Inspiring exploration, appreciation, and conservation of our natural world.

#StayHome with Nature

Can’t make it to the Boardman River Nature Center today? No worries! Check out the activities below for naturalists of all ages to explore while in the comfort of their own home. These activities are designed to use minimal materials or none at all to get you thinking about everything that Nature has to offer. Join us from home and #GetOutside with these interactive activities and free resources we have compiled for you to enjoy!

Signs of Spring

Spring is near! #Getoutside and explore the growing things around you. Look at the buds on the trees, observe the catkins blowing in the wind and record any blossoms you see in your adventures.

1.) #GetOutside

2.) Observe the signs of spring! Buds, catkins, and blossoms are great signs of spring that you may come across.

3.) Consider the following when observing your findings:
⁣ ▪️Use your senses to observe each of these items
⁣ ▪️Record your findings, compare and contrast each item
⁣ ▪️Choose and watch a bud to observe over the next week

Signs of Wildlife

As the snow continues to melt, look for tracks, scat, and other signs of wildlife that give you clues to what wildlife may be around you!

1.) #GetOutside

2.) Observe signs of animals. If you come across a track or another sign, draw or take a picture so that you can identify later.

3.) Consider the following when observing your findings:
⁣ ▪️Does the track have claw marks?
⁣ ▪️What is the composition of the scat?
⁣ ▪️What color are the feathers or fur?

Beautiful Butterflies

Spring is taking its time to arrive in Michigan, so lets fast forward to summer! Monarch’s will embark on their long journey and other butterflies will emerge from their chrysalis like the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail! The Boardman River Nature Center pollinator garden is the perfect place to observe many of these species in the summer, especially monarchs!

1.) #GetOutside

2.) Identify an area with enough space to spin yourself in a circle. Now go to that TP stock and grab a roll of toilet paper. Use a roll of toilet paper (if you do not have one to spare, use a blanket or whatever else you can find to wrap up in). Wrap yourself in the toilet paper or material of choice to resemble a butterfly pupa wrapped up in a chrysalis. Break out of it like a beautiful butterfly!

3.) Consider the following after completing this activity:
⁣ ▪️Pupa is what stage of the butterfly life cycle?
⁣ ▪️What is the difference between a chrysalis and a cocoon?
⁣ ▪️Are all chrysalis’ the same color and size? Why or why not?

Rockin’ Ramps🌱

Foraging season is upon us! Whether you are searching for morels or fiddleheads, consider this other Michigan favorite. Now, we at the Natural Education Reserve have a no-pick rule. But! If you are near a wooded area where you are able to pick, consider searching for wild leeks, or “ramps,” as many like to call them.

1) #GetOutside
2) You’re looking for a large population of large green leaves, typically found in wooded areas.
3)  Based on your findings, consider the following:

General rule of thumb, wild leek bulbs will smell like onions! Compare a wild leek to the smell of an onion
Ramps are often found near trilliums, trout lillies or lily of the valley in wooded areas. Keep an eye out for morel mushrooms too!
🚨It is not recommended to go searching in open areas or on dunes, there is a poisonous version of this plant that grows in areas as such called the Death Camas. Remember, if it smells like onions, it’s a ramp. Death Camas, do not.

Shapes in Nature
Shapes are all around us in nature and can be found whether you’re safely enjoying nature in your yard, on a trail, or in your own home. What shapes can you find in plants, clouds, rocks, trees, and more?

Miraculous Morel Mushrooms

It’s that time of year! If you are choosing to social distance yourself in the woods, make sure to keep an eye out for Michiganders favorite mushroom, the morel! Always make sure the cap of the mushroom is attached to the stem and remember, the Natural Education Reserve (NER) does not allow picking! Lets try to find some of these mysterious mushrooms.

1️⃣ #GetOutside
2️⃣ Go on a morel scavenger hunt! Keep your eyes peeled for these sneaky mushrooms that camouflage well with last years leaves and litter layer in the woods.
3️⃣ Based on your findings, consider the following:
    ▪️If you don’t find any, look another day!
    ▪️ Finding these mushrooms is a skill and can often take time and practice.
    ▪️ There are several types of morel mushrooms, use the website below for tips and possible locations for finding them

Wiggling Worms

Warmer temperature means more hidden movement of our wiggly friends, earthworms! Earthworms are unique in many ways and they are nothing to be afraid of. You can hold them if you like but remember they are meant to be in nature and handling them for too long can harm them. Where do you think they will be?

1️⃣ #GetOutside
2️⃣ Start flipping over rocks and logs! Always put them back where you found them, gently.
3️⃣ Based on your findings, consider the following:
▪️Do earthworms have mouths?
▪️ How do you think earthworms move through the ground?
▪️ True or False: Earthworms are Native to Michigan (False!) They are non-native to the upper Midwest.


When Mother Nature decides to unleash the rains from her clouds, there is always a level of excitement at the Grand Traverse Conservation District’s Boardman River Nature Center. Because when it rains, there is mud; glorious, mushy, gushy, sticky mud. Many of us have fond memories of splashing in mud puddles, laughing and soaking wet. Playing in the mud is not just about fun, it’s beneficial! 

Playing in mud makes you happy! Research has found that dirt contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium Vaccae. This bacterium is found to stimulate the immune system and increase endorphins that soothes, calms, and promotes relaxation. Scientist suggest regular exposure to dirt can reduce signs of depression. In short, muddy kids=happy kids! 

Mud can help you learn!  The rich engaging sensory play that occurs with mud, helps stimulate your child’s fine motor skills, creativity, cooperation, communication, and other important developmental skills. Science and math skills are practiced as children learn to make the right consistency of mud, solve problems, and measure ingredients for their mud pie. It brings the scientific process ALIVE!  

Mud fosters creativity! Open ended mud play allows children the freedom to stretch and exercise their creativity. Mud is a readily available medium for sculpture and paint. It also allows for imaginative play. Simply set out a few kitchen tools and see what get “cooked up”. 

Mud creates a connection to nature! Time outside is a critical step to fostering the next generation of conservation leaders. Playing in mud can inspire a child to be outside and appreciate the magic that the outdoors hold. The hope for the future of conservation is simple: the heart comes first, and the head will follow. Here at the Boardman River Nature Center, our staff work with one mantra in mind: Children need nature, and nature needs children. By providing time outdoors and the chance for muddy, messy play, you facilitate a love of the earth.

So how can you experience all these wonderful benefits of mud? Get outside. Change your thought when you see rain in the forecast. Bundle up and splash in that puddle! If you are up for it, here are a few ideas that you can take outside:

  • Paint with mud–provide different types of soil to create different shades of “paint”. Or you can add food coloring or tempera paint to watery mud for more vibrant colors. 
  • Make a mud kitchen– Set up a table and old kitchen items to create a mud kitchen. These can be as simple or complex as you imagine! 
  • Make mud sculptures–encourage children to sculpt and mold mud, adding pebbles, twigs, or leaves to individualize their sculptures.
  • Create animal homes– find sticks and other natural materials to create different animal habitats; add in some plastic animals to make the creation extra exciting. 

Free Resources:


Free Phone Apps

Search in your app store for these fun and interactive FREE phone apps.

  • inaturalist
  • leafsnap
  • TreeBook
  • VTree
  • What Knot to Do
  • Ready Jet Go
  • Nature Cat
  • AllTrails
  • Audubon Bird Guide
  • Audubon Owls Guide
  • Explore Michigan
  • Michigan Wildflowers
  • ebird