The American Chestnut, a Free Online Course

An online interactive course on the American chestnut (Castanea dentata) has been developed by Stacy Clark, Research Forester with the U.S. Forest Service, Southern Research Station. This is a free course available to anyone through a simple registration process. Participants will be introduced to the basic ecology and silvics, historical significance, and the demise of this tree species that once occupied 200 million acres in the eastern United States. The course contains a glossary and links to dendrology tables, external webpages, and published scientific papers.

To learn more and register, visit this website.  A certificate of completion available at the end of the course qualifies for 1 CFE credit with the Society of American Foresters.


Great Backyard Bird Count – 2021

Each February, for four days, the world comes together for the love of birds in the Great Backyard Bird Count – 2021.  From February 12-15, 2021, you’re invited to join the fun by watching, counting, and reporting as many birds as you can find in your backyard, schoolyard, or favorite place.

Learn more about how to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) with students, in this upcoming free webinar.  The GBBC is a great way to introduce kids to bird watching and citizen science in the classroom, virtually, or with your family at home. Hear from the experts, and share resources, activities, and apps that make bird ID easy. Registration is required to join the webinar.  Click on the dates you wish to join in Tuesday, January 19, 2021 @ 6:00pm ET or Thursday, January 21, 2021 @ 8:00pm ET.


Why Do Rivers Curve?

Every time a river floods, it subtly or drastically changes its path. Scientists have long endeavored to capture this complex process in mathematical models because it includes many variables,  including the softness or hardness of the soil the river erodes, groundwater and the vegetation within and along its shores.  Ever wonder how rivers meander? These meanders are formed by the removal and deposition of silt, sand, mud, and rocks along the outside and inside of bends, which build up characteristic features.  What is an oxbow lake?  This short-animated video explains…Why Do Rivers Curve?


STEM Science Experiment

In case you missed the live, “Science is Cool” (ScIC): Family Holiday STEM Night– this egg in a bottle experiment demonstrates one of the many ways, Santa Claus can go down the chimney…STEM Science Experiment


Holiday STEM Family Night

PocketLab and Jason Lindsey are teaming up, on Saturday, December 19th, at 3:00 Eastern Time for “Science is Cool” (ScIC): Family Holiday STEM Night.  You’ll discover the science secret behind how Santa gets down the chimney, watch as Jason uses a human circuit to power a gigantic Christmas light, create a holiday fireball, and more. Join in live.

Snowflakes and the Water Cycle as Seen by Frosty the Snowman

So how does a snowflake form and why are no two snowflakes alike?  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has the answers to these questions and you can too.

Want to take a challenge?  Follow this link for the design of a snowflake’s lifetime.

Turkeys, Birds of Courage?

In the early twentieth century, turkey populations were in steep decline. People banded together to save the species by transplanting turkeys from healthy populations to areas where they were dwindling. The strategy worked and turkeys were brought back from the brink!  Watch this 10 minute video about Birds of Courage and learn interesting facts about wild & domestic turkeys that you never knew.  Brought to you by Homeschool Pop.

My Waterway

Do you know what a watershed is? A watershed is an area of land that channels rainfall and snow melt to creeks, streams and rivers before going to larger rivers, bays and oceans. You are always in a watershed even if you don’t see water around. So where does your water shed?  You can find that answer to the question by visiting My Waterway.  You can keep a watershed science notebook by clicking on this link, Explore Watersheds Science Notebook , courtesy of Project WET.

Walking Water Experiment

We expect water to move downhill, right?  Rain falls down from the clouds and rivers flow downhill to the oceans.  But water can move uphill too.  This walking water experiment will demonstrate how water can travel uphill against gravity through capillary action.  Capillary action is very important for moving fluid in our bodies and also important to plants for moving water from the roots up to the leaves. Watch this time-lapse video of walking water.  Next, try the experiment for yourself and watch the water walk with these step-by-step directions Walking Water Experiment.

Its Bat Week!

Celebrate Bat Week October 24-31.  Take a little bit of time to learn about this often vilified flying mammal (they are the only mammals capable of true and sustained flight.).  A unique pollinator that works the night shift.  Though, unfortunately, a number of bat species are declining throughout the world and in Virginia we have multiple species that are listed as Threatened or Endangered.   You can gain a better understanding about the bats of Virginia in this guide, courtesy of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Guide to Virginia Bats.  One more resource, Bat Blitz  is a Project Wild activity for upper elementary and middle school students.

Exploring Webs and Spider Gliders

It’s not just Halloween when we see giant artificial spider webs as decorations…in reality, spider webs “trick-out” our porches, basements, under chairs and in the corners of the car port all year long, not just in the fall. But this is the time of year when a few noticeable species like orb-weavers, house spiders and wolf spiders find a mate and lay eggs before winter arrives. These types of spiders are much more active and visible in the fall.  In this activity students can make Spider Gliders a fun way to learn how spiders construct and travel their web.  So why don’t spiders stick to their own web?  You’ll find answers along with Spider Glider instructions & material list.  Plus another outdoor activity (adult supervision advised).

