It’s Friday and the weekend is here. Afterschool today, over the weekend and into next week, step outside with your children and take advantage of the natural fun that New Jersey has to offer and Celebrate Afterschool! Outdoors in the Garden State.
How can you Celebrate Outdoors in the Garden state today and all May-long?
Share some NJ Nature Fun Facts:
- The New Jersey State animal is the horse
- The New Jersey State tree is the northern red oak
- The New Jersey State Flower is the Violet
- The Honeybee is the New Jersey State Insect
- The New Jersey State fish is the Brook Trout
- The New Jersey state seashell is the knobbed whelk and is found on every beach on the New Jersey shoreline
- The New Jersey state bird is the American Goldfinch
Try these Nature in Minutes activities:
With close investigation, it can be seen that grasses come in many shapes with different flowers and seed heads. Have children search and find a variety of grasses and lay them against white paper for easy viewing. Make it a contest to see how many shapes and types of grasses can be found.
Identifying trees in the community
Give children a tree guide to explore and identify the trees in the play spaces. Keep a list. Take pictures, draw the trees, take leaf samples. Be field observers.
How old is that tree?
Without counting rings, determine the age of a tree. Start by measuring 3 feet from the ground. At that point, measure the tree’s circumference in inches. Divide the measurement by 1 inch to discover the tree’s age in years.
Have more time? Try these activities:
Candied NJ State Flowers (Violets)
Violets (Viola species) are the New Jersey State flower and the logo for Celebrate Afterschool! They grow wild in many parts of the world and in many gardens. For eating, stick to the purple ones and avoid those with yellow hues.
Candied Violet flowers are an elegant garnish on cakes, custards, ice cream, and other desserts. They look fancy but are incredibly easy to make (you’ll only spend about 10 minutes in the kitchen; the rest of the time is just waiting for your crystallized flowers to dry).
Time Needed: 30 minutes to collect flowers, 48 hours until violets are ready to eat
Supplies: 20 violet flowers (with about 2-inches of stem attached), 1 egg white, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Beat the egg white until it is frothy all the way through, but not stiff.
- Place the sugar in a small bowl.
- Pick up a violet flower by the stem. Dip the flower into the egg white, twirling it gently to coat the entire flower. Shake off the excess egg white.
- Next, dip the flower in the sugar. Twirl the flower stem between the thumb and forefinger of the hand that is holding it so that the flower gets evenly coated with sugar on all sides. Don’t worry about candying the stem – it’s going to be removed in the end.
- Place the violet on a paper towel.
- Repeat the egg and sugar steps with the rest of the violet flowers.
- Transfer the sugared flowers, still on the paper towel, to a shelf in the refrigerator. Be sure none of the violets are touching. Leave them, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours. As the flowers dry most of the sugar will be absorbed by the egg white, creating a glaze on the petals.
- The next day, take the paper towel with the candied flowers on it out of the refrigerator. Let it sit out at room temperature in a warm part of your home for another 24 hours.
- Snip off the stems and discard them.
- Transfer the candied violets to an airtight container and store at room temperature. Use within 2 months.
It’s more fun and less expensive to explore seeds found in nature than buying the seeds from the store.
Time Needed: 15 minutes, space with trees, bushes, gardens or flowers
Supplies: Container to hold findings
- Give the children time to find and collect seeds found in the environment
- Show pictures of samples. Some seeds they may find include maple tree helicopters, dogwoods berries, sycamore balls, acorns, seed pods, seeds hidden in pinecones and even seeds from the fruit children eat.
Make the seed search a scavenger hunt and see how many can be found. Use seeds for Nature Art or plant the seeds in a cup with potting soil. Place the cup in a warm and sunny location and observe the seed. Once sprouted, transplant the new plant outside to continue growing.
Books to check out:
- Exploring Nature Activity Book for Kids: 50 Creative Projects to Spark Curiosity in the Outdoors Paperback by Kim Andrews
- The Backyard Bug Book for Kids: Storybook, Insect Facts, and Activities by Lauren Davidson
- My Backyard Bird Book: Fun Facts & Surprising Secrets by Cheryl Johnson
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Trees Library by Patricia Daniels
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Wildflowers by Libby Romero
Places to check out:
- Rutgers Gardens
- NJ Public Gardens and Arboretums
- New Jersey State Parks
- New Jersey Trip Ideas: Outdoors & Sports Recreation
- STEM: Plant a Tree
- Gardening Basics – How to Plant a Tree
- 21st Century Afterschool Science Project (21st CASP)
- Explore, Learn, Create – Education Resources – Rutgers Gardens
May 26: The Nature Conservancy: The Importance of Nature Tenisha Malcolm, Director of Cities Programs at the Nature Conservancy
Week 4 of Celebrate Afterschool! Is a talk with Tenisha Malcolm, Director of Cities Programs at the Nature Conservancy New Jersey Chapter: Centering Nature in Cities
People in cities are increasingly disconnected from nature. The Nature Conservancy’s New Jersey chapter, through its Greening Our Cities Program, facilitates access and engagement to build a movement to increase physical, emotional & spiritual health. Tenisha will share how her work engages and benefits intergenerational members of communities and how it helps to foster a deeper appreciation for nature in urban landscapes.
In this lunch and learn session, Ms. Malcolm will speak to the importance of Nature for youth in cities and the positive impact it can have on healthy living.
About the Nature Conservancy:
The Nature Conservancy is a global environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature can thrive.
Founded in the U.S. through grassroots action in 1951, The Nature Conservancy has grown to become one of the most effective and wide-reaching environmental organizations in the world. Thanks to more than a million members and the dedicated efforts of our diverse staff and over 400 scientists, we impact conservation in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners.
Our mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. To achieve this, we must boldly address the biodiversity and climate crises over the next decade. By maximizing our ability to effect change between now and 2030, we can shape a brighter future for people and our planet.
For more about Celebrate Afterschool! visit: https://www.njsacc.org/what-we-do/specialinitiatives/celebrate/