In all honesty, I’ve never really considered nature centers a place where children can connect with nature. Great places for kids to learn about nature, for sure. But connect? Not so much. Bonding with nature is something I have always associated with backyard explorations sprinkled with a few outdoor adventures and a generous dose of good’ol free play outside. Any time you attempt to showcase nature within four walls and put a gift shop right next to the rare frog display, nature just seems to become a little too canned and institutionalized in my opinion.
Well, over the weekend I had a chance to rethink my stance as the Little Naturalist and I more or less by chance ended up at the Kalamazoo Nature Center in Michigan. Not only because it was a very neat center, but also because we finally found out what the fox says!
Though I still think there’s no substitute for playing outside every day, nature centers can be a great gateway to the natural world for kids who haven’t spent much time playing outside, and may not have the opportunity to do so. They also offer some benefits that kids often are not always able to experience in their own backyard. For example:
- Seeing, and sometimes touching, variety of rare animals up close that are hard to spot in the wild
- Feeling real animal pelts or mounted animals (how else would you be able to know what a black bear or moose pelt actually feels like?)
- Learning about food chains and other complex concepts in a playful way
- Seeing real models of different eco systems
- Seeing wild animals feeding and interacting
- Hearing what different animals sound like
For the Little Naturalist (and, admittedly, myself), it was especially rewarding to finally find out what the fox says. The question had lingered ever since we watched a certain YouTube sensation (viewed 350 million times – that’s not a typo) with the Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis a couple of months ago, and I hadn’t been able to give the girls a good answer. If you’ve been wrestling with the same question, fret no more, just gather the kids and click on the soundtrack below to find out what the fox – more specifically a tree fox – says. And no, it’s neither ring-ding-ding-dingeringeding nor wa-pa-pa-pa-pow or hatee-hatee-hatee-ho!
To find a nature center near you, check out NatureFind.