ELC finding creative ways to get kids outside with Nature Near You kits


After receiving a grant from the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) made possible by the Voya Foundation, the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) created take-home Nature Near You Kits to help get kids outdoors during the pandemic.

“We noticed that there was a lot of emphasis on virtual education, and we wanted to be able to balance that with opportunities to get outside,” said Heather Kramer, an Environmental Educator at ELC and one of the kit’s creators. “We like to think of them as invitations to the outdoors.”

Educators used the funding from the grant, along with a generous donation from the Garden Club to create four kits; Bugs! Bugs! Bugs, Be a Scientist, Birds of a Feather and Light and Color.  Kits are designed for ages 6-11 and come with instructions and materials for six hands-on activities. There are also instructional videos on ELC’s website, and two opportunities for engagement with an educator with a virtual “Unboxing” and a virtual “Show & Tell.”

“My niece and nephew loved the video session and the bug kits. My sister didn’t let them look inside until the unboxing, and they could hardly wait.  My niece sat next to her box thirty minutes prior to the video session,” said Kristina Laguardia, a parent.

The kits are proving to be a hit for the ELC and creating quite the stir in the community.

“The community really responded,” said Amy Shea, Environmental Educator and box creator at the ELC. “We sold out of our first two kits within the first few weeks!”

The kits also create quite the stir in the education office as well, since 100 kits are assembled each series. ELC utilizes their amazing volunteer force for the many hours of sorting, packing and stamping that goes into the assembly of each kit. Utilizing their volunteers is a way to help keep the kits affordable. Not to mention 25% of the kits created are donated to local organizations. So far, the recipients have been Daisy Hope, The Learning Alliance and The Suncoast Mental Health Center.

Nature Near You Kits can be purchased on DiscoverELC.org.

If anyone is interested in sponsoring future kits, please contact heatherk@discoverelc.org.

About the ELC

The Environmental Learning Center is a 64-acre 501(c)(3) not-for-profit nature center. Our mission is to educate, inspire and empower all people to be active stewards of the environment and their own well-being. The ELC serves the community through school field trips, camps, lecture series, professional development and more. Our campus includes native plant gardens, boardwalks, kayaks, canoes, a pontoon boat, children’s play area and many other amenities that help increase access to nature for people of all ages.

 About Voya Foundation

Voya Foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life in communities where Voya Financial operates and its employees and customers live. Voya Foundation provides grants and establishes signature partnerships in the areas of financial literacy and children’s education and fosters employee engagement to deepen our positive impact on the community. For more information, visit http://www.VoyaFoundation.com.

 About ASTC

Founded in 1973, ASTC is a network of nearly 700 science and technology centers and museums, and allied organizations, engaging more than 110 million people annually across North America and in almost 50 countries. With its members and partners, ASTC works towards a vision of increased understanding of—and engagement with—science and technology among all people. www.astc.org

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