Sketchbook Detectives: Activities for exploring nature

Hands-on nature activities for kidsSummertime is the best time to test nature detective skills. The woods, streams, plants and animals provide all the intrigue you need for a day of exploring nature.

Recently a group of children ages 5-11 visited Matthaei Botanical Gardens for a Sketchbook Detectives program.

We started off telling the story of a young explorer-botanist named Linnea, with a goal of our guests setting off on a quest to find all the discoveries Linnea made in the story. Once the story was complete, off we went – with clipboards, pencils and adventure bag in tow!

Stopping on the bridge to watch turtles, tadpoles and lily pads bob in the water we took out our pencils and sketched what each of us saw.

The results varied widely, a beautiful testament to how each of us perceives the world differently. Each child, satisfied with his or her sketches, gathered up gear and looked for the next challenge. ‘Onward’ was our cry.

At each successive stop we had planned something new to draw, a new sound to listen to, new experiments to try. But nature presented surprising, teachable moments: caterpillars skeletonizing leaves, mud daubers creating mud tubes in the rafters of a hut, damselflies flitting by. We made it to just half of the prepared stops, but filled our time completely.

We played this way for almost 2 hours, and although we’d taken a single path into the botanical gardens, the kids felt such a sense of adventure they thought it a challenge to find their way back. Upon seeing the building many of the children yelled out ‘we made it’ with a real sense of achievement. Lucky us!

This was a typical morning of fun, learning and play at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. Families, school groups, and day care centers use our sites to make lasting connections to the natural world. In the process, we teach them about ecosystems, environmental stewardship, and the importance of teamwork.

You don’t need a formal activity to engage with the natural world, however. Just a sense of adventure and imagination and sometimes just the ability to sit still and watch the world go by. You’d be amazed at what you’ll find.

Take the next step:

Post a picture and win!


mott blog - matthaei thumgMatthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum are two properties in different locations operating as one unit within the University of Michigan, with a mission to inspire and enrich people’s lives through contact with plants and nature.  C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is proud to partner with Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum to bring some of the adventures of the outdoors to Mott through regularly occurring activities for our Little Victors at the hospital. You can learn what activities are scheduled at the hospital during your visit by checking in with our Family Center on Level 2.

best children's hospitalsUniversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.