The front entry sign for the Los Angeles Zoo, featuring a giraffe billboard in the right foreground.

Nature Tries

Spending time in nature makes us healthier, happier, and just makes our lives better. But what happens when we don’t have access to nature? Some of us have experienced that for the first time as we stay safer at home and while the Zoo has been closed. And many people in our communities have never had access to nature— because they don’t feel welcome or safe, don’t have green space nearby, or can’t make it to a place like the Zoo.

Nature Tries are fun and flexible ways to connect with nature no matter where you are and what your comfort level. Use our ideas as a starting point, and make each Try your own. Whether you spend 2 minutes or 20; whether it’s from your balcony or backyard; and whether you consider yourself a nature nut or nature newbie, we want to hear about your Nature Tries too! Let us know how you try to spend time with nature @LAZoo. We can’t wait to see what you try.

–Dan Keeffe, Director of Learning & Engagement

Nature Try #6: Find Biodiversity

Join the L.A. Zoo Learning & Engagement team on an exploration of the biodiversity that’s all around. Biodiversity is the variety of living things in any area, from plants to animals to fungi! L.A. (and much of California) is a global biodiversity hotspot, meaning we have many different species that are unique to the region and that are also under threat. Wherever you are, noticing the diverse biodiversity around you can be fun and surprising. What will you discover?

More inspiration from the L&E team:

Rosalio: “Growing up in Southern California, I was lucky enough to be exposed to a wide array of locations and habitats. From the beaches, to the mountains, to the deserts, to the forests, it is all within a few hours’ travel. Your Los Angeles Zoo is proud to celebrate all the wonderful aspects of California’s spectacular biodiversity.”

Maura: “Do you ever wonder what animals might share our So Cal spaces with us? From Easter fox squirrels to California sea lions, this resource from LAist shares tips on where to find wildlife in Los Angeles County. Though I might not find, say, black bears in my neighborhood, I love that our region supports so much diversity and that my friends and co-workers around the city have different wildlife to share spaces with!”

Shayna: “I love to see nature through others’ eyes. I’m no artist, but art and story are powerful ways to connect with each other and with nature. Check out this online art show with work by 100 women and non-binary artists celebrating the GARDEN, then visit the Envisioning Los Angeles program at the L.A. Zoo to contribute your vision of people and wildlife thriving to a community-created mural!”

Nature Try #5: Take a Walk

Take a walk and deepen your connection with nature.

Nature is all around us, even right in our own backyard. A walk through your neighborhood — or wherever you are — is an opportunity to connect with nature that is often overlooked. So take a few minutes to have a better day by taking a walk: you’ll improve your physical health, your emotional wellbeing, and maybe even do some science along the way.

Watch the video to see what we do when we take a walk, and tag us on social media to share your walks with us! #NatureTries

Here are some ideas and inspiration from the Zoo’s Learning & Engagement team.

Shayna, Visitor Engagement Coordinator: I’m a Community Scientist and so are you! Every time I log in to iNaturalist and post a picture of a pigeon, squirrel, or sidewalk-crack dandelion, I’m contributing valuable data to a global nature map. It doesn’t even matter if I have no idea what that weird bug on my window screen is, because someone else in my community might! Join me in documenting living things wherever you are and take part in the City Nature Challenge, April 30 – May 3.

Maura, Visitor Engagement Manager: Spending time in nature — even a simple walk — can improve your health and wellbeing. The Children & Nature Network has a lot of great resources for getting outside. This poster, for example, shows how spending time in nature provides children with a wide range of health benefits. Check out their website for more!

Dan Keeffe, Director of Learning & Engagement: Right now, taking a walk doesn’t just improve your day, it also supports conservation! Join Walk for the Wild now through Friday, May 21, 2021 to support both the Los Angeles Zoo and its nonprofit partner, the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA).

Nature Try #4: Build a Fort

Whether you build your fort in your backyard, park, or living room, using natural or non-natural materials, a fort has endless possibilities to explore. This kind of unstructured play helps to develop critical thinking, teamwork, and creativity. There is no wrong way to build a fort – the only limit is your imagination! What will yours look like? What building materials can you use? What can you do in your fort?

Watch the video to see some of the forts we’ve built, and tag us on social media to share yours! #NatureTries

Here are some ideas and inspiration from the Zoo’s Learning & Engagement team:

Nick, Immersive Experience Coordinator: “A fort is just the start of your adventure. Build it then explore how you want to use it. A lookout point to make observations from. A gathering place to bring new discoveries back to. A shared space for snacks, stories, or even a sleepover. Forts are a base of operations for