Resources for Kids & Families

StoryWalk®

StoryWalk® is an innovative and delightful way for children — and adults! — to enjoy reading and the outdoors at the same time. Laminated pages from a children’s book are attached to wooden storyboards that are installed along an outdoor path. As you stroll along the trail, you read the story in sequence while enjoying a little activity and fresh air.

We currently have two StoryWalks® that are open to the public year round. We welcome you and your young naturalists to join us anytime dawn to dusk to enjoy the walk at your own pace. One is at the Cathance River Nature Preserve and the other is at the Crystal Spring Farm garden trail.

Self-Guided QR Code Nature Tour

In August of 2020, we surveyed the community about what types of activities people would enjoy while COVID safety precautions are in place. A self-guided tour of the Cathance River Nature Preserve was highest on the list, so here it is!

This QR code-based tour is meant to offer a sampler of everything the preserve has to offer. The locations range from vernal pools and natural features to past human history and how BTLT/CREA uses the preserve today.

To join the fun, simply download a QR scanning app on your phone from your device’s App Store. The trail starts on the Highland Trail. From the Ecology Center parking, go down the steps to Rensenbrink Way and follow it to the kiosk. Turn left (northwest) onto the Highland Trail and keep an eye out for codes, which are in obvious places (such as blazed trees) along the trail! Codes are located along the Highland Trail then east along the Cathance River Trail, returning to the Ecology Center via the Beaver and Highland Trails.

This map includes the rough locations of all ten QR code spots to help aid you in your adventure. Happy hiking!

CREA’s 2020 summer interns, Alex and Lily, created a virtual summer camp package, called CREA Nature Investigators (CNI). Below you will find fun outdoor activities that you can do with your younger child(ren), or that older children can do on their own. CNI activities are geared towards grades 1 – 5, but can be adapted for any age (even adults!). 

Each link below takes you to a short description of the activity, a link to a short video featuring Alex and Lily as they showcase the activity, and a short written description of the activity and any supplies needed.

This is a great way to get your children outside, exploring and learning about the wonders of nature!


CNI #1: Start a Rock Collection – Alex and Lily launch our CREA Nature Investigators series, showing how to start a rock collection.

CNI #2: Make a Sundial – Join Lily and Alex as they use the power of the sun to tell the time!

CNI #3: Start a Weather Journal – Lily and Alex make a rain gauge to track how much rain falls in their weather journal!

CNI #4: Does It Float? – Lily and Alex test whether objects they find in nature will float or sink!

CNI #5: What’s in Dirt? – Explore the wonders of dirt – the soil beneath our feet – with Alex and Lily.

CNI #6: Make a Nature Mask – Alex shows Lily how to make a nature mask to practice their camouflage skills!

CNI #7: Find a Tree Friend – Make a Tree Friend and unlock its mysteries over the coming year.

CNI #8: Leaf Identification – Check out Lily and Alex’s adventure as they try to identify leaves they find around the preserve!

CNI #9: Use a Naturalist’s Eye – Lily and Alex teach how to develop your powers of observation to become a better naturalist!

CNI #10: Make a Boat – Alex and Lily design boats from materials they find outdoors (and indoors).

CNI #11: Humans on the Preserve – Become a detective and hunt for traces of humans on the landscape – past and present.

CNI #12: Fairy Houses – Join Alex and Lily as they explore the woods and make fairy houses.

CNI #13: Paper Butterflies – Make beautiful butterflies out of paper with Alex and Lily!

CNI #14: Make a Bird’s Nest – Can you make a bird’s nest as strong as one a bird makes?

CNI #15: Map Making – Learn how to make a map of your favorite place!

Wild Wonder kits were created during the 20/21 school year. The kits, distributed through Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program and local libraries, contained all the materials a child needed to enjoy these nature-based activities on days away from school.

We are no longer distributing kits, but have posted the activities on our website, along with a list of needed supplies, to enable more youth in our community to connect with nature! Most Wild Wonders activities require just a few simple materials that can be easily found at home and in nature, and are appropriate for all ages.


Wild Wonders Earth Day: Bud Buddy – Observing Nature – Tag a bud and observe how to changes daily this spring.

Wild Wonders Earth Day: Signs of Spring Scavenger Hunt – Can you find all of the first signs of spring?

Wild Wonders Earth Day: Earth Day BINGO – Gather friends and family for a fun BINGO game & Earth Day discussion

Wild Wonders Earth Day: Conserving Energy –  Make easy light switch reminders for family & friends!

Wild Wonders Earth Day: Grow a Plant You Can Eat! – Spring planting with DIY decomposing pots

Wild Wonders Earth Day: Clean Up Challenge! – Create a Clean Team and pick up your neck of the woods this Earth Day

Wild Wonders Weather Watch: Spring Equinox Sundial – Discover how to record the passing of time by using the sun!

Wild Wonders Weather Watch: Anemometer – Build your own tool and learn how to measure the speed of the wind.

Wild Wonders Weather Watch: Weather Station – Rain Gauge – Build your own meteorological instrument!

Wild Wonders Weather Watch: Cloud Window – Learn about the differences between clouds and what names they hold.

Wild Wonders Weather Watch: Weather Journal – Learn how to easily become a weather watcher!

