Category Archives: Stuff We Love

Come Play Outside With Us!

You’ve probably heard the stories if not told them. They always start with … “When I was a kid…” and have some variation of … “I’d play outside all day until the dinner bell rang.” Of course, back then (whenever then was), things were different.

The internet was just a kernel of an idea. Television was limited to a few stations. And the amazing options of after school activities were, well, less than amazing. With fewer options, kids would head outdoors for entertainment–building forts, climbing trees, and playing hide-and-seek to name a few.

Sure, that still happens now, but research shows that children today spend less time outside than any other generation before them. 

Girl playing on tree

Why Nature Play Matters

There are endless benefits to playing in the outdoors. Specifically, nature play:

  • Promotes a healthy, active lifestyle 
  • Develops imagination, creativity, and invention 
  • Allows a space for children to navigate risk and problem solving 
  • Supports inquiry-based learning through curiosity and exploration 
  • Provides opportunities to practice adaptability, flexibility, and resilience.

And of course, when children are in nature, they find connections to the natural world. These connections are critical to creating the next generation of nature heroes. Researcher and educator David Sobel notes: “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.”

© Lisa Roberts

Introducing Nature Play Days 

As a way to encourage everyone, adults and children, to get out and play in nature, Mass Audubon is launching Nature Play Days. Each season, our team of wildly enthusiastic educators will share Nature Play ideas and activities, all of which can be done in your neighborhood, local park, or wildlife sanctuary. 

You can be someone who supports getting children outside, giving them the freedom to explore (safely of course), and ensuring they get all the benefits that come along with it. 

To start you off, here are 10 fall-themed activities.

Throughout the season, we’ll be posting weekly videos and hand-outs describing these activities on our website and social media. Follow along and share your discoveries with us!

Maria Vasco, UMass Boston Campus Ambassador to Mass Audubon

Student Ambassador to Mass Audubon Receives Highest Honors

Maria Vasco, UMass Boston Campus Ambassador to Mass Audubon
Maria Vasco, UMass Boston Campus Ambassador to Mass Audubon

As schools are getting back in session, we want to honor recent graduate and Mass Audubon alum Maria Vasco, an environmental studies and sustainability major in the School for the Environment at UMass Boston.

Maria received the top two honors a graduating undergraduate can receive from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education: the John F. Kennedy Award for Academic Excellence and the “29 Who Shine” Award, for her academic achievements, commitment to service, and good citizenship. As part of the JFK Award, Maria will have the opportunity to address the graduating class at their commencement ceremony, although the event was postponed due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

In her sophomore and junior years, Maria was the campus ambassador for Mass Audubon, organizing and leading climate cafes on the UMass Boston campus and at the Timilty Middle School in Roxbury and recruiting fellow students as part of a partnership between the university and Mass Audubon.

“I love to tell my fellow students about all the inspiring work that Mass Audubon is doing and inviting them to be a part of it, from attending Climate Cafes to pursuing environmental careers,” Maria said. “For many, it’s the first time they’re hearing about Mass Audubon, and they’re usually interested to learn more.”

Maria’s passion and leadership led the way for the partnership to grow and flourish recruiting students for a variety of internships, work-study placements, and summer jobs in conservation as well as nonprofit management roles. It’s a natural “fit” between Boston’s only public research university and Massachusetts’s leading nonprofit organization in conservation, environmental education, and advocacy.

In addition to her impressive academic accomplishments and important work with Mass Audubon, Maria is also an entrepreneur. She launched the UVIDA Shop webstore, which aims to help consumers reduce their plastic waste through the use of eco-friendly products like bamboo toothbrushes, reusable water bottles, and biodegradable glitter.

After graduation, Maria is continuing to build her business on the side while working for Exporta Technologies, a Harvard-based software-as-a-service (Saas) startup based in Cambridge.

Reflecting on her time working with Mass Audubon, Maria noted, “An important trait I have picked up…is to be confident in myself and make more of a push to leap into bigger opportunities.”

Congratulations to Maria! And best of luck in your bright future from all of us at Mass Audubon. Keep pushing for even bigger opportunities to advocate for people and the environment!