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Outdoor spaces and activities for or by kids and teens

Landscape designers with expertise in creating natural play spaces:

Projects for kids (or adults!)


  • Create a native plant garden in a public space, such as a faith community or school

  • Create a Monarch Waystation

  • Tree planting projects

  • Organize your neighborhood into a pollinator zone by going door to door and collecting pledges to plant at least one native plant. When you reach your goal (maybe 50-100 neighbors), have a block party to celebrate.


Invasive plant removals

  • Many opportunities are available for helping as a one-time event.

  • The Tree Rescuer program is well suited for children (under adult supervision).

  • Organize an event with your peers - in your neighborhood common space, park, school, faith community, etc

  • Organize a fundraiser (similar to a walkathon) for your favorite cause, in which participants either pay to participate in an invasive plant removal event, or collect pledges and then have a goal of removing X number of invasive plants.

Tabling events for kids

  • Native or Invasive. Define the terms and show them labeled images (or actual examples) of various plants and ask them to identify each as Native or Invasive. Often the name is a clue as in English Ivy and Japanese Stiltgrass. Depending on the size of the group, one could engage them in a discussion of pros and cons.

  • Pin-the-butterfly-on-the-larval-host-plant. Use a display board and cutouts of various butterflies. Have them search for the answers on a handout.

  • Play the NOVA Natives Memory Game. Have them toss a beanbag, spin a bottle, or do something else to pick a number between one and twelve, which correspond to a picture of a NOVA native plant. Ask them to guess which of the twelve butterflies or moths it is the larval host plant for. NOTE: beanbag tosses really draw in the crowds!

  • Our coloring banner can be used just to engage the kids but also to guess which plant is which.Prizes could include a free Audubon at Home visit (of course, it is free anyway…), free NOVA native guide (if you have any to give away), VNPS plant sale voucher, or a sticker or something. You can make this easier or harder depending on how many things you have to give away. We have a sticker template in the Promotional Toolkit if you feel like printing some up to bring. The banner can also be used as a giant card, such as a get well card, for kids to decorate.


Other events

  • Challenge another school to a competition during City Nature Challenge in April.

  • Hold a native plant fair. You could have booths with game, plant giveaways or sales, create or add to a garden, show a movie

  • Create small signs to be put in the ground at the base of trees or hanging from shrubs and ask your neighbors for permission to put them up for a week.

  • Hold a showing of the movie Hometown Habitat. Movies under the stars are fun in the summer.

  • Native plant treasure hunt - give them a short list of native and invasive plants in the area, show them examples of each, then lead them on a hunt.

  • Have your students create the treasure hunt by taking pictures of plants, identifying them, then create a verbal description that would help others find them without photos.

  • Create an iNaturalist project for your school and encourage students to upload photos of plants and wildlife. They can simultaneously learn to identify the life forms and contribute to citizen science - for free. Here's an example!

Existing projects and organizations that need adult volunteers

  • NOVA Outside

  • Friends of Wolf Trap First-Time Campers summer program

  • MWEE - Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience programs (school field trips hosted by GMU (contact Professor Cindy Smith), Fairfax County Park Authority, and others)


Working in schools

Find information about schoolyard gardens here, and volunteer opportunities on this page.

Making gardens interactive

Most gardens are designed like a work of art: people will glance at them, and a few will study the details, but most people just move on past. Butterflies alone do not fascinate as many children as you might hope. You can easily create more of an interactive space that gets children to want to play outside. A nearby example is Gaithersburg’s Constitution Gardens Park, with its Bird’s Nest Hill, stump scramble, hand carved animals, etc. In fact, making any garden interactive and attractive to kids will also make it more attractive to adults, since it turns out that almost all humans require more than the plants to want to linger in a space. Watch this video for inspiration.

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