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Eye-opening projects connect kids with nature

Outdoor activities foster kids’ creativity, problem-solving and resilience

fallen logs, nature, forest, experimentation, insects, bugs

Children at the Catskill Wheelhouse in Catskill, New York, use tools to crumble off bits of decaying wood from a fallen log and study the bugs that live inside it.  

When it comes to outdoor projects, kids take the lead at the Catskill Wheelhouse. Through long stretches of unstructured time at the cooperative school’s play yard classroom and forest in Catskill, New York, children develop creativity, divergent thinking, aesthetic experimentation, problem-solving, reflection, self-knowledge, and resilience.

Best is that the outdoor projects can be done at home, too, like the Potion Lab, an outdoor tag sale held at the school last summer, where children mixed goods for sale, from color water to flower petals to aromatic herbs. An at-home variation is to make recipes for sun tea.


  • Two or three large jars
  • Water
  • Various herbs 


  1. Fill each large jar with water
  2. Mix two or three different herb blends
  3. Add one each of the herb blends to each water-filled jar
  4. Label each jar with its herb blend
  5. Allow the water-and-herb filled jars to steep under strong sunlight for several hours
  6. Enjoy!

Children with the Catskill Wheelhouse blend herbs to make tasty sun tea.

READ MORE: Make seeded clay balls for gardens

Another outdoor project that can be done with your kids at home is the Fallen Log Bug Study.


  • Screwdriver
  • Wooden mallet or sturdy stick


  1. Trek through a forest or wooded area and find a fallen log
  2. Using the screwdriver, mallet or stick, have your kids crumble off pieces of decaying wood from the log
  3. Observe what’s inside the log, from stag beetles to ladybugs and other interesting insects 

Note: If this activity is done during warm weather, be aware of bees that could be colonized inside the log

Through personal experiences with wildlife, children develop a connection to the natural world, nurturing an attitude of environmentalism, wonder, stewardship of the land, and connection to something bigger than themselves.

Catskill Wheelhouse is a cooperative school nestled in the foothills of 200-acre farm in the Catskill mountains, serves children ages 3 to 10 and includes a pre-school program, summer camps, and an after school program. The school supports family in all its forms, and provides a place where all children feel challenged, capable and irreplaceable through open-ended play and functional tasks such as cooking, building and gardening alongside attentive, caring adults.