DIY Sediment Jar

This activity will visibly demonstrate how layers of sediment are formed.  Sediment is solid material that is moved and deposited in a new location. Sediment can consist of rocks and minerals, as well as the remains of plants and animals. It can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a boulder. Erosion can move sediment through water, ice, or wind.

Fifteen Minutes in the Forest

Every Friday at noon – Fifteen Minutes in the Forest with the Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program. Free. Join live or watch past videos.

Birds, Birds, Birds

Eight great activities for students K-12.  Courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Discover the diverse community of birds.  These activities will lead you into the life of birds from the evolution of birds to feeding wild birds in your backyard.  These activities will teach bird identification, courtship, nests & eggs, behavior, life cycles, flight and migration.  Spread your wings and fly.

Nature Journal

Keeping a nature journal is a fun way to get students, kids & adults, learning outside in their yards and neighborhoods while building writing and observational skills. It doesn’t take much to get started, just a small journal and a pen or pencil will do.  Nature journals can reflect your own unique self—writing poetry or sketching/drawing your observations (animal tracks, birds, flowers, clouds).  Capture the texture of a tree or a leaf with a pencil rubbing.  Make a map to your favorite spot in nature.  To discover many more suggestions & ideas, click on this link to begin your Nature Journal.

Sounds All Around

Our ears are constantly being bombarded with sound – so much so that we automatically “tune out” a lot of it. This activity from Planet Learning Tree, helps children “tune in” to the sounds of their environment and helps them to explore the sounds of nature.  Katydid Chorus

Watch this video (15 minutes) and get step-by-step instructions, some guiding questions and see the backyard “sound map”.

More Than a Few Sparrows to Spare

Sparrows can be tricky to identify but look closely and you’ll find more than just ho-hum brown birds…here you’ll find 49 Sparrow species identified by the color and intricate patterns on their feathers.  Learn to identify the House Sparrow, a non-native invasive species, that can pose a serious threat to our native Eastern Bluebird when competing for nesting boxes.

Have Seeds, Will Travel

Most plants reproduce with seeds, which come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are large like a bur oak acorn with an average of 75 acorns per pound, and some are small like the eastern cottonwood with an average of 350,000 seeds per pound. The ways plants disperse seeds are both amazing and necessary.

This 4-H video The Great Seed Escape explains the importance of and mechanisms for seed dispersal.


In this activity, students will learn about food webs, discovering the many ways that plants and animals of a forest ecosystem are connected.

Soil Word Search

Put your word searching goggles on and start finding words grounded in soil.

Build a Bat House

This link will take you to Bat Conservation International, a website full of fascinating information and helpful tips for one of our many important pollinators.  Bat species worldwide are experiencing habitat loss, and building an artificial roost can give our bat friends a safe and comfortable place to live.  Building your own bat house is a great way to get involved in bat conservation. Interested in a DIY weekend project?  Here are two different types of roosts to consider Multi-Chamber Bat House Blueprint  or a  Two Chamber Rocket Box Blueprint

The Beauty of Pollination

Filmmaker, Louie Schwartzberg shows us the intricate world of pollen and pollinators with astonishing high-speed images and scenes from his film “Wings of Life”.

Plant for Pollinators

Consider planting native flower beds, gardens, or local grasses instead of traditional lawns, if you’re able.  Purchase the Piedmont Native Plant Guides from TJSWCD.  Even a small project such as planting local flowers in pots or in a windowsill can help students take concrete action toward learning about and protecting pollinators.

Pollination: It’s Vital to Life on Earth

Did you know, beetles are attracted to spicy or fruity odors, and most of them need a wide opening in the flower, because they are clumsy fliers.  One out of every three bites of food we eat as Americans, we owe to pollinators! Many crops, from apples to almonds, rely almost exclusively on pollinators to survive and thrive.  Pollinators have declined worldwide as a result of habitat loss and other factors, so it’s more important than ever to appreciate them and help improve the places they call home. Next time you stop to smell the flowers near you…thank a local pollinator!

This fact sheet prepared and provided by The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC).

Pollinator Partnership

June 22-28, 2020 has been designated National Pollinator Week!  This is the time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what you can do to protect them.  Thirteen years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

Pollinator Week was initiated and is managed by Pollinator Partnership.  Click on the link above for all kinds of information, resources, activities and events happening this week, nationwide.

Citizen Science Opportunities

SciStarter is the place to find, join, and contribute to science. With more than 3,000 projects and events searchable by topic, location, age-level and more, you’re sure to find the right match, anytime, anywhere.

