A virtual walk in the woods

A virtual walk in the woods

Like everyone else, my kids and their friends are reveling in the warmer weather.

The last bits of snow are melting away, and we spent much of the weekend outside -- batting practice, basketball, hide and seek, any excuse to be outdoors. My daughter was even thrilled to find a pinecone on a walk at a woodsy rest area on our way to St. Louis.

If you're inspired to take a nature walk with your kids, check out a feature from University of Illinois Extension first.  http://ow.ly/1devQ It takes them on a virtual, interactive Walk in the Woods, exploring various plants, animals and habitats they might not notice on their own.

They can find out how to identify trees by their bark, learn about mushrooms and other fungi, see what animals live in the woods and what their homes look like, and watch how the woods change through the seasons.

It also shows them what to look out for, including mosquitos, bees, ticks and noxious plants like my personal nemesis, poison ivy. (My eyes once swelled shut after I unknowingly uprooted a poison ivy vine while planting some bulbs and then apaprently spent the day rubbing my eyes.) It's one of the few online sources I've found with a great photo of poison ivy and other look-alike plants, so you can tell them apart.

When your kids are done, they can also play a couple of interactive games and create their own "Woods Walker Certificate." The site also has a teachers' guide and a list of helpful resources.

And just in case the nasty cold weather returns, you can take the virtual walk anytime!




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