You don't need to venture far to experience nature. Here is a list of engaging activities to explore nature close to home, or even at home! Share your neighborhood discoveries and homemade artwork with us on social media by tagging us on @midpenopenspace and using #hiddennature. For upcoming virtual events, visit our activities calendar.
- Bird Watching Activity
Birds are your traveling neighbors, moving from place to place and calling almost anywhere home. You can do this activity in many places, like looking out of your window or walking through your neighborhood. This activity is great for explorers of all ages (adult guidance suggested for age 9 and younger) and is correlated with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to supplement science curriculum. Be curious and let your discoveries guide you! Download Bird Watching Activity
- Bird Bingo
Play bird bingo with your household in your backyard or local neighborhood. Spot all kinds of birds, mark them on the page, and bingo! This fun and educational activity provides names and pictures of common species that you are likely to encounter in your neighborhood. Download bird bingo card.
- Outdoor Scavenger Hunt
Engage the whole family with an outdoor scavenger hunt in your backyard or local neighborhood. Go outside and search for common outdoor objects provided in the activity sheet. Try to find as many items on the list as possible and each time you find an item, check it off the list. Another way to make a record is to take a photo of each item that you find on the activity sheet. Keep your eyes open for treasures and have fun! Download outdoor scavenger hunt list or make your own.
- California Plants and Wildflowers Crossword Puzzle
Test your knowledge of California plants and wildflowers in a crossword puzzle. Use only common names, omit ‘California’ and don’t use spaces. Download California Plants and Wildflower Crossword Puzzle and answer key.
- California Wildflowers Word Search
- Work together with your family to search for wildflower names in this word search puzzle. Download California Wildflowers Word Search activity and answer key.
- Invasive Plants Word Match Activity
Test your knowledge of invasive plants. Connect the images of invasive plants with the correct name. Download Invasive Plants Word Match activity and answer key
- Virtual Nature Videos - Midpen's YouTube Channel
Visit our YouTube Channel for a collection of fun and educational virtual nature videos, created for you by Midpen staff. Discover awesome sunset viewing spots, learn about tafoni sandstone formations, take a virtual walk around Alpine Pond and much more in our Virtual Nature Playlist.
Latino Outdoors leaders from the SF Bay Area showcase some of their favorite Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District preserves.
Virtual Tour - Midpen Hidden Gems
- Virtual Event - Introduction to Hiking
Join us for an introduction to hiking discussion with our local Latino Outdoors leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area. We will share some of our highlights from the "Hidden Gems" video and some of our favorite items we take on the trails and why.
- Virtual Tour - Spring Wildflower Tour at Pulgas Ridge
Join Midpen and our community partner Bay Area Older Adults for a spring wildflower tour of Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve, home to 90 native species of trees, shrubs, ferns and flowers! Bring your lunch and join us on a virtual walk in a preserve known for its showy spring wildflowers such as Indian warrior, hounds tongue, mules ears, milkmaids, fetid adders tongue, giant trillium, mission bells and more. Learn how to identify California wildflowers and find out about the best wildflower resources. Photo by Anne Ferguson.
- Virtual Tour - Winter at Monte Bello Preserve
Join Bay Area Older Adults and Midpen for a virtual exploration of Monte Bello Preserve! First, Learn how to identify mushrooms that can be found at this preserve and travel up the steep, forest covered White Oak Trail in search of mushrooms, mammals, amphibians and birds to reach an open grassland for views of Black Mountain and the valley.
- Virtual Event - The Wonderful World of Woodpeckers
Learn about the woodpeckers of San Mateo County, where they are found and the exciting lives they lead! Following the presentation led by Alvaro Jaramillo, ornithologist and founder of Alvaro’s Adventures, Midpen biologist Karine Tokatlian will share information about habitat values for woodpeckers on Midpen preserves and where you might be most likely to hear or see a pileated woodpecker. Sponsored with Sequoia Audubon Society and San Mateo County Parks.
- Virtual Tour - Explore chestnuts, Christmas trees and more at Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve
Join Bay Area Older Adults and Midpen for an interactive educational exploration of Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve. Hike along the rolling hills from Long Ridge to Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve on partly shady trails with views of the eastern foothills, past a chestnut farm and Christmas tree farm, and then around Horseshoe Lake. Along the way see wildlife, learn about the local chestnut farm and the Skyline Ridge Christmas Tree Farm Restoration Project. Visit our preserve page to plan your next adventure to Skyline Ridge Preserve!
- Recreate Responsibly Video Series
Join Latino Outdoors Outings Leaders in some of their favorite locations as they highlight the seven Recreate Responsibly principles!
- Virtual Tour - Discover the Resilient Nature of Redwoods at El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve
Join Bay Area Older Adults, Save the Redwoods League and Midpen for a virtual exploration of El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve! Learn about the thriving wildlife around its creeks and the geology of the area. Venture on a virtual tour of the preserve and discover the resilient nature of California redwoods and other fascinating facts. Visit our preserve page to plan your next adventure to El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve!
