Passport to Nature: Lessons Learned & Traveling Tips
Erica Tworog-Dube and her three-year-old daughter, Ariana, had a mission: to complete the Passport to Nature booklet, a fun way to explore 21 of Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries.
They not only succeeded, but did so in an impressive five months. Get Erica's Lessons Learned and Traveling Tips.
Over the five months that it took Erica and Ariana to visit all of the wildlife sanctuaries in the Passport to Nature, the mother-daughter duo learned many lessons—not only about Mass Audubon and the environment but also about their own personal capabilities. Here are a few of Erica’s biggest takeaways:
Don’t Underestimate Your Child
While we all know we shouldn’t underestimate our kids, I was nonetheless surprised when my three-year-old child cheerfully hiked for more than six hours on multiple occasions (including up a mountain) and sincerely begged to keep going!
Take Advantage of the Sanctuary Staff
The sanctuary staff is fabulous not only for helping to identify the best trail options but also for serving as a friendly and encouraging resource to seek out at the conclusion of the day. Watching Ariana’s face light up as staff members answered her questions and shared her enthusiasm for the day’s wildlife sightings highlighted how eager children are to assume an active role in nature education.
Patience Really is a Virtue
Completing the Passport helped to emphasize the value of patience—a truly rewarding lesson. Having the patience to remain quiet and respectful along the trails allowed us to spot many creatures that we would have otherwise scared off. Having the patience to observe that wildlife for extended periods provided us with the opportunity to appreciate striking but subtle details we would have otherwise missed.
Ready to hit the road with your own tot in tow? Erica shares a few practical tips she and Ariana picked up along the way.
- Check out the Nature Play Areas, which proved to be incredibly well designed to hold Ariana’s attention in a meaningful and creative way. Some of her favorites included those at Stony Brook, North River, and Boston Nature Center. See a list of all of Mass Audubon’s Nature Play Areas >
- Inquire about the availability of scavenger hunts or nature bingo games, or create your own to bring along.
- Let your child take responsibility for simple things like choosing which direction to head on a trail loop or where to have a picnic. This helped Ariana feel in charge of the day’s adventure.
- If you or your friends have younger kids along for the adventure, seek out sanctuaries with universally accessible trails. They are stroller-friendly! See a list of all of universally accessible trails >
- Consider giving your child a camera so he or she can connect with nature through their photos, as we saw with other photographers we encountered. And who knows? Maybe one of our children will be the next winner of the Mass Audubon photo contest!