Your guide to family events, stories and news in Western Wisconsin.


25 Ways to Connect with Nature

cool things to do in the great outdoors in the Chippewa Valley this summer

Beaver Creek Reserve's Butterfly House.
Beaver Creek Reserve's Butterfly House.

Beaver Creek Reserve wants you to have a “No Bummer Summer” – here are just a few ways to connect with nature this summer. We just ask that you follow social distancing guidelines, any park or green space rules about collecting, stay on trails, and of course have fun! Find links and more ideas at


While Beaver Creek’s summer camps will be virtual this year, the great outdoors are still open at the nature reserve (S1 County Road K, Fall Creek).

  • Take a hike (bring bug spray) on our trails or the Storybook Hiking Trail.
  • Tour the Butterfly House, which will open around July 5 (click here for details).
  • Plant ID Hike: Use an app or an identification guide and ID as many plants as you can. Use a notebook or create a nature journal to record your findings. Please stay on trails.
  • Animal Signs Hike: Look for evidence of animals such as tracks, scat (droppings), chew marks, nests, and more. 
  • Rent equipment such as GPS units, Wonder Walks backpacks, and even kayaks (available a little later this summer).


  • Sensory Hike: Use hearing, touch, smell, and sight.
  • Observation Hike: find a couple of places on your hike to stop and really look around. Each day (or every couple of days) go back and identify how it has changed. Are there more leaves? Are the colors different? Are new plants coming up?
  • Cartography: Draw your own map of your hiking route, include landmarks and favorite spots!
  • Go for a night hike (observe park opening and closing times). What creatures are out at night? If it is clear, can you see stars? Look for bats. 
  • Collect sticks and other nature items (where permitted) to create stick figures or pictures.


  • Bug Hunt: How many different types of insects can you find? 
    Bird Observations: Put a feeder or bird bath near a window and observe what types of birds come to your feeder. has a great way to ID your backyard birds. Record your findings.
  • Make your own art supplies. Use leaves, branches, twigs, rocks, and even flowers. Tie pine and evergreen branches to sticks and use as paint brushes. Press or hammer flowers and leaves on plain paper. 
  • Sink or Float: Find items in your yard and guess if they will sink or float in water, then test out your theory.
  • Penny Hunt: Take a penny into your yard and find things that fit on the penny. Use a magnifying glass if needed.


  • Raise Monarchs! Beaver Creek will have kits to help you raise monarchs at home.
  • Night Bug Watch: Turn on an outside light and see who comes to the light over the course of the evening. Record your findings.
  • Walk like an animal. How do animals move? Walk or move like as many animals as you can. 
  • Make a bird or butterfly feeder. There are many great ideas on Pinterest. Check out our blog as well.
  • Pinecone Painting: Take a shoe box (or another box) and put a plain piece of paper at the bottom. Add pinecones and drip paint over them. Shake the box gently. See the patterns the pinecones make on your paper.


  • Check out Beaver Creek Reserve’s YouTube page videos, live bird camera, and virtual field trips.
  • Learn about Monarchs at
  • Play fun bird-inspired games at
  • Explore Wisconsin’s Environment at (Environmental Education for Kids).
  • For younger kids, has lots of great games and lessons revolving around STEAM topics. Also check out NatGeo Kids for games, zoo tours, and much more!

Brianne Markin is marketing and development coordinator at Beaver Creek Reserve (