- Virtual Tour - History & Wildlife Tour of Ravenswood Open Space Preserve
Join Bay Area Older Adults and Midpen for an outdoor exploration of Ravenswood Open Space Preserve! Perched on the western shores of the San Francisco Bay in East Palo Alto, this preserve features raised redwood boardwalks and observation decks for easy viewing of sensitive wetlands, bird watching or watching the tide roll away. Learn about the history of the restored salt marshes, the resident and migratory shorebirds and waterfowl it attracts, varied flora this habitat supports and how to easily identify the birds one might find here. Next, journey out on the easy access levee trails for an up-close view of the native plants and birds found here. Visit our preserve page to plan your next adventure to Ravenswood Preserve!
- Virtual Talk - The Secret Life of Badgers
Join Midpeninsula biologist Karine Tokatlian to learn all about badgers! Many people are surprised to learn that American badgers, a species of special concern in California, live in the grasslands of many Midpen preserves. But little has been known about how many there are, where they are located and what paths they travel. Karine will teach you how to identify badgers and their burrows, what we are learning about their secret night time activities and why wildlife corridors are so important. Visit our badger habitat study webpage to learn more.
- Virtual Talk - Coexisting with Cougars
Join Midpen Management Specialist Matt Sharp Chaney online to learn all about mountain lions! Matt will provide an overview of mountain lion biology, habitat and current research. He will share how hikers, families and neighbors can stay safe in mountain lion habitat and how public open space agencies like Midpen respond to mountain lion encounters. Matt will also touch on Midpen’s Highway 17 Wildlife and Trail Crossings project and important legislation in the works that can help protect mountain lions.
- Virtual Wildflower Hike at Sierra Azul Preserve
Join Midpen and Latino Outdoors on a guided virtual wildflower hike at Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. The event will start with introductions from Latino Outdoors and Midpen followed by the virtual wildflower hike video, with a question and answer session at the end of the event. Suitable for all ages.
- Birds of Bear Creek Redwoods
Join Midpen, Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) and San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO) for a fun and educational webinar about birds in Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve! Local Naturalist Jeff Caplan will teach tools and tips for identifying and connecting with common birds you might meet in the redwood forests. Jeff focuses on mindfulness, curiosity and bird language to help people from diverse backgrounds feel safe and connected in nature. Suitable for all ages.
- Indigenous History in the Bay Area Webinar Series
For thousands of years, the Bay Area has been the home of many, diverse groups of Indigenous Peoples with complex cultures and relationships to the land. Join Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), California State Parks and Midpen for a three-part webinar series delivered by Mark Hylkema, California State Parks Archaeologist and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Foothill College. Mark draws from over 40 years of experience studying the history of California native people, focusing on Indigenous cultures of the Peninsula and the South Bay.
Indigenous History in the Bay Area, Part 1: Overview provides a broad overview of historic Indigenous communities in our area based on what we know of archaeological studies and oral histories. Participants will learn a basic framework for understanding the complex and varied native communities of the Peninsula and the South Bay.
Indigenous History in the Bay Area, Part 2: Ethnobotany and Land Stewardship examines some of the interactions Indigenous Peoples of the Bay Area had (and still have) with our landscape. This session highlights specific plant and animal relationships, as well as stewardship practices using examples from our local landscape.
Indigenous History in the Bay Area, Part 3: Economy, Spirituality & Culture focuses on interesting aspects of what we know about historic Indigenous culture, society, economy and spirituality. Hear about examples of trade networks that took products made and collected by Bay Area communities far and wide. You'll also learn about aspects of village life, spirituality and sacred relationships with our local landscape.
- Tour of Alpine Pond
Enjoy a peaceful virtual walk around Alpine Pond, adjacent to the Daniels Nature Center at Skyline Ridge Preserve. Discover pond habitats and learn more about the local wildlife that call this place home.
- Tour of Skyline Ridge Preserve
Take a virtual nature tour of Skyline Ridge Preserve. Visit different habitat types and learn about the plants and local wildlife that live there.
- Nature Events- Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority
Discover some amazing virtual events and programs to keep you connected to nature while at home.
- Park Experiences - East Bay Regional Parks District
East Bay Regional Park District had developed great virtual reality tours of selected Regional Parks. You can now virtually visit the parks to discover more about these lands and their unique stories.
- Redwoods Videos - Save the Redwoods League
Experience the calm of the redwoods at home in a variety of virtual nature experiences. Find resources to recharge, reconnect and get inspired.
- Virtual Events - National Parks Week 2020
Get involved and celebrate National Parks Week by checking out all the great digital experiences and virtual events from the National Parks Service.
- Virtual Talks - San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory
Expand your knowledge of birds, birding, science and conservation by joining San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory for virtual talks and discussions.
- Celebrate Golden Gate Park’s 150th Anniversary
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Golden Gate Park. Explore the park virtually with special live cams, virtual tours and photo albums that feature some of Golden Gate Park’s hidden treasures, trails, flowers and popular destinations.
