Category Archives: Nature-based STEAM Education

Nature Notes: Thinking Like a Scientist

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This blog post corresponds with a program for children and their caregivers by the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon about Thinking Like a Scientist, Bird Nesting, Searching for Signs of Spring, and making art by creating a bluebird and nest box out of household and common art materials.

Nature Story Time: Have You Heard the Nesting Bird

Eastern Bluebird Singing

What are Nests Made of?
From Nature on PBS

NATURE NUGGETS brings science and animals from NATURE on PBS to kids and their caregivers. Use the activities below to create active learning and engagement opportunities with your child.

Art Project: Create a Bluebird and Nesting Box

Build your own bird nest!

Use Mass Audubon’s Nature at Home resources and build your own bird nest!

Eastern Bluebird

Hooded Merganser Nest from Nature Nuggets on PBS

Trail Camera Scavenger Hunt

Check out our fun Trail Camera Scavenger Hunt on the Taking Flight Blog.

Mass Audubon’s Bird of the Day Series

Learn more about your neighborhood birds from Mass Audubon’s Bird of the Day Series.

American Robin

Northern Cardinal

Mass Audubon Bird Nest Resources

Become a Citizen Scientist

Using Citizen Science volunteers, Cornell’s NestWatch is a nationwide nest monitoring program. The Museum of American Bird Art participated in NestWatch, monitoring our nest boxes that usually have nesting Tree Swallows, House Wrens, Chickadees, and occasionally an Eastern Bluebird.
Click here to learn more about common nesting birds from NestWatch.

Nature Notes: Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly overwintering grounds in Mexico

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN for PBS. Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers.

This blog post complements a nature-based STEAM programming about butterflies and their life cycle.

Monarch Butterfly laying an egg on Common Milkweed

Monarch butterfly laying eggs on common milkweed, © Sean Kent

Monarch Caterpillar on it’s host plant Common Milkweed

Monarch caterpillar eating common milkweed, © Sean Kent
Monarch Caterpillar

Engineer a Butterfly Habitat

To engineer a butterfly habitat, you need to think about and create a list of what a butterfly needs to survive during it’s entire life cycle as an (i) egg, (ii) caterpillar, (iii) chrysalis, and (iv) butterfly. The following are a few things to think about when engineering a butterfly habitat.

  • Food 
    • Host plants for caterpillars
    • Nectar 
  • Water
  • Places to shelter or hide

After thinking about how to create a butterfly habitat, design your habitat to contain everything a butterfly needs and draw it on a piece of paper. After drawing your butterfly habitat, if you have a couple of pots for plants, a garden, or another area you could modify, you could engineer your own butterfly habitat.

To attract black swallowtail butterflies, you can plant parsley in your garden.

My Parsley Is Attracting Butterflies - Learn About Attracting ...
File:Black swallowtail caterpillar.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

How to Create a Nature Journal

Get outdoors and record your nature observations in your very own nature journal. You can make one with materials you have at home!

Barry Van Dusen’s Sketchbook Page of a Painted Lady Butterfly

If you’d like to learn about nature drawing, including drawing butterflies, enjoy this wonderful blog post by acclaimed artist Barry Van Dusen about Getting Started with Nature Journaling. Below is a sketch of painted lady butterflies.

Barry Van Dusen’s Sketchbook Page of a Monarch Butterfly

During his artist in residence, Barry Van Dusen visit …. and closely observed Monarch Butterflies. Here is an image of his sketchbook page from that day.

“On one liatris plant, I count eight Monarch butterflies – a phenomenal concentration of these handsome migratory insects, whose populations have been down in recent years.  There’s just time enough to do some sketches before I leave to catch the ferry at Vineyard Haven.”

~ Barry Van Dusen in Martha’s Vineyard

Acting Like a Scientist: Rachel Carson and Creating a Nature Journal

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This blog post corresponds with a program for children and their caregivers by the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon about Rachel Carson, searching for the signs of Spring, and creating a nature journal to record your observations, questions, drawings, and thoughts.