Dig In, Get Dirty

This activity helps students, of all ages, to understand the components that make up soil.

Oil and Water…Simply Do Not Mix

One pint of oil can produce a slick of approximately one acre of water.

Next, try this “kitchen experiment” to see how oil spills can be removed from water.  Kitchen Experiment – Oil & Water

Its Video Week – Lights, Camera, Action!

This week you will find links to a selection of short videos to watch now or later that connects Soil & Water to all it touches.

UPSTREAM (part 1)


Upstream Downstream follows a middle school girl, Suzy (and her dog, P.D.) on her quest to find out where her water comes from and where it ends up once it goes down her drain. This film presents water as a necessary resource that sustains all life. Going through a rite of passage all her own and learning through members of her community, through conversations with a farmer, park environmentalist, water treatment plant engineers, and environmental engineers at a local manufacturing plant.

Video Week  – Take Two!

Music Video Goes Underground

S.K. Worm, the official annelid, or worm, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service helps students explore and learn about soil. Join him for a performance of a lifetime in this animated music video for his hit song “Sharp Dressed Worm.”

Black Gold

The Compost Story is video that invites viewers to learn about nature’s most astonishing processes.  Compost as the regenerating, probiotic, solution for our depleted land, could play a major role in rebalancing the world’s carbon cycle.  Created by Kiss the Ground.

Video Week – Standing Room Only!


How Whales Change Climate

Parental Guidance advised due to brief video of whale killing & removal.

The Last Dragons

How Wolves Changed the Rivers 

Rainy Day Stormwater Walk

You can be a “stormwater sleuth” at your home.  Grab your rain gear and take a stormwater walk.  First, think about and predict where rainwater goes after it falls on the property. Then go outside and explore where rainwater likely flows after it lands on a roof-top, driveway or sidewalk, the basketball hoop, the dog, the grass, the flowers, the garden…then if you want, you can draw a map of your stormwater walk.

What’s Making That Hole in the Ground?

Do you have something digging holes around your home or farm?  Use this diagram to help diagnose common holes and tracks left by animals.

Virginia Watersheds

Where does the water flow?


Explore America’s larger streams.  You can trace upstream to their source or you can trace downstream to where they empty. The interactive map helps you learn about the larger streams in our area and the places they pass through.  Streamer is a resource found at the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Renewable or Non-Renewable…what’s the diff?

Children (and adults) often do not know which resources are renewable and nonrenewable. Use this activity, from Project Learning Tree, to learn what these terms mean and discover why sustainable use of natural resources is so important.

Soil Is Alive!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service bring you this educational booklet packed with information and activities to learn how soil is alive beneath our feet and all the magical properties and surprise soil holds.  Grades 3-4.

Sketch a Scavenger Hunt

Search high and low for items on this list! Sketch and label what you find.

Extra Credit: Find 3 different tree leaves—compare and contrast.

A Waterproof Case book

Follow Michelle Tuesday, a Private Investigator.  She hasn’t nabbed a big-time thief, or solved a high profile whodunit, but she does do important work. Inspector Tuesday is an expert in animal cases. It’s because she can talk their language. The Inspector has been summoned by the residents in a worried watershed for HELP!  Read more, gather the facts and help solve the Waterproof Case written by Deborah Rodney and illustrated by Jessica Bonin funded by and created for World Water Monitoring Challenge.

A History Lesson in Soil Conservation and a Snack!

Students learn about the small fraction of the planet available for growing food and ways this important land can be protected. This two-part lesson is an excellent way to introduce students to the importance of preserving soil and soil’s role in feeding billions of people.

Students will also view historical images of the Dust Bowl and read a diary entry representative of the time. Students learn how human actions can effect soil, and in turn, the landscape and people. In the second part of the lesson, students look at what was learned from the Dust Bowl, and changes it made in farming methods and soil conservation practices.

Pop Quiz

How many macroinvertabrates can you identify?  Take the quiz.

What’s That Smell…Energy From Garbage Experiment

The average person in the United States creates about four pounds of trash every day! Some of this trash break down at the landfill. Have you ever driven by a landfill and wonder why does it smell? Decaying garbage creates an odor because a gas is being created as the trash decays. You can’t see the gas, but you can smell it! That trash, even when it’s decaying, contains energy!

Crumpled Paper Watershed Activity

A watershed is the land area that channels rainfall and snowmelt to creeks, streams, and rivers, and eventually to outflow points such as reservoirs, bays, and the ocean.  So if you are in the Rivanna River Watershed (part of the larger James River Watershed) or the North Anna River Watershed (part of the York River Watershed), all the rain that falls on your property eventually goes to the Chesapeake Bay.  What??  In this activity using a piece of crumpled paper, markers and water– students create a watershed model to demonstrate the geographical flow of water across the landscape, and the relationship of natural/cultural activities to water quality impacts.

