Looking for an activity in which your kids can have fun while also connecting to nature and helping the environment? An excellent way for children to get involved in ongoing nature volunteer projects is to join a nature club or to start your own. The goal of nature clubs is to connect children to nature through educational, recreational, and volunteer experience. This nature connection provides so many benefits to them, including reducing stress and helping them feel happier.
You can find nature clubs through national organizations, nature centers, zoos, aquariums, local community centers, your school, and more. Check out these examples of nature clubs and resources for starting or leading your own.
Roots & Shoots
Roots and Shoots is an organization created by the renowned environmentalist Dr. Jane Goodall to empower and encourage youth of all ages to pursue their passion, mobilize their peers, and become compassionate citizens and leaders to ensure a better future for people, animals, and the environment. There are over 2,100 registered groups in all fifty states, so you are bound to find one in your neighborhood.
Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts
We are all familiar with the Scouts. As I highlight in my book, Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer, the Girl Scouts of the United States of America collects information about the benefits of volunteering outdoors. They surveyed nearly 3,000 girls ages 8-14 about their Girl Scouting experience and how it made them feel. Nearly two-thirds of the girls said they enjoyed the outdoor activities, and environmental volunteering was listed as a top 10 favorite activity. Additionally, results showed that environmental volunteering through Girl Scouts was the strongest and most significant predictor of their environmental stewardship, while also providing them with a rewarding and inspiring activity that gives them a sense of purpose.
PBS Kids Nature Trackers Club
Dinosaur Train Nature Trackers Club is a community of young children, their families, and educators committed to learning about nature and doing good things for their environment. Nature Trackers enjoy exploring and having adventures, respecting their environment, collecting things, tracking and observing plants and animals, and challenging themselves to get outside and make discoveries every day.
Quest Clubs are scouting style clubs run by Curiosity Untamed, an educational incentive program designed to promote lifelong learning. They offer the structure and friendship of a scouting program, but include thousands of badges, a wide variety of higher awards, and the flexibility to design the club to fit the needs of your group. Badges encourage participants to delve deeper into subjects they are already interested in, as well as explore new ideas and experiences. Badges cover topics like the outdoors, science and technology, and agriculture. You can either join an existing club or use their resources to develop your own.
Children & Nature Network’s Family Nature Club Toolkit
The Children & Nature Network supports a global movement of leaders working to turn the trend of an indoor childhood back out to the benefits of nature–and to make sure that all children have equitable access to outdoor spaces where they can learn, play, and grow. The organization provides a free downloadable Family Nature Club Toolkit packed with everything you need to organize and lead a family nature club, including planning guides, tips, ideas, checklists, and ready-to-use forms.
Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Family Nature Clubs & You Toolkit
Some zoos and aquariums are now organizing nature clubs to expand their role in connecting families to nature. They offer programs that enhance the health and well-being of families and build community in the natural areas both in and surrounding the institution. The purpose of the Family Nature Clubs & You Toolkit is to provide information, resources, best practices and even inspiration for zoos and aquariums that are interested in creating or supporting a Family Nature Club. The toolkit provides examples of ways to organize and host events both on and off zoo and aquarium grounds, as well as ideas for collaborating with and supporting existing Family Nature Clubs.
The Nature Club Books
Wildlife biologist and mom Rachel Mazur loves volunteering with her children and decided to write a children’s book series called The Nature Club Books to encourage more children to get involved with environmental volunteering. She has found that kids enjoy volunteering if you tie it to wildlife or nature. Her books focus on school-aged characters in a nature club of their own, and she has received feedback from many readers that the stories inspired them to start their own nature clubs. She also has some tips on how to start your own nature club.
Green Kids Club
Green Kids Club provides fun, educational stories for children that introduce the concepts of
environmental stewardship and endangered species conservation. They do this by working with conservation groups–such as Elephants Without Borders, Saving the Survivor, and Blood Lions–and writing children’s books related to environmental issues they are experiencing. After publishing a book with one of these conservation groups, they donate part of the proceeds to that organization. These books are a perfect addition to any nature club.