell
StoryWalk® is a collaboration between New Hanover County Parks & Gardens, NHC Library, NHC Health Department and NHC Library Foundation.