How to Creatively Engage Children and Nurture a Connection to the Environment

Teachers and families are always seeking new ways to keep children healthy and actively engaged in meaningful educational pursuits. Here are some great resources for providing children with creative educational activities and experiences:

Teachers and families are always seeking new ways to keep children healthy and actively engaged in meaningful educational pursuits. Here are some great resources for providing children with creative educational activities and experiences:

  • Click here to access Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS) At-Home Education Resources for lesson ideas, outdoor and indoor activities, virtual animal encounters and more! Visit the VINS Nature Center in Quechee, VT for in-person, place-based educational experiences. Click here to access the VINS Special Events schedule.
  • Click here to visit NASA Climate Kids—a website featuring age-appropriate information, games, activities, videos and more to help children understand energy, climate change and its impacts on planet Earth.
  • Click here to learn about The Community Campus, located upstairs in the Rainbow Playschool in Woodstock, VT. The Community Campus has a beautiful barn-like space with learning coach to mentor your kids through the curriculum given by WCSU without being tethered to their electronic device. Kids enjoy recess on the best sledding hill in Woodstock and hikes to the National Park from the school’s backyard. National Park programming provided! Health & Safety protocols addressed.
  • Photo by Andrew Ebrahim on Unsplash

  • Click here for a diverse and extensive list of Vermont Education and Environment Network resources for parents and educators.
  • Click here for a comprehensive article in the New York Times about constructively planning for how children use their time each day, as well links to educational resources, including numerous worksheets for various subjects and grade levels. The article includes links to age-appropriate reading lists, National Geographic Kids, Bill Nye–The Science Guy’s informative website, and more.
  • Here is a great resource page from National Wildlife Federation that includes Virtual Classroom Resources on topics ranging from birds and biodiversity to energy and endangered species.
  • Vist this website to see the wealth of online resources listed by the Children & Nature Network FINDING NATURE: Staying connected to the Natural World.
  • See Naturally Literate’s website for their online booklet which is designed “to inspire people of all ages to get to know their natural environment just a little bit better.”
    • Here is a link to the Upper Valley Teaching Place Collaborative web page that offers Place-based Ecology Education Homeschool Resources.
  • Four Winds Nature Institute offers a wealth of resources for schools and families to connect children wtih nature.
    The Sullivan County Conservation District put together this list of resources for educators.
  • Click here to access Chewonki‘s extensive menu of nature and environmental lessons and videos for children and families.

The Real Corona

           Sunny Educational Activities You Can Do While Sheltering-In

           by Michael J. Caduto

OK, kids. You’re hearing a lot about the coronavirus. With school out and missing your friends and having to stay indoors more often, you’re ready for something that’s UP and on the bright side. Let’s learn about the sun’s corona. Although you can’t look directly at the corona because that would damage your eyes, here are a few fun facts and activities about our home star.

At times, when a person is being very active, someone says, “You’re a regular ball of fire.” But no one can hold a candle to the Sun. At its center or core, the Sun’s temperature is 28 million°F. At this great heat the atoms of hydrogen join together to form helium, named after the Greek name for the Sun, Helios. Energy is created every time hydrogen joins to form helium. This is the force that drives the Sun’s energy. Even though 600 million tons of hydrogen change into helium every second, there is still enough hydrogen left for the Sun to last another 5 to 6 billion years!


When we catch a brief glimpse of the Sun, we see the 200-mile-thick layer called the photosphere, which is about 10,000°F. Sunspots are about 2,700°F cooler than the rest of the photosphere, so they appear darker. Some individual sunspots are wider than the diameter of Earth. They can last for anywhere from a few hours to a couple of months, and they can produce violent explosions called solar flares. A large solar flare can last for a few hours, interrupt satellite communications on Earth and generate enough energy to power the entire United States for 100,000 years. Sunspot activity is at a low point in 2020, and won’t peak again until about 2023.

Surrounding the photosphere is another, somewhat hotter layer of the Sun called the chromosphere, which is 1,000 to 2,000 miles thick. Finally, like the skin on an apple, comes the corona, in which the temperature shoots up to more than 1 million°F. Superheated gases from the corona rocket off into space as charged particles called the solar wind. The reddish chromosphere and the corona’s whitish streamers are only visible during a total solar eclipse, a time when the moon passes between the Sun and Earth and the Sun is blocked out wherever the moon’s shadow falls. (The Sun’s energy can damage eyes and cause blindness, so don’t ever look directly at the Sun, even during an eclipse.)

Drive to the sun?

The Sun is more than 93 million miles away, but we can feel its heat and light as if it were close by. Just how far away is the Sun? If there were a road that led from Earth to the Sun, your family could climb into the car and drive there. But the ride is going to take a while.

Let’s say that, on the road to the Sun, the driver brought the car up to 70 miles per hour and set it on cruise control for the whole ride, 24/7. At that speed, if no one stopped to eat or to take a bathroom break, and the drivers rotated so that you never had to slow down or stop, you would arrive at the Sun in 152 years. How long is that? If your family had begun such a journey back in 1865—the last year of the U.S. Civil War—you would have finally reached your destination in 2017!

A Fun Sun Activity

Stroll to the Sun: It would take 109 Earths, placed edge to edge, to reach across the face of the Sun. And if you had a bag as large as the Sun, you could fit one million Earths inside. For this activity you will need:

  • popcorn or peppercorn 1/8th-inch in diameter (representing our Earth)
  • yellow ball or balloon 13.25 inches in diameter, or a round piece of cardboard cut to this size and painted yellow (representing our Sun)
  • outside area measuring 121 feet long
  • measuring tape to mark distance

Find a long, fairly level place outside in or near your yard. Use the measuring tape to mark a line 121 feet long. Have someone walk to the far end of this line while holding the ball, balloon or yellow disc representing the sun. Have someone else stand at the near end of the line holding the peppercorn or kernel of popcorn representing Earth. At a scale of 1 inch = 64,000 miles, this is how large our Earth and Sun would look compared to one another, and this is how far the distance would be between them. Now everyone: Walk the entire distance between the miniature Earth and Sun, and you will have walked 93 million miles!

Portions of this article adapted with permission from the author’s books: Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun: 22 Super-Charged Science Projects for Kids, and Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children (with Joseph Bruchac). (Activities for Keepers of the Earth were illustrated by artist Carol Wood, who also works as a Lister for the Town of Woodstock.)

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