“I see plants and hummingbirds.
I smell the freshness of the outdoors.
I hear all birds of different sizes.
I feel quiet and at peace.
I wonder if we’ll have this for years to come.”
A ten-year-old author wrote this poem while at one of Audubon New Mexico’s summer day camps at the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary after experiencing the transformation that happens in nature, and the reflection, wonder, and increased awareness of self and other creatures.
Summer Day Camp kicked-off in early June and will run through mid-August 2018 for 5 – 11 year olds. Each week of camp, children enjoy science investigations, nature explorations, creative arts, storytelling, hiking, and active play in the outdoors. Each year, we are lucky enough to have Youth Counselors (ages 12-18), some of whom grew up attending the camp, join our talented and creative education team led by Katie Weeks.
“When I talk with students at the Randall Davey Audubon Center about science, many of them picture laboratories, microscopes and old people in white coats, said Katie Weeks, education manager and summer camp director. “One of Audubon’s messages is that science exploration can happen anywhere, by anyone, and can look a lot like playtime. As you’re brainstorming summer adventures with your family, remember that science activities don’t require fancy materials or exotic places — just a sense of curiosity and willingness to explore and ask questions together.”
Katie recommends the following activities to captivate children’s attention to nature.
Start a nature journal.
Recording observations is an age-old method of learning science. For centuries, naturalists have been sketching, describing, and collecting information on their personal surroundings. Drawings don’t need to be masterpieces to inspire reflection and more questions. Your nature journal can be a special notebook, or just some scratch paper folded and held together with staples. I like to fill my journals with lists of things I saw, map-sketches of different locations, and doodles of outdoor things that caught my eye. Encourage your family to note their favorite or most surprising observations, where they were seen, and the date, so you can look back on your summer science memories in the future.
Construct a fort or animal shelter (for wildlife, or yourself).
Forts are a childhood staple, exercising our curiosity, engineering skills, problem-solving ability, and creativity. Plus, it can be really fun to hide away in something you’ve built by hand. Use any variety of materials, from grass and sticks, to manmade materials found around your house. Your creation might range in size from a giant nest large enough to fit a person, down to a tiny fairy house smaller than a shoe.
Create sun-print art.
This is a great experiment, especially to observe the power of sunrays in Santa Fe. All you need is a piece of colored paper (the darker the better) and assorted objects from your home or outdoors. Arrange your favorite found materials, such as leaves, seeds, toys, rocks or other interesting shapes, on the construction paper. Then, leave the paper and items out in the sun for a few hours. See what happens to the paper?
Design a wildlife habitat and see which creatures live in your neighborhood.
Even if you don’t see them, wildlife is found all throughout urban neighborhoods. Investigate which parts of a habitat you already have — food, water, space and shelter — and incorporate ones you’re missing by putting out a bird feeder, water bath, or brush pile – these attract chickadees, bluebirds, hummingbirds and other wildlife. To learn more about local birds that might be in your neighborhood, check out apps like Audubon Birds or Merlin Bird ID, by Cornell Lab. Want to get more hands-on? Work together to create a model of your habitat with recycled materials, art supplies or even LEGOs.
Did you know that Audubon teaches statewide?
Besides our education and summer camp programs at the Randall Davey Audubon Center in Santa Fe, Audubon New Mexico is also working with schools in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Socorro, and Roswell. In these communities, our Birds of a Feather Science Programs have served over 4,000 students yearly.
In this coming school year, we will be continuing with these established programs as well as adding more programs in stretches of our state that need it most. To contribute to these education programs and to help us reach even more New Mexico children, please donate here.