Caring for the Greenbelt's parks and open space
in Staten Island, NY through education,
conservation, research and prudent recreation

Nature Activities for July 2020


Note: While doing these activities, we should be practicing social distancing, staying at least 6 feet from the nearest person. Frequent hand washing for twenty seconds or more is advised. These activities are recommended for participation by your immediate family or household. If you want to include other friends or family members, consider a virtual playdate through Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime, so we can share the learning fun safely.

Fizzing Fireworks! Cover a table with sticky contact paper (sticky side up) and then tape it down to secure it. Work together to stick blank coffee filters all over it. Fill up a spray bottle with a 3/4 vinegar 1/4 water solution. Scoop some baking soda and drop it on the coffee filter. Drop the food coloring onto the paper while the other person starts spraying the baking soda. (You could also probably have a 2nd bottle that has a food coloring/water solution instead… but we used straight dye because the colors were more vibrant).  Watch as the colorful baking soda starts fizzing as it is hit by the vinegar solution!  Add more colors, more water, and more baking soda until your fireworks have been fizzing long enough! Let the coffee filters dry, then move them, lay out some new ones, and start again!

Fun with Shadow Puppets! Cut out silhouettes of various animals and glue them to popsicle sticks, markers, twigs, or whatever else you have on hand. Find a dark or dim place in the house, bring a flashlight, and put on a show with your puppets! Can you practice making different shadows with your hands? Where do I need to shine the light to make the shadow? When going outside after doing this activity, notice your shadow and then point out the position of the sun. How does your shadow change throughout the day? Notice the position of the sun every time! (Activity courtesy of Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve.)

Make a Suncatcher Prep this craft by cutting out an 8” ring or hollowed-out circle from a piece of construction paper (or a paper plate). Glue the ring to a piece of translucent white tissue paper. Once the glue dries, gently rip away the outside edges of the tissue paper until the center of the ring is covered but no excess is visible around the outside of the ring. Cut many multi-colored tissue paper squares approximately 1-2” sides.   Use a paintbrush and white school glue or glue sticks to stick the tissue squares to cover the middle of the suncatcher. It looks best when you leave small gaps for light and you only glue one layer of tissue paper. Make sure you glue to the back of the suncatcher where you ripped away the tissue paper. When you hang the suncatcher, you’ll hang it in the window with the side you glued the tissue paper squares onto facing outward. (Activity courtesy of Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve.)

Toilet Paper Roll Maracas First, cover the end of one toilet paper roll with duct tape. Next, fill the toilet paper roll halfway with rice or small beads. This part of the craft is a great sensory activity for little hands!  After the rice is inside the roll, cover the other end of the roll with duct tape. Once the maraca is sealed, make a sleeve for it from another toilet paper roll so you can paint it. Slit another roll all the way down one side and wrap it around the rice-filled maraca. Paint the maraca sleeve any way you wish! Start with a solid base color and then paint on a design or pattern.  Add washi or electrical tape, stickers, and/or ribbon, if you wish. Once the maracas are dry and decorated, make some music! (Activity courtesy of

DIY Toilet Paper Roll Bowling Reuse common household items for some active indoor or outdoor fun!   Paint your toilet paper rolls using non-toxic acrylic paint (or cover them with printer or construction paper).  Let the paint dry for a few minutes.  Decorate the toilet paper rolls with some washi or electrical tape to make a line, or just paint a red line once the paint dries or by using a marker.    Set up the pins in a pyramid, and roll a soft ball towards them, then record score and set them up again.  Challenge your family to some friendly competition!

Magic Marker Chromatography  Draw a design with markers on a coffee filter . Using dark, bright colors will yield the best results. The design can be circular or asymmetrical, whatever you feel inspired to do!  Fold the paper in half and then half again until it is narrow enough to fit inside your jar. Place a craft stick at the top of the wedge of paper. Attach a binder clip to the paper and the craft stick.  Place the paper in the jar of water (suspended by the craft stick) so that only just the tip of the end is touching the water.  Watch as the paper draws water up from the jar. You will start to see the colors separate and spread!  When the water line reaches the top of the paper, pull it out, unfold it, and let it dry on a paper towel.  Once the paper is dry you can display it as ­is or fold it into a butterfly, a gift bag, or a beautiful flower!

