Education Report 2020 8-17-2020 | Page 4

Family Nature Club: Outdoors Unplugged It’s a sunny December day at the Zoo’s Linear Park, and the English family children can’t hide their excitement. Andrew, four, grabs a fallen branch and waves it like a magic wand. Ava, seven, stuffs a discarded pretzel bag with twigs, leaves and berries. Four-year-olds, Violet and Caroline, triplets to Andrew, pause by the Sea Turtle Healing Center, hoping to catch a glimpse of the marine reptiles swimming in the tanks. It’s clear that their parents, Amanda and Kyle, have instilled a love of nature in their children. Before they had children, both were avid runners, hikers, rollerbladers and national park visitors. The Englishes moved from Mississippi to Viera, FL in 2015 when Amanda was pregnant with the triplets. They joined the Zoo almost immediately. Soon after, they learned about Family Nature Club and were drawn to the concept of free outdoor adventures with other families, attending nearly every event since. The program began with a grant from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Walt Disney Company. During the school year, participants come together twice monthly; once in the Zoo’s Exceptional Nature Space and again at a Brevard County park. Zoo staff guides families through a loosely structured activity, such as listening for nocturnal creatures at dusk, identifying animal footprints or “baking” mud pies sprinkled with pine needles and acorns. The diversity of outings exposes participants to new settings (like Sams House in Merritt Island and Riverwalk Nature Center in Rockledge), and gives them tools to lead their own adventures with items like fishing poles, binoculars and field guides. “Even though they’re all the same age, their interests are very different,” says Amanda of the triplets. “It’s hard to keep them entertained and engaged. Family Nature Club gives our kids lots of choices, and we know they’re in a safe environment. We look forward to it every month.” 3