Into The Wild, Child

Many parents want to get their kids into nature, and our area has some great locations that teach kids about nature and the environment.

In turn, they hope children will someday have the skills and passion to preserve it. What’s the best part? Kids are excited and they’re having fun!

Backyard Nature Center
This organization introduces families to the nature that surrounds them on the North Shore. Started by Daniel Kielson, the organization doesn’t have a physical location, but connects children and adults to designated nature areas like the Skokie Lagoons, Crow Island Woods, Robert Everly Wildflower Sanctuary and Keay Nature Learning Center. Board secretary Heidi Kiesler says the center is great for volunteers because “instead of watching a TV show about nature, they will have actually experienced it.” Check out the Resource Packets section at to plan a trip!

The Grove, Glenview
Explore the trails to see diverse wildlife, perform chores in a log cabin, see how the Pottawatomie lived, and experience a lesson in a one-room school house. The activities are endless, hands-on and thrilling. Kids will experience things they’ve never done before and Director Stephan Swanson says, “If you have never touched a snake, turtle, fossil or fish, just ask and you will have the opportunity.” For more information on volunteering, visiting, or even hosting a birthday party, visit The Grove’s website.

Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve, Highland Park
This beautiful forest preserve was transformed from a military base to a fun place for families. It’s not only full of bluffs and ravines unique to the site, but also features interactive educational exhibits about natural history. One fun exhibit is a giant hawk’s nest that kids can crawl into and explore. Public Information Officer Susan Hawkins says “the use of exhibits definitely helps them be a part of nature.” Visitors can also bike or hike down the Lake Michigan Trail – don’t forget to pack a picnic!

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago
This museum is the oldest in Chicago and offers camps and programs from early childhood to adult. Activities are program-specific but have one thing in common: hands-on learning. The museum’s unique events, include “Bunking with the Butterflies,” an overnight where youth groups and families can spend a night in the museum. Museum CEO Deborah Lahey says the most important lesson for children is that “even in the city they’re part of nature. It’s all around them 24/7 and that with a little bit of thought they can make a positive change for their environment.”

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