Tin Foil Boats  Cut a piece of tin foil 5 x 6 inches. Fold up the sides of the boat so it will not sink and hold a cargo of pennies. Place the boat in the bowl of water. Begin adding pennies for the boat’s cargo. See how many pennies your boat can carry before it sinks. Have some friends over and try this experiment with them. See which one of you can create the boat that will carry the greatest amount of cargo. Be sure to dry the pennies before you begin adding them as cargo because remember water has weight! Have the person who created the boat begin adding pennies to their boat while another person counts the number of pennies as they are added to the boat.  Try different ways to distribute the weight of the pennies on your barge so you can carry the maximum number.  You can also try this with a smaller piece of tin foil  and/or a clay boat. Guess how many pennies those boats will hold.

Dancing Raisins Experiment Fill a glass with a clear carbonated drink (lemon lime, club soda, or seltzer). Drop raisins into the glass. What happens? Do they sink or float? Sit and watch what happens. You may need to be patient. It can take a minute or two for them to start moving.  Try different kinds of soda and see which one works best. Also, try adding different things to the soda:  pieces of uncooked pasta, corn kernels, and lentils.

Floating Oranges Fill glass with water. Place unpeeled orange into water. Does the orange sink or does it float? Remove the peel.  Place the peeled orange in water. Does it sink or does it float?  You can also try this with limes.  How do the results differ when using a lime instead of an orange?

Make and Play Button Golf  Place marks at one and a half inch intervals on the paper towel tube.  Cut from one mark  in each section to the next going around the tube until you cut out that section of the tube. When it has been cut out, it should look like a napkin ring. After you have all your paper towel rings cut out, cut out nine small triangular flags or pennants from the white construction paper. Number the flags from one to nine with marker. You may wish to use a different colored marker for each number. Place two small horizontal slits on the large end of the triangle. Weave a toothpick through the two slit in each flag. Tape the bottom of a flag to the back of each of the paper towel rings- your golf holes!   Place the golf rings out on a table or the floor in any configuration your like. Make sure you have enough space between rings to flip the buttons.  Starting with the golf hole number one trying flipping a button into the ring by placing a top button on the edge of a bottom button and pressing down. The pressure from the top button will make the bottom button fly.  Once you have flipped a button into the first golf hole, move onto the next hole.  Put all of the golf ring holes in a line and try to move quickly from one hole to the next. This version of the game doesn’t require moving around a table or on the ground to get to the next hole. You can make this game challenging by taking out and ruler and measuring out a distance you will need to flip the button from.

Egg Parachutes  Take half of a plastic egg, and tape two matching connectors inside each egg.  Popsicle sticks, strays, ice cream spoons, chopsticks, or wooden skewers (with tips cut off) could workAdd tape crossed from the inside of the egg to the outside around each connector to make sure it stayed in place. Add a ring of the tape was added to the outside of each of the eggs to hold the outside edges of the crisscrosses in place. Tape the connectors to the outside of a coffee filter.  You could also try taking to the inside of the filter and comparing the results.  Toss your parachute into the air.  What do you observe?

Make a Sundial  Lay a paper place on the ground in a sunny area.  Punch the pencil through the middle of the plate. Push the pencil into the soil so that it stands upright.  Look for the pencil’s shadow, mark it with a line and the current time.  Check on the plate every hour to mark the shadow and time.  At the end of the day, you have your very own sun clock. (activity courtesy of Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve)

Make a Popsicle Stick Picture Frame   This is a great way to capture and share summer memories- and makes a great gift! Place two sticks parallel to each other, but 4 inches apart, for two opposite sides of your frame. (the distance may be more or less if your popsicle sticks are longer or shorter than 4.5 inches).  Now, apply some glue on the right end of both the popsicle sticks.  Next, take another stick and place it on the glued end, in a manner to join the two sticks underneath. This will be the third side of your frame, joining the other two sides. Now, do the same for joining the left side of your photo frame, with another popsicle stick.  You can also put two more sticks over the ones used for the left and right sides, and attach them on top of the upper and lower sides with glue to make the frame a little more sturdy (as you can see in the above picture).   Once the glue is dry, you can paint the frame with acrylic paint, watercolors, or markers.  Let the paint dry and your frame is ready for a picture. You might need to cut the photograph a little, so it fits the frame, or you may just put the frame over the photo and glue it in place in a stylish angle.