Wild Wonders Weather Watch: Weather Station – Wind Vane – Build your own wind-vane to start a personal weather station

Wild Wonders Snow Science: Where Does It Melt First? – Investigate melting snow and make snow art!

Wild Wonders Snow Science: How Clean is Snow? – Investigate whether snow is as clean as it looks!

Wild Wonders Snow Science: Melting Snow & Snow Stick Craft – Make a Snow Stick and become a the family meteorologist!

Wild Wonders Snow Science: Snowflake Catcher – Make a snowflake catcher and go catch snowflakes!

Wild Wonders Snow Science: Winter Warmth – Make a den for your ‘polar bear’ and see if it keeps your bear warm!

Wild Wonders: Tracks and Traces – Learn to decipher the clues animals leave, telling us they’ve passed by. And make your own animal tracks!

Wild Wonders: Celebrating the Winter Solstice – Create an ice lantern to welcome the light and make frozen bubbles!

Wild Wonders: Winter Growing – Paperwhite Planting – See what you can grow … even in winter!

Wild Wonders: Adapting to Winter – Play Animal Adaptation Olympics and learn how and why squirrels hide all those nuts!

Wild Wonders: Native American Heritage Month – Learn about the Wabanaki people and make your own birch bark map.

Wild Wonders: Native American Heritage Month – Create your own dream catcher.

Wild Wonders: Amazing Birds – Create your own binoculars, construct your own and dissect a birds nest.

Wild Wonders: Seed Science – Make a seed collection bracelet and dissect seeds to discover what is inside.

Wild Wonders: Gourd Guts – Decomposition – Watch how a gourd rots and search for decomposers.

Wild Wonders: Feeding Our Feathered Friends – Make bird snack garland and a biodegradable orange bird feeder.

Wild Wonders: Autumn Leaves – Collect fall leaves to make a leaf person and leaf rubbings; go on a botany scavenger hunt.

Wild Wonders: Exploring the Seasons – Make a leaf suncatcher;  make a phenology wheel to track seasonal changes.

Wild Wonders: Nature Journal – Make a nature journal and record what you see outside.

Wild Wonders: Rainbow Hike – Head outside with an array of colors to match in nature.

Wild Wonders: Fall Mandalas – Make a beautiful design outside and leave for others to enjoy.

Wild Wonders: Grow from Seed – Grow a plant anytime indoors from seed, watch it change and develop.

Wild Wonders: Survival Bracelet – You never know what you might need to survive in the wild.

Wild Wonders: Dragonfly Nature Craft – Create a beautiful dragonfly out of maple seeds.

Wild Wonders: Twirling Stick Mobile – Turn a simple stick collection into exquisite art.

Wild Wonders: Hapa Zome Eco Printing – Turn colorful flowers into fun eco-printing with flower pounding.

Resources for Educators

In this series of three short videos – Getting Started with Outdoor Learning – CREA Educators Sarah Rodgers and Carey Truebe introduce the key information teachers need to make outdoor teaching a success. This guidance applies primarily to pre-K and elementary students, but some concepts can be adapted to middle school students.

Part 1: Stepping Out the Door (supplies, logistics, and routines) – 15 mins

Part 2: Simple Activities (easy outdoor activities that can be repeated throughout the year) – 16 mins

Part 3: A Different Approach and Knowing What to Expect – 15 mins

Here’s a list some of our favorite resources on nature-based learning here, including documents, local groups, and online resources:

Watch these short, delightful videos (made for elementary students but adults love them, too) and learn about animal adaptation, geology, pond life, and outdoor activities that will help you become a seasoned nature observer and naturalist!

Tour Geologic Processes at Cathance River Nature Preserve

Take a tour of the Cathance River Nature Preserve to see real life examples of weathering and erosion. Check out the rushing river and powerful rapids as they (very slowly!) change the shapes of the rocks at CREA. Then go on a scavenger hunt outdoors to find examples of weathering and erosion where you live!


Mining History in Topsham

Visit an abandoned feldspar quarry (now overgrown by forest), learn how feldspar rocks get turned into bathtubs and dishes, and search for clues of  feldspar mining that happened 150 years ago at the Cathance River Nature Preserve!


Pond Quest

Explore two ponds from the perspective of a Painted Turtle, a Spotted Salamander, and a Dragonfly! As you take on the role of each animal, look closely at each pond — does it have the unique habitat features that you need to survive?


Adaptations of Pond Animals

Using nets and buckets, explore the fascinating creatures we can find in a scoop of pond muck! This video examines pond critters up close, looking at different adaptations that allow them to breathe underwater, find food, move around, and stay safe from predators. Watch, then find a pond YOU can explore.   


Bird Feet

Why do birds have different kinds of feet? Watch this video, then conduct your own investigation of birds and their different feet…

Bird Nests

Learn secrets about bird nests!


Backyard Explore! Go on a Flower Search … and More

See how many different flowers you can find. (Can you find one for every color of the rainbow?) Learn about Kate Furbish, a plant scientist who studied and painted hundreds of flowers in Maine – many years ago. Then learn how to make a flower press, and make notecards with your pressed flowers!

Nature photographers Jim McCarthy and David Reed share tips on photographing the natural world (Jim) and the smaller creatures among us (David) in these guides.

James McCarthy:  Photographing “In Nature”

David Reed:  Photographing Dragonflies and Damselflies

Tom Kent: Botanical Macro Photography

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