How to start

Nature Watching

You’d be amazed by how many different types of wildlife you’ll be able to see, just by heading to your nearest park or forest.

Step 1

If you want to keep things simple, just head out into your backyard or to a nearby forest or park, pick a spot and sit very still.

Step 2

After five or ten minutes, you may start to see birds, squirrels, bugs, or other types of animals, depending on where you live.

Step 3

Don’t get too close to the animals, and don’t try to feed them.

Step 4

Your kids can learn about respecting wildlife by remaining at a distance, not disturbing them, and picking up trash.

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Exploration Ideas

  • Make a bird feeder out of a plastic bottle

    Watch this video to learn how to make a bird feeder out of a plastic water or juice bottle with a cap. All you’ll need is the bottle (cleaned and dried), two sticks (unsharpened pencils will work), string, pins, scissors, and bird seed.

  • Go the zoo without actually going to the zoo

    Check out the Smithsonian National Zoo’s webcam of their lions, elephants, pandas, and even naked mole rats.

What to Bring

  • Plenty of water, even for short hikes — a gallon per person per day is a good guide
  • Snacks such as fruit or trail mix and empty bags to collect any garbage
  • Sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Warm layers and a lightweight rain jacket
  • Travel size first aid kit
  • Map of the area you’ll be exploring and your emergency contact numbers
  • A small flashlight and batteries

Safety Tips

  • Before you get on the trail make sure you have the local Forest Service Ranger District’s or Supervisor’s Office phone number with you. If someone gets hurt this should be the first number you call.
  • Always let someone know where you're going and what time you expect to be back.
  • Avoid going if a thunderstorm is in the forecast. Seek shelter in a car or house if you’re caught in a thunderstorm. If you're caught outside, the safest place to be is crouching in a cluster of trees — not in a clearing, out on water, or next to a lone tree.
  • Be mindful of the sun. Use sunscreen, seek shade, and drink plenty of water — even in the winter.
  • Animals have their own natural food supply so please don’t feed them.
  • Fruits and mushrooms can look tasty, but some are poisonous. To be safe, do not eat anything you find growing in the forest.
  • Railroad tracks are for trains only. Keep to the side and stay off the tracks.
  • Set a turnaround time when heading out that gives you plenty of time to get back before it gets dark. Expect to spend at least the same amount of time hiking back as you did hiking out.
  • Bring a small flashlight or another source of light with you if you'll be out close to sunset.