Education, Fun at Family Nature Adventures

In its ninth year, Family Nature Adventures is a free family event supported by the Kiwanis Club of Rockford and other sponsors to inspire a land conservation ethic in the next generation.

This year’s event is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 22, at Nygren Wetland Preserve, 3190 W. Rockton Road, Rockton, mainly in the prairie and wetland areas in the front part of the preserve. Children ages 2 to 14 can earn a Junior Naturalist Badge by visiting nature and art-themed learning stations, while the whole family can enjoy activities and wagon rides. Adults can also earn prizes.

“The whole idea is to get families outside in nature and have some hands-on learning experiences,” says Kim Johnsen, the Natural Land Institute (NLI) director of marketing and membership. “Bring the whole family, friends, or come on your own to explore the natural world at Nygren, where you will see prairies, wetlands and woodlands.”

Each learning station features activities based on a certain topic. For example, The Groundwater Station will show how polluted water affects the environment. The Woodland Station has examples of acorns, leaves, bones and other items that can be found on the forest floor. The Prairie Station shows the unique features of the Prairie Dock plant that traps water and provides a habitat for animals, while its deep roots benefit the soil. The Writing Station instructs how to record observations of nature.

Four water and shade stations provide a place to take a break and have a snack. Attendees can bring their own food. In addition, wagon rides take people around the preserve.

Each year, hundreds of people attend the event, Johnsen says. Learning stations are staffed by nature volunteers and organizations. Children get a passport stamped at each station they visit.
The last step to earning a badge is taking a pledge to help protect nature in your community.

“Everyone gets excited about what they are learning,” Johnsen says. “The hosts say it’s so much fun to see adults, as well as children, enjoying what they discover. It’s a great, structured way to learn about nature.”