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Let's Get Out There: Nature kits for kids

The Environmental Learning Center at Clackamas Community College has a creative way to get kids away from screens and into the outdoors.

OREGON CITY, Ore. — This week's Let's Get Out There, a KGW series, takes out to the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) on the campus of Clackamas Community College.

It’s a beautiful wetland site of about five acres. It's open to visitors and free to explore and experience nature, no matter how old you are. The learning center usually hosts field trips and other educational sessions. 

"When children get outside, you just see something in them light up, and their curiosity just takes them all sorts of places," said Sarah Bidwell, an instructor at ELC. "My hope is that they hold that their whole life."

Last year, those experiences weren't able to happen. 

“When COVID restrictions started last spring, we knew we wouldn't be able to do our summer camps or do any more field trips and so we did some brainstorming and came up with these nature kits that would get kids off of the screen, and out in nature like around their homes or parks or forests,” said Jill Sorber.

To get kids outside, Sorber and Bidwell teamed up to offer Nature Spy Explorer Kits. The kits have things like crafts, activities, and books. 

For the summer series, parents can order up to five kits for their kids from the ELC web site. One kit per week will be delivered beginning on July 8. Over 500 kits have sold so far and there is a scholarship fund to help prevent financial barriers from getting in the way for parents.

Credit: Jon Goodwin, KGW
Opal and May assemble their bug hotels at the Environmental Learning Center on campus at Clackamas Community College

“They come right to your door,” Bidwell said. “They have all the materials that you need to do a fun craft. For instance in the bird kit, you create a bird feeder and then you get to put it outside and you get to watch the birds that come to the feeder.”

Each kit is unique and is designed to keep kids engaged through the entire week until the next kit arrives.

“We have one on bugs, we have one on butterflies, squirrels, birds and all about soil and creatures that live in the soil,” said Bidwell.

Building curiosity is what it’s all about. Sarah and Jill both hope what’s in the kits will inspire kids to regularly check out natural areas near them and take in the outdoors.

“It's really centered around providing opportunities for children to get outside in nature and to explore and discover and play and have fun in a really interactive and hands-on way,” Bidwell said.

“This is just a great spot, said Sorber. “You wouldn't even know that it was here and it's just wonderful and it's a happy place to be.”

To order a kit or find more information of what’s included in each one, visit the Clackamas Community College ELC web site.

Let's Get Out there will air once a week on KGW's 4 p.m. newscast and The Good Stuff, which airs at 7 p.m. We'll be including viewers photos for this series. You can text your photos to 503-226-5088 or post them on the KGW Facebook page.

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