Nature Story Time: Spring after Spring

How can you observe spring like Rachel Carson? 

  • Create a nature journal and explore your neighborhood
    • Draw leaves, seedlings, flowers, insects, landscapes, branches, and anything that you like in nature
    • Write down or draw how certain things in nature make you feel 
    • Write down other observations, questions, and other notes

Create Your Own Nature Journal and
Observe the Natural World like Rachel Carson

Enjoy the following video created and produced by Dan Boudreau, a Terracorp member serving at MABA as a youth education coordinator.

Trail Camera Scavenger Hunt

Check out our fun Trail Camera Scavenger Hunt on the Taking Flight Blog.

Trail Camera Video from a vernal pool at the Museum of American Bird Art

Rachel Carson and Silent Spring

Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, was instrumental with saving many species of animals, especially birds. Here is a blog post about one of the birds that was saved from extinction, the Osprey.

Who doesn’t love dancing birds!!!
This Bird of Paradise also cleans his room too!

Mass Audubon’s Bird of the Day Videos

Discover a different bird species each day in this video series with Joan Walsh from our Conservation Science team!

American Robin

Northern Cardinal

Hear and learn more about a Cardinal Singing

Macaulay Library Curator, Greg Budney, talks about the brilliant song of the Northern Cardinal.
From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Learn more at:

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Art, Nature, and Photography

Sticks cracked, boots splashed in the stream, and the sanctuary burst with life as students from Canton High got into position to take the perfect photograph of our natural world. On December 11, Patricia Palmer’s photography class from Canton High School visited the wildlife sanctuary to take nature photographs. We spent time exploring near our vernal pool, pine, maple, and oak forest, and Pequit Brook.

Along the photography hike, we encountered lots of birds, including red-breasted nuthatches, a fisher (Martes pennanti), an extremely rare sighting, and a raccoon all curled up in a tree hole along the vernal pool trail. Special thanks to the Marilyn Rodman Council for the Arts for supporting these wonderful programs. 

A fisher ambled up a large white pine while we hiked to the brook. It spent most of the afternoon in the late fall sun high up in the tree.

The light and reflections of the ice were wonderful. Enjoy these photos of the trip.

Student photographing reflections on the ice
A raccoon all curled up in a tree by the vernal pool. It spent over 7 hours curled up in this spot right along the trail
Students photographing ice, water, and nature at the Pequit Brook

Inspiring wonder, creativity, and curiosity at the Nature Lab: An inside peek at the Wild at Art Travel Camp

Our inaugural travel week at the Wild at Art Summer Camp has just wrapped up. From July 9 to July 13, our travel program included a visit to the amazing and inspiring Nature Lab at the Rhode Island Institute of Design.

Campers had a close up look at many amazing natural history artifacts and were able to use state of the art microscopes to be amazing by a tiny world that is almost always hidden.  Enjoy this short video of the day.

Nature in a Minute: The Caterpillars Count!

The Museum of American Bird Art and Mass Audubon has partnered with UNC Chapel Hill to participate in a Citizen Science Project called the Caterpillars Count. Caterpillars Count! is a citizen science project the measures seasonal variation (phenology) and abundance of important food sources for birds, primarily arthropods like caterpillars, beetles, and spiders found on the foliage of trees and shrubs.

We have a wonderful team of two volunteers and Sean Kent, the education and camp director, taking data on a weekly basis. So far we have monitored over 1,500 leaves for arthropods. Stay tuned!


Curiosity, inquiry, STEAM, and excitement

We are extremely excited to announce a wonderful suite of programs that infuse pottery, nature, and science into our homeschool classes at the Museum of American Bird Art. Our classes are full of fun, active learning, curiosity, and laughter. Learn more and register for our homeschool programs in Late February and March. During February, we have also had an amazing three week long class on Drawing Owls and other birds, check out the following videos from two of the classes.

Week 1: Drawing Owls at the Trailside Museum

Week 2: Drawing Owls from Live in the Museum of American Bird Art

In late February and March, we will be offering a Nature Photography Class, Winter Ecology and Art Class, and Ceramics Class. Class sizes are small so sign up early to reserve your spot. If you have any questions, would like to register, or qualify for a multiple child discount please call Sean Kent at 781-821-8853 or email [email protected].