- 8 Ways to Enjoy #NeighborhoodNature - Green Foothills
Discover different ways enjoy nature close to home with your family.
Join Midpen Environmental Education Specialist Nina Vuoso on a Virtual Field Trip around Alpine Pond at Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve. Learn about habitats, making nature observations, and taking notes outside. Then, take your nature observation skills on a walk around your habitat: your neighborhood!
In this activity, with support from an adult, students will plan and carry out a Field Trip at home. This activity is designed for students grades 3-5, but some parts can be modified for grades K-2 with ample adult support and supervision. Student and Teacher guides are available for download.
- The Buzz on Pollination: Family Activity Guide
Midpen has created a family activity guide for you to discover and appreciate the pollinators and flowers in your neighborhood and the open spaces near you! You can create your own flower and imagine and design the type of pollinator that would be attracted to it. Flowers come in a variety of colors, smells, shapes and sizes. Some pollinators are attracted to certain types of flowers. For instance, bees like bright white, yellow, blue and ultraviolet flower colors that smell nice, while flies like brown, white and pink flowers that smell rotten. Insects, some birds and even bats are pollinators that play an important part of a flowering plant’s life cycle and provide us fruits and vegetables. Follow along in the guide to learn more about pollination and to think of ways that you can help pollinators to thrive.
- Virtual Classroom Education Materials - Grassroots Ecology
Grassroots Ecology has transformed their elementary classroom educational materials into self-guided lessons you can do at home.
- Nature Experiences - Hidden Villa
Find many interesting and educational distance learning videos created by Hidden Villa. Learn more about farm animals, local wildlife and how to get started on iNaturalist.
- California Grasslands Video - California Native Grassland Association
Learn more about native California grasslands in a series of educational videos. Check out additional environmental education resources and worksheets for students in grades K-12.
- National Environmental Education Week Resources
Check out the variety of environmental education resources and activity guides you can do at home.
- Environmental Science Resource Guide - Families in Nature
Find environmental science lessons in this resource guide created by Families in Nature. The lessons are suitable for all ages and most can be done in your own backyard or home with minimal materials.
- Virtual Earth Day Activities - San Mateo County Office of Education Environmental Literacy Initiative
Find a list of virtual earth week resources and activities for all ages.
- Nature activities - Golden Gate Audubon Society
Enjoy these fun projects to learn about birds and nature at home and in your neighborhood. These activities are geared towards elementary school children and available in English and Spanish.
- Earth Week - City of Cupertino
Celebrate Earth Week from home! The City of Cupertino has gathered many online Earth Week activities for you and your family to enjoy. You’ll find crafts, activities, DIY projects as well as tips for enjoying nature, celebrating our shared planet, and saving money at home.
- Try Seek!
Seek allows curious naturalists of all ages to earn badges and participate in challenges to observe organisms with on-screen identification using computer vision for identifications based on data from iNaturalist.
- Meet Your Nature Neighbors on iNaturalist
Get to know your nature neighbors! You can use this time at home to get to know your local environment. Upload observations taken in your home or within walking distance from your home.
- Midpen Biodiversity Index on iNaturalist
Take a virtual tour of Midpen preserves and see what plants and wildlife visitors have seen in the preserves.
- Participate in the 2021 City Nature Challenge
This is an international effort for people to find and document plants and wildlife in cities across the globe. Find out how to participate!
- Common Wildflower Guide
This guide was developed for use at Midpen's Annual Wildflower Survey at Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. It features the 100 most common flowering species seen during the wildflower surveys. See what type of wildflowers you can spot in your neighborhood or local park!
- Calflora Planting Guide
Use this handy guide to identify what native plants would grow well in your local area.
- Become Weed Whacking Warriors
Weeding is a great way to relieve stress. While at home, take this time to pull out those pesky invasive weeds that travel through yards and into public lands. For instance, removing early invading weeds like slender false brome and hanging sedge can really help. Get details on these two plants from San Mateo Resource Conservation District or check out the free Weed Workers Handbook from the California Invasive Plant Council.
- Keep a Nature Notebook
Keep a nature notebook, recording your local nature explorations: observations, drawings, pressed fallen leaves or flowers, images and more. You never know what you’ll discover once you start looking!
- Get Crafty with Nature Art
Enjoy art and crafts with your family using everyday nature items. Go outdoors and find leaves, flowers and plants from around your home. Arrange your findings on top of a piece of paper on a stable, flat surface. Once you are happy with the arrangement, place another piece of paper on top. Use tape to secure the pages in place, then use a hammer to hammer over the entire arrangement. Once you have finished hammering, remove the top sheet of paper and remove remnants of plant material. Your nature art project is complete! Thank you to the Weekend Sherpa for sharing the idea.
- Local Wildlife Coloring Book
Learn with your family about local wildlife through a fun coloring activity! The five critters you’ll meet in this booklet created by our friends at Peninsula Open Space Trust are all Bay Area natives that live in or near local creeks. Print the coloring pages at home, grab your crayons or colored pencils and have fun. Download coloring book.