Most of the time when people think about nature they think of places untouched by humans. “Nature” is often considered something that exists far away from cities. In reality, the division between nature and city is blurry. There is nature all around the city, even inside our homes.
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Early Morning Walk
Even in the busiest city you can find more animals in the early morning before the day’s bustle begins. Walk around your neighborhood, or your neighborhood park, as close to sunrise as possible, and see what animals you can spot. You might see bugs, worms, birds, squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, rats, and mice. (Animals that many people think of as pests are part of nature too!) Keep a journal and/or take photos of what you see.
Volunteer for a Park Invasive Species Removal
A great way to learn about plants in your city is to volunteer for invasive species removal. Invasive species can harm native plants and animals. Search for an organization in your city through the USDA’s National Invasive Species Information Center.
Compare Urban Habitats
An urban landscape can vary greatly even in the same city. There might be some places in your city that only have tall buildings and other places where there are houses with lawns or small backyards. There might be other areas that are wooded. Pick two locations in your city that are very different from one another. Go to each spot at the same time every day with your notebook and camera. Observe your surroundings, and take a lot of notes and pictures of what you see. How do these two areas compare? Does one area have more plants? What are the different animals and plants that you notice? What are the characteristics of the two different places that might affect the living things that you notice?
Volunteer at a Community Garden
Volunteer at a community garden and help plant veggies, fruit, and flowers. This is a great way to interact with nature because not only are you working with plants, but you also get to dig in the dirt! Are there any worms or other bugs crawling around in the garden? Learn more at the American Community Gardening Association.
Flowerpot Neighborhood Tour
Go around your neighborhood and take pictures of the flowers people have planted on their stoops or are hanging from their windows. Don’t pick the flowers! Do you notice any bees or butterflies or other insects floating around near the planters? Are certain flowers more unique or rare than others?
Take a walk and collect fallen leaves from different trees around the city. Bring them back home and see if you can identify the type of tree from the leaf. Use a site like iNaturalist to help with the identification.
Visit a Wildlife Refuge
Yes, there are wildlife refuges in cities! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an online tool to find the refuges closest to you, and many are accessible via public transportation. You can visit on your own or maybe even join a ranger-led activity.
What's Good in My Hood Workbook
This fun workbook from the New York Restoration Project helps illustrate urban ecology concepts to children.