Learn more and register for our homeschool programs in Late February and March.

Winter Ecology and Art

Conduct ecological experiments in our living laboratory, investigate amazing adaptations, and reinforce scientific concepts by creating art! Under the guidance of a trained field biologist and Massachusetts licensed science educator, students will explore the winter ecology of plants and animals. Topics that we investigate will vary and will incorporate the interests of students enrolled in the program.

Homeschool Program: Pottery, ceramics, and sculpture

The pottery, ceramics, and sculpture homeschool program is designed to introduce and excite children working with clay. Each student will learn and use different hand-building techniques and the pottery wheel to create unique animal sculptures, vessels, and functional pieces such as plates, bowls, and mugs. While in this class, students will learn basic ceramics terminology, techiques, and processes. In addition to art making students will be able to explore the sanctuary’s trails, meadow, and museum to use as inspiration. During the pottery class, families not attending the program will have a comfortable space to sit, relax, use free wifi, or hike on our 121 acre wildlife sanctuary.

Zooming in on Nature with Digital Photography

Develop the skills needed to capture nature’s beauty through the lens of a camera. Learn the key elements of digital photography while taking photos that convey the magnificence of our natural world. Please note: Participants will need their own digital camera.

Learn more and register for our homeschool programs in March.

Spotlight on our Fall Homeschool Classes

To learn or sign up for our fall homeschool classes, click here.

In an environment infused with science, nature, and art, our homeschool classes are exciting and filled with laughter and fun. Each class is thoughtfully designed to foster confidence, awareness, and curiosity for the natural world, science, and art. Homeschool classes are designed by Sean Kent, a dedicated field biologist, curious naturalist, accomplished photographer, and passionate science educator with has been teaching science for 15 years. Furthermore, he has conducted ecological research in Massachusetts, Arizona, and Belize on native bees, the monarch butterfly, interactions between plants and animals and much more. This fall we are offering classes in field biology, nature journaling, and photography, including a build your own camera digital photography course.

To learn or sign up for our fall homeschool classes, click here.

This fall picture your homeschool student:

  • Conducting experiments in our native plant meadow and throughout our wildlife sanctuary
  • Recording and analyzing scientific data that they collected
  • Creating art inspired by science and nature

Check out these pictures of homeschool students actively involved with conducting research and setting up our experimental native plant meadow.

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  • Conducting surveys of amphibian populations that thrive in our wildlife sanctuary
  • Getting up close with wildlife and possibly holding yellow-spotted salamanders, turtles, or wood frogs that live in our wildlife sanctuary

Check out a few photos of homeschool students closely observing wildlife

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  • Increasing their confidence by creating art infused with science and nature
  • Focusing and closely observing nature

Check out a few pictures of homeschool students sketching and observing nature closely in the field

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  • Making friends in a warm and caring environment
  • Exploring different art mediums

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  • Observing and learning about all the amazing wildlife we have living in our 121 acre wildlife sanctuary

Check out a few of the animals and plants that have been observed over the past year in our wildlife sanctuary

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To learn or sign up for our fall homeschool classes, click here.

Inquiry, Intentional Curiosity, Discovery, and Art!

Homeschool classes at MABA

In an environment rich with nature, science, and art, our homeschool classes are full of excitement, laughter, focused awareness, and curiosity. This blog post highlights some of the activities and programs we have done over the past few months at MABA. To learn or sign up for our spring courses, click here.

Animal Behavior Homeschool Class: Monarch Butterfly Natural History and Flight
The Biomechanics of Gliding

In one of our Animal Behavior sessions, we focused on the Monarch Butterfly migration to learn about animal migration and the biomechanics of flight.

