Spend time outside everyday. Connect with nature this spring.By Meghan K. Hill
For many people, Cape Cod is synonymous with summer days combing the seashore, but springtime is also a fantastic time for families to venture outside to explore alternative “nature-scapes.” Whether you’re looking for a guided program at a nature center or a chance to witness wilderness in its purest state, there are numerous possibilities across the Cape to rekindle your relationship with the environment, after a winter spent primarily indoors.
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
Take a scenic walk and visit the nature center
Emily Wolfe, day camp director and education coordinator at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, believes in the importance of appreciating nature as a family. “Going out into the natural world allows families to be co-learners together,” says Wolfe. “The adults or older children in the group can help facilitate the younger learners to find answers to their questions or to make explanations about what they are observing.”
Through her work as an educator, Wolfe has come to know the natural world as the perfect place for children to start making observations and asking questions. “Children tend to notice many things that adults might breeze right by and not notice. When they are out in nature, their body naturally draws them to what they are interested in, whether it is a hole near the trunk of a tree, a turtle basking in the sun, or the sounds of a woodpecker pecking at a tree,” says Wolfe.
The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary boasts several trails that lead to a freshwater pond, salt marsh, tidal flats and forest. There is also an impressive exhibit hall filled with artifacts and fish tanks.
CLICK HERE for more on the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
Nickerson State Park, Brewster
Go on a “wildlife watch”
If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of animals in their natural environment, you may consider setting out on a wildlife watch at Nickerson State Park, where 1,900 acres offer dense woods and freshwater ponds, which are home to an array of wildlife species.
Going on a wildlife watch is an ideal way for families to get outside and investigate animal habitats together. Even taking a short walk through the forest can spark a child’s curiosity and interest in science. Parents and children can survey their surroundings, wonder together, and even make note of what they see by describing their findings in narrative form or through drawings, in a nature journal.
Nickerson is a well-known park in which visitors may spot deer, turkeys and other wildlife.
For more information and to view trail maps, CLICK HERE
Cape Cod Canal, Bourne
Go for a bike ride
If biking is more your speed, consider visiting the Cape Cod Canal for a family tour. Biking as a family is a great way to embrace the natural beauty of your surroundings, take in the local scenery, and reap the physical benefits of low-impact exercise.
The Cape Cod Canal Bikeway follows the canal through sections of Bourne and Sagamore, and boasts views of the iconic Cape Cod Canal Railway Bridge. Maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, it offers spectacular water views of boats traveling the canal and a picturesque natural setting.
Exploring on a bicycle provides a different kind of adventure. Bikeways are typically less congested than roadways, which enables families to cover a substantial amount of ground and take in the sights. Cyclists are able to access the 13-plus miles of paths along the canal at several different points, many of which are marked by clusters of fishermen casting lines.
For more information about the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway, CLICK HERE
Heritage Museums & Gardens, Sandwich
Visit the Hidden Hollow nature classroom and giant tree house
Ellen Spear, president and CEO at Heritage Museums & Gardens, says spring is the time to visit the grounds to see how the gardens wake up.
“This is an especially great time to get the family outside. Watching the gardens awaken, noticing the changes in plants and trees, and marking the change of seasons is an opportunity for so much learning and growth,” says Spear. “See what’s poking through the soil, look at the different types of bark on trees and notice their names. Make it a game. Your children will respond more passionately than they do to technology!”
The leadership at Heritage believes passionately that getting children out into nature has a positive effect upon their success in school and well-being.
“At Heritage, we design experiences for individuals and families to take it slow, to refresh, to rediscover the joy of being outside and learning together — whether through a walk on one of our many trails, contemplating an outdoor sculpture, climbing at the Adventure Park, playing an instrument in Hidden Hollow, or lying on a lawn looking at the clouds,” says Spear.
CLICK HERE for more on the Heritage Museums & Gardens
Green Briar Nature Center, Sandwich
Attend “Critter Capers,” “Live Animal Story Time” and “Hoots & Chirps,” or take a scenic trail walk
The staff at the Green Briar Nature Center strive to inspire reverence for nature.
“I have been here almost 30 years and yet there is not a day that goes by that I do not find something to get excited about,” says Mary Beers, director of education at Green Briar Nature Center.
“Everyone gets excited about hearing that first spring ‘peeper,’ but not everyone realizes that a spring peeper is a tiny tree frog about the size of your thumb—yet its voice carries a half mile,” says Beers. “Families should get outside starting mid-to-late March and explore local wetlands and temporary woodland pools. Listen for the ‘quack–whack’ song of the wood frog and the high-pitched trill of the American toad.”
Natural history programs for children and adults are offered year-round and include classes, field trips, guided walks and workshops on the natural sciences. Families are invited to celebrate Earth Day from 9-10:30 a.m. on Friday, April 22.
CLICK HERE for more on the Green Briar Nature Center