Soil Buddy 

Germinating a bean sprout in a cup has graduated…this activity will help students identify and understand the three requirements all plants need to germinate and live while watching their Soil Buddy grow.  Send us pictures of your new Soil Buddy.

Science Podcasts 4 Kids

Follow this link and discover 19 websites that offer science podcasts for kids (…and kids of wonder and kids at heart).                                                                                                Photo by Phil Voystock- Cook Forest State Park, PA


You (yes, you) have been asked to provide some advice on the park design in order to make it more environmentally friendly.  Click on link to find out more.

BirdSleuth Explorer’s Guidebook

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology wants to help get kids outside and enjoying the backyard, neighborhood, and local parks. Take kids on a habitat scavenger hunt, create a sound map, and test bird ID skills with this adaptable activity book designed to be used by families, school groups, and anyone looking for a fun way to connect to nature. Geared towards fourth graders, this step-by-step guide will help to explore our country’s diverse habitats and the birds that live there.  This BirdSleuth Explorer’s Guidebook is available as a free download in both English and Spanish!  Click on the link above for more details.

Explore Macroinvertebrates

To the river! offers a tool for interactive views of freshwater macroinvertebrates.  Zoom in, zoom out, move left, move right to see the dorsal, lateral and ventral view of our local river residents.  This site will help you closely explore the macroinvertebrates that are living in our waterways and their populations help to indicate water quality based on their pollution tolerance.

Edible Soil

Pencils down, grab a spoon and dig into this tasty soil layering activity.

Falcon Cam

Peregrine Falcons once nested on the cliffs in Virginia’s mountains they now nest on city buildings, bridges and other tall structures as well as cliffs.  In cities, falcons use special boxes placed on the roofs of buildings to nest in. These are called hacking boxes.  The falcons are nesting in downtown Richmond, Virginia.  Hatching to begin any time now.  Watch them on the Falcon cam.  More information can be found at  Photo courtesy of DGIF


Chesapeake Bay Watershed Maps and Maps and Maps

Here, you will find The Chesapeake Bay Watershed in a variety of views—Geographical, Land Use, Pollution, Aquatic Life and many more.  Start exploring.

Aquatic Crusader

Nonpoint Source Pollution Awareness & Activities–understanding the characteristics of water, that precious resource we are trying to protect and understanding how it interacts with other elements in the environment, some of which pollute it and cause problems for people and animals.  This EPA link shares seven experiments for you to try that will teach you the characteristics of water.

Put A Ring On It

Put A Ring On It

What can we learn about a tree’s life and history by examining tree rings? During this session, students will learn how to analyze tree rings and how dendrochronologists use tree-ring research to improve our understanding of past climate and environment.  Presenter: Cari Leland, Lecturer in Earth & Environmental Sciences, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.  (Grades 3-5)

DGIF Backyard Bingo

Backyard B-I-N-G-O

EYES WIDE OPEN…LOOK, BUT DON’T TOUCH.  Looking for a fun outdoor activity?  It’s amazing how many different things you can spot in your own backyard. Print out these Backyard Bingo sheets and head outside to see what you can identify and find!  Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Soil 4 Teachers

K-12 Soil Science Teacher Resource

Teachers, here it is! A bank of many lessons and hands-on activities all about soils and topics related to soils. You can search for materials by grade level and/or subject and/or type of lesson.

Pollinator Field Day Guide

Where Would We BEE Without Pollinators?

Participate and Celebrate in Stewardship Week, April 26-May 3.  The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) established Stewardship Week 65 years ago to educate the public on the importance of soil health, water quality, pollinator habitat and other conservation topics.

Now here’s the buzz…NACD takes flight to foster education and awareness of pollinators in this activity-packed guide. The Pollinator Field Day Curriculum Guide provides interactive learning opportunities for students in K-8 grades. This is a free, downloadable PDF for local printing. You must complete a survey to download the document. For more information and to get started go to the NACD webpage.

“Stewardship Week helps to remind us all of the power each person has to conserve natural resources and improve the world.”

Water Cycle

The Water Cycle

Where does water come from and where does it go?  This interactive lesson from Project Wet will help you find your way from beginning to end again and again.

For a little more fun…

Take a Spin – Water or Land

Energy Origami

Energy Origami

The Sun, Biomass and The Wind take on beautiful shapes and colors now try these designs at home.  Brought to you by the national Energy Education Development (  Check out their website for more games, puzzles and activities.

C3 Virtual Climate Camp

Climate Camp with the Community Climate Collaborative

Activities, videos and online books for all ages…stave off boredom and remain engaged on helping the climate.  Follow this link to the Community Climate Collaborative (C3) and join the team as C3 created these weekly virtual and interactive activities throughout Earth Month for the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day (April 22).