Monarch butterflies via

Students created model monarch butterflies and conducted a test flight experiment in our museum.IMG_5032

To learn more about the incredible monarch butterfly migration, check out this fantastic BBC documentary

Monarch Butterfly amazing migration – BBC Life HD

Want to do more at home? Journey North is a great resource and citizen science project that tracks the migration of Monarch Butterflies and lets you contribute data that improves our understanding and conservation of these fantastic butterflies. We have tracked Monarch egg laying on the wildlife sanctuary and submitted data to journey north. Here is a publication that has used citizen science data from journey north to help us better understand migration and monarch population dynamics.

Learning about bird behavior and biology by making clay birds

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Learning about animal behavior and ethology by studying betta fish behavior & responding with art

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Field Biology, Pollinator Ecology, and Art Homeschool Class:
Exploring watercolor techniques and color theory

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To reinforce what we have learned about the biology and ecology of native bees and butterflies, each student cut out bee and butterfly silhouettes. They used these silhouettes to learned color theory and watercolor techniques, including wet on wet and wet on dry, by creating bold, fun, and colorful pollinators that they took home.

We have also learned about nesting habitats of native bees and created mason bee houses.


Studied the phenology of spring flowering plants through focused awareness and intentional curiosity

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Creating pollinators out of paper marbled with dye using the art of suminigashi

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Digital Photography Homeschool Class
Looking closely and creating nature’s treasure maps

In our digital photography class, students built a digital camera, learned about the technology in the camera, and the art of photography. We focused on composition, such as the rule of thirds, looking for geometry in nature, and taught students to be keen observers of the natural world by looking closely. We explored our expansive wildlife sanctuary and created nature treasure maps, thanks to the incredible naturalist and artist Jack (John Muir) Laws for this idea, both with sketchbooks and through photography.

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Taking opportunities when they arise: A coopers hawk had a mallard for lunch

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Exploring the technology behind the camera lens

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Exploring the end of winter and start of spring behind the camera lens


Learn, Create, and Express Yourself at our Digital Photography Homeschool Program

Build your own digital camera!

IMG_2601On February 3rd, we will kick off our winter STEAM Ahead Photography homeschool course, only a few spots remain so sign up today. This program focuses on fostering curiosity, creativity, innovative thinking, and problem solving and is designed and taught by Sean Kent, a dedicated science educator, field biologist, and accomplished amateur photographer. Students will build a digital camera and learn about the science behind the camera lens, while exploring the art of photography. As an art museum and a 121 acre wildlife sanctuary, students will have the unique opportunity to learn about the science, art, and technology of photography, while also being immersed in project based learning focused on our environment. To learn more about homeschool courses offered at Mass Audubon’s Museum of American Bird Art, check out a blog post about our Fall 2015 courses.


Photography students exploring the brook and completing a photography scavenger hunt. Photo credit: Sean Kent

During the photography course, students will

  • Learn about the science, engineering and technology behind the camera lens, including power generation, how an image is created by a lens, and how the microcontroller in a digital camera works
  • Learn about the anatomy and physiology of the human eye
  • Explore the artistic tools used to compose a photograph, including the rule of thirds and leading lines

“The homeschool classes at the Museum of American Bird Art are the most thoughtfully designed programs my children have ever attended.” – PARENT

For members, the course fee is 160$ with a 100$ materials fee for the cost of the digital camera that a students build.


Learn more about the course instructor

Sean Kent, the education coordinator for the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon, designed and will teach the digital photography course. Sean is a skilled educator with broad experience working with elementary through college-age students in art studio, classroom, and outdoor settings. He has a master’s degree in biology, and his research on native plants and pollinators has taken him from the Boston Harbor Islands to Belize. He is an art enthusiast, birder, and accomplished amateur photographer.


Check out our other Winter Homeschool Classes


  1. Animal Ecology, Behavior, and Art (Two classes: Ages 7 to 9, and Ages 10 to 15)
  2. Where in the World: Wildlife, Geography, and Art! (One class: Ages 7 to 9)
  3. Pollinator Ecology, Inquiry, and Art (One class: Age 10 to 15)


  1. Painting Immersion – Famous Nature Artists and You (Two Classes: Ages 7 to 9, and Ages 10 to 15)


  1. STEAM Ahead Photography Homeschool Program