In a virtual April school vacation week program, Mass Audubon instructors will ask kids to gather an eclectic assortment of household objects: chopsticks, pliers, scissors, a straw, and a cup of juice. They’ll then use these items as scientific instruments in an experiment to learn how different bird species use their beaks.
The organization’s April school vacation week itinerary has mammals on Monday, trees on Tuesday, birds on Wednesday, climate on Thursday, and “Herps and Fish” (or cold-blooded vertebrates) on Friday. The virtual morning program is geared to 5- to 8-year-olds, who can attend the whole week or choose specific days.
Camp Education Programs manager Cheryl Oliveira said she designed the event, which she will lead with fellow Mass Audubon educator Matt Jones, “to make learning fun for kids.”
To keep the three-hour online sessions friendly for elementary school-size attention spans, Oliveira said she and Jones will shift between activities frequently each day. Children will make crafts, sing nature songs, get up and move around, have (virtual) encounters with live animals, and conduct at-home science experiments. Families will receive materials for crafts and experiments in advance, as well as activities kids can do on their own after the camp session.
Science experiments will come in two forms. In one, Oliveira will perform the experiment herself and engage campers with questions: “What do you think’s going to happen? Why do you think that? And what will happen if I do this? Or what won’t happen?” she said.
More often, however, campers will investigate questions themselves. For example, to learn how leaves breathe, they’ll be asked to bring in a leaf from outside to use as a specimen.
To the families of kids fascinated with nature, Olivera recommends letting them spend time outside and get dirty. She suggests exploring the “Get Outdoors” tab on massaudubon.org for resources, programs, and wildlife sanctuary locations.
“Nature Inside Out — Virtual Spring Vacation Week” runs April 19 to April 23, 9 a.m. to noon, and costs $45 a day for members and $54 for nonmembers. The deadline to register is April 16. Mass Audubon is also holding in-person camps this spring and summer at limited capacities. To register and for more information, go to massaudubon.org or e-mail email@example.com.
Mary Mangual is a writer pursuing her MFA at Emerson College.