The Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature

This gorgeously illustrated book, created by BBG educators, will inspire kids to look closely at the world around them.

Winner: Best Hand-On Science Book
2015 AAAS/Subaru Science Books & Films Prize, awarded by the Association for the Advancement of Science

Honor Book: 2015 Green Earth Book Award


Created by Brooklyn Botanic Garden's expert educators, this gorgeously illustrated book teaches children how to observe environments as a naturalist does and leads them on 24 adventures that reveal the complex ecosystems of plants and animals in the woods, at the beach, and in a city park. Dozens of fun projects include keeping a journal, conducting field experiments, and looking for the signs of the seasons. Detailed, scientifically based drawings help young naturalists identify hundreds of North American plants and animals while the explore nature with all five senses.

How to Be a Nature Explorer

Exploring Spring
Spring Wildflowers
Field Biologist
Vernal Ponds
Babies and Nests
Bird Migration
Nature Educator

Exploring Summer
Water Surface
Smelly Defenses
Night Life
Street Trees
Woodland Edge
Symbiotic Relationships
Meadow Grasses

Exploring Autumn
Leaf Color
Tree Fruit
Clues in the Forest

Exploring Winter
Life Under Ice
Botanical Illustrator
Winter Survival
Tree Buds

Glossary of Natural Science Terms

A naturalist is a scientist who studies nature. Start looking at the world through a naturalist’s eyes, and you will be amazed at what you learn.

A naturalist studies living things by observing them and then tries to discover how they relate to each other and their environment. In earlier times, before there were many professional scientists, most of what was known about life on earth was discovered by naturalists. Today, being a naturalist takes many different forms. Field biologists, environmental educators, and scientific illustrators are all modern naturalists. You can be one too! The chapters in this book will get you started. So will these tips.

Be quiet and still sometimes. Slow down and use your senses to listen, look, smell, and feel what’s around you.

Find a sit spot. Choose a place outside that you can return to over and over again and observe. Notice how it changes throughout the day and throughout the year. Do you hear the same birds in the morning and in the afternoon? What flowers are blooming in April? In June?

Make comparisons. You are sure to see differences as you explore. How does the forest change as you hike higher up a mountain? How is one tree’s bark different from another’s? How do bumble bees look different from honey bees and sweat bees?

Ask questions. When you observe closely, you are sure to notice a lot of cool or unusual things: Birds with knife-shaped bills, flowers that look like bells, trees that smell like root beer. Why would that plant or animal have that trait? Does that shape, color, or smell help it in some way? Does it help it make or find food? Reproduce? Ward off predators?

Keep a journal. Buy a sturdy composition book or journal to record what you observe. On the next page—and throughout this book— you will see examples of the kinds of details you can record in your journal. Use some of the scientific words you’ll see in boldface throughout this book. They are defined in the glossary.

David William Daly was Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Children’s Garden coordinator from 2009 to 2014. He’s also an avid backpacker and chile pepper enthusiast.

Niall Dunne is a former staff editor at BBG and the editor of four books for the Garden, most recently, Easy Compost. He currently directs publishing for the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle.

Sara Epstein coordinates Project Green Reach, BBG’s outreach program in Title I elementary and middle schools throughout Brooklyn.She enjoys hiking with her family in the nature‑filled streets, gardens, and parks of NYC, as well as beyond the city limits.

Ashley Gamell manages BBG’s Discovery Garden. In her work at the Garden since 2006, she has also curated its Children’s Garden and Education greenhouses. A naturalist, horticulturist, and educator, she loves inspiring learners of all ages to discover the science of the natural world.

Patricia Hulse manages the Children’s Garden and Family Programs at BBG. She has been exploring the wonders of science and nature with children and adults in urban, suburban, and rural environments since 1995.

Barbara Kurland, manager of School Programs and Partnerships at BBG, has learned much about plants and the natural world by exploring them with children, youth, and adults.

Becky Beer Laboy is an environmental educator and former teacher education coordinator for BBG. She has a passion for wildlife and a commitment to connecting kids with nature.

Saara Nafici coordinates the Garden Apprentice Program at BBG. She is a longtime activist, feminist, bicyclist, naturalist, and youth educator.

Sarah Schmidt edits BBG’s Guides for a Greener Planet series and writes interpretive material for the Garden. She loves hiking, camping, and exploring the outdoors with her two curious, nature-loving daughters.

Marilyn Smith, director of Children’s Education at BBG, has worked in the field of environmental education for over 25 years. She’s an avid naturalist who explores new habitats every chance she gets.

Laszlo Veres has been illustrating books for children since 1987. His favorite themes are historical sailing ships and the natural world.

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