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The Dreaded Indoor Education

Winter is a tough time for outdoor education. I personally don’t mind stomping through the muddy woods on a drizzly day at 35 degrees, but we know it isn’t for everyone -- At least I won’t get ticks! Alas, Coast Kids retreats to the indoors for the winter months from December through February all while we eagerly await the return of the sun’s warmth.  

Every winter I ask myself: “How can we provide environmental education that is engaging, exciting, and hands-on – even though we are indoors?”


Image: Coast Kids sharing their newly built and decorated terrariums. This lesson teaches about the water cycle, plant needs, and habitat design!


Check out what we came up with last winter!

Building events are always fun and creative. Over the years, Coast Kids have built terrariums (this year), nesting boxes, summer quarters for bats, mini greenhouses, and several kinds of bird feeders.  These projects have provided home for native bees, Eastern Bluebirds, Screech Owls, Chickadees, Wrens, and a variety of other native species. One year we even made birdhouses from basket weaving reeds.

Kids love working with tools and we love seeing their creativity shine. Power tools (under close supervision) are even more fun! The last step in building projects is always to personalize the object with paint or markers. This creates a connection. We’ve proven definitively with our programming that kids find it far more rewarding to use what they built themselves!

Exploring a microscopic world. There are so many mysterious things for kids to explore by diving into the world of the microscopic: the vascular system of plants, crystalline structure, hair and fur, plankton, and even something as simple as sand, are just some examples. We cherish these moments of discovery, fondly recalling scenes of plankton predating plankton right in front of the kids’ eyes under the microscope!  These moments open complex discussions and foster a deeper learning about our region. 10 years ago, Coast Kids was fortunate enough to secure funding for eight microscopes with digital screens. They have proven to be terrific tools for sparking learning. 

Teaching facts about local ecosystems. With some serious creative thought and some tinkering, we transformed our large meeting room at the Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT) office into a non-competitive ecosystem escape room game called “Nature Detectives”. Groups of kids cracked codes and solved riddles to open seven locked boxes. They needed to be clever and make sharp observations!

Playfully, the kids learned ecosystem facts! How to identify different kinds of native trees and birds; what foods do beavers prefer; which animals thrive in an urban environment. In the end, all kids worked cooperatively together to solve the final puzzle. It was a delight as an educator to watch all the families that day having a great time all while learning new and amazing facts. Well, I probably had the most fun, firstly by dreaming up challenges, and secondly by watching the joy of the kids chasing the clues. This coming April, all sixth graders at Berlin Intermediate School will have a chance to become “Nature Detectives” as well. Coast Kids will bring the ecosystem escape room game to their school. We can’t wait to see their smiling faces!      


Image: Coast Kids solving the Nature Detectives escape room!


Last winter’s events were a big success and we’re thrilled with the outcomes. Starting next month our Coast Kids will return to the great outdoors for the rest of the year!

In March, we’ll decorate chick shelters for the tern raft, so baby terns and skimmers can find protection from the elements and predators. April is dedicated to Earth Day, which we celebrate at the Salisbury Zoo. The fun doesn’t stop there, with future classes dedicated to finding amphibians and learning frog calls, paddling on one of the beautiful rivers of the Eastern Shore, marveling at bay critters, and …. stomping through the woods – with a thorough tick check afterwards.  


Want to get involved? 

Check out the future monthly events on our website and we’ll see you out there! There's a Coast Kids course for everyone. Reach out to to learn more about our scholarship opportunities.


We can’t do this without your help!

We work hard to keep our Coast Kids programming affordable. Your generous donations are what makes that possible. Thank you for your continued support!

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