Learning Science Through Play
by Whitney Lash-Marshall, Executive Director

Science! That word may take you back to your classroom days, but our exploration of science concepts actually goes back even further to when we might not have even realized we were being scientists. As children, experimenting isn’t a formal process with lab coats and safety glasses but instead is the way we experience the world around us and explore how things work. Do you remember that first time you tossed a rock into a puddle of water and watched the ripples move outward? Or maybe you built a pile of rocks across a stream and watched how the flow changed. Even the questions we asked about how birds fly and why leaves may be changing from green to orange were the beginning of our understanding of the science of the natural world and also the foundation of our connections to it.

Engineering skills emerge as kids build bridges using natural materials.

Scientific learning through play and exploration is an underlying philosophy of all our programs here at Baltimore Woods, helping to encourage each of us to learn more about what intrigues and inspires us. Our campers just spent the summer experiencing this through observing dragonflies by the pond and building forts at Peanut Hill. In just a few weeks students across the Syracuse City School District will kick-off a year of Nature in the City lessons where our educators bring examples of local flora and fauna right into the classroom, and hundreds of students will be heading out to The Woods for a field trip to not only learn about the natural world, but experience it firsthand.

These moments help us not only understand but connect to nature in ways that can last a lifetime. Your own early outdoor experiences are what helped instill that desire to take a hike when you have some spare time, capture natural beauty through photography, create art, engage in citizen science, and help steward our environment. Perhaps these hands-on and “home-made” experiments are more influential than we know – our staff and volunteers can share their own early memories that helped guide them to be at Baltimore Woods!

We also want to continue growing these opportunities for our community for generations to come – and one way we can expand the experiences we offer you and your family is by growing the physical preserve. We are working with our partners at the Central New York Land Trust to expand Baltimore Woods by almost 50% so we can grow our trail system and the types of environmental education programs we can offer to people of all ages. Keep an eye out for updates on our progress, maps and photos of the expansion, and how YOU can help make this unprecedented effort to expand Baltimore Woods Nature Center a success!