Explore Your Nature Neighborhood

For immediate release ‐ May 01, 2020

Contact: Melissa Dowland, 919.707.9898. Images available upon request

This series offers tips and information to help you explore nature in your yard or local park through observation and nature journaling. Each topic includes a video and follow-up activities.

We recommend getting started by creating a nature journal out of common household materials. Then, choose a topic that interests you to continue exploring.

Educators: We are also offering these and other topics as free, online professional development workshops for credit. For more information, visit our Online Workshops page.

Vulture EdVenture

The Museum teamed up with the NC Zoo to learn all about nature’s cleanup crew – vultures! Watch the vulture video to explore the world of vultures, then try out our hands-on activities! Practice creative writing by turning vulture observations into a concrete poem. Then, design paper vultures (airplanes) and see how far they can glide!

Vulture Observations and Concrete Poem – Spend some time watching vultures (or other gliding birds) in a nearby green space and then turn your observations into a shape poem.
Vulture Airplane Challenge – Learn about the amazing flight behaviors of vultures then try your hand a designing a paper vulture (airplane) that can glide for the longest time and travel the farthest distance.

Project Squirrel

Learn about the types of squirrels you might see in your backyard or local park and how to report your sightings through the citizen science platform Project Squirrel. Spend some time observing squirrels in your area, then turn your funny squirrel observations into a comic strip!

Project Squirrel Observations – Use this simple data sheet to document your squirrel observations until you can upload your data online.
Squirrel Comics – Squirrels are nature’s comedians. Spend some time watching squirrels in your backyard or a nearby green space and then turn your observations into a comic strip of squirrelly behavior.

Under a Rotten Log

Get outside and explore the hidden world beneath a rotten log. Learn who might be living inside or underneath and their important role in the ecosystem. Then make an isopod igloo to provide habitat for roly-polies.

Rotten Log Investigation – Roll a log or flip a rock, capture a critter, and make a scientific diagram
Make an Isopod Igloo – Use a potato to make a roly-poly house

Trees to Meet You

Learn about some of the characteristics of a tree that you can observe to help you identify it. Take a closer look at leaves by sketching them with three different drawing techniques. Then, try a writing activity to help you think like a tree. See if you can identify your tree using free online resources from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Forest Service.

Leaf Drawing – Draw a leaf using three different techniques
A Tree’s Life – Interview a tree in your yard or local park and write a poem from its perspective

Resources for tree identification:
Trees of North Carolina
– An easy-to-use online key for tree identification from NC State University
Common Forest Trees of NC – Field guide (PDF) to common trees species from NC Forest Service

Citizen Science Adventure: Nature’s Notebook

Learn how to collect data for Nature’s Notebook, a citizen science project designed to track seasonal changes in plants and animals. Then, take a closer look at the buds and opening leaves on a tree as you practice drawing with texturing techniques.

Drawing with Texture 
– Use texturing techniques to record the details of buds or opening leaves

Parts of a Flower

Spring is the perfect time of year to take a closer look at flowers. Learn how to identify the parts of a flower and then explore the flowers in your yard or local natural area with a simple nature journaling activity!

Plant Time Machine 
– Examine changes in a flower as it develops
Flower Parts Diagram 
– Use this diagram to help you observe the parts of a flower

Bird Observation

Get tips on observing and identifying birds and learn how to contribute to the eBird citizen science project. Then, try out a nature journaling activity to map the bird sounds in your neighborhood.

Sound Mapping
– Create a map of bird calls and behaviors in your yard or local park

Looking Closely

Take advantage of one of the most simple yet powerful tools to observe nature in your neighborhood: a magnifying glass! Try an activity and take a closer look at the amazing world around you.

Upon Closer Inspection – Examine the amazing details in your fingerprint
Seeing Like Georgia O’Keeffe – Select a natural object to observe with an artist’s eye

Using Your Senses

We can all learn to become better observers through paying attention to all of our senses. Take this video outside and follow the prompts to explore different ways to make sensory observations, then participate in a short nature journaling activity to record your observations through sketching and writing.

Using Your Senses to Observe NatureLet your sensory observations become a prompt for creative writing
Nature Haiku – Try writing a nature haiku based on your observations

Creating a Nature Journal

Get outside and explore your very own nature neighborhood! Learn how to make a simple nature journal from common household materials, then take it outside and record observations of nature in your backyard or local natural area.

Create a Nature Journal – Step by step instructions to make your nature journal
Making Journal Entries – Tips for making your first nature journal entry

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