STEM@Home: Spring Has Sprung

Week2: Ranger Rick Online and iNaturalist

Snowy days? Sunny mornings? Don’t let the weather fool you – spring really is on its way. Our Michigan plants and animals know that a new season of life and growth is in full swing. Don’t miss the opportunity to get outside and watch it in real time!

Trees are budding, birds are calling, bulbs are sprouting, and squirrels are chattering! The whole world is waking up! So get out in your backyard, or maintain social distancing at your nearest nature preserve, and join in the fun with these great online nature resources.

Younger Kids: Ranger Rick online (

Ranger Rick magazine has awesome animal articles, activities, and crafts. Grab a free (no strings attached!) three month subscription to their website chock-full of nature study ideas by visiting


Have you noticed the squirrels out in full force over the last few weeks? Us, too! Hone your spy skills with the Spy on Squirrels activity! First, learn their common behaviors – then grab a notebook and start your backyard stake-out. 

  • Sketch Artist: Add an illustration to your notebook – could you identify your backyard squirrels in a line-up?
  • Bait and Switch: Design and build a squirrel-proof birdfeeder from the recycling bin – it’s harder than it looks! 
  • The Gang’s All Here: What other animals, big and small, do you notice in your backyard? From bugs to raccoons, they’re all part of your neighborhood’s ecosystem.


Older Kids: iNaturalist app for iPhone and Android (

Ever wondered what kind of maple shades your patio? Or tried to figure out if you’ve got English, common, or poison ivy growing up the chimney? iNaturalist is the app for you! Free to download in the GooglePlay or Apple Store, iNaturalist lets kids and adults join a community of nature lovers. 

Snap a few photos of the plant in question (try to get close-ups for best results) and then let the app suggest possible species matches. After you make your best ID, photos are submitted to the iNaturalist community – where both amateur and professional naturalists can give ID input. Trust us – ExploreHope tried it out recently with a group of middle schoolers, and we found it completely addictive! 

  • So…Many… Plants: Can you find 10 different plant species in your backyard? 
  • The Big Reverse: Try to identify another user’s plant submission!
  • Science Loves Company: Send us a message or follow us at explore2019 on iNaturalist, and let us see what you’re finding!


Plants and animals make your heart sing? Sign up for these great Hope Summer Science Camps perfect for budding naturalists!

  • Art in Nature and Cool Critters and Crawlies: Grades K-2
  • Exploring Ecosystems: Grades 3-6
  • Wonders of the Watershed: Grades 6-8
  • Watershed Restoration: Grades 9-12
  • Invasive Species Research Experience: Grades 10-12

Image credit: Paul VanDerWerf from Brunswick, Maine, USA / CC BY (

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