Urban Outdoors: University Campuses
One of the easiest ways we’ve found to access nature in the urban outdoors is exploring college or university campuses. We live in Nashville, TN, which is fortunate enough to have several. There are at least five within 10-minutes of each other, so the options for us are pretty varied. Not all college campuses have easy access to open lawns and well-cared for gardens, but if you can find one that does, then these are great places to take kids to explore.
For example, Vanderbilt University in Nashville is listed as a natural arboretum and is home to over 300 species of trees and shrubs. For older kiddos, this would make for part of a great scavenger hunt. Our 2-year-old just likes to go to campus and walk around. We typically take a climbing chalk bag with us so she can collect items that she has found. A great way to structure a simple activity for this would be to make a picture checklist or bingo card with pictures of natural items to find (e.g., stick, leaf, acorn, spot a squirrel, spot a bird).
The best times to visit university campuses are typically evenings, weekends, and school holidays and breaks when the number of students is greatly reduced. Having students around won’t cramp your style (and believe it or not, you won't cramp theirs), but depending on the size of the campus and the size of the student body you might find that times of high foot traffic could make exploration a little more difficult.
What about it nature rockers, have you ever taken little ones to explore a university campus for fun?
There is an amazing (and growing) community of family outdoor/nature bloggers, and we want to introduce you to a few. Although we've never met them in person, we count on them as resources and friends.
First up, Michael Barton, a Nature Rocks ambassador from Exploring Portland's Natural Areas and The Dispersal of Darwin. Both are really great blogs, with the former being geared toward outdoor exploration and education. You can also find him on Twitter.
Thanks for stopping by!
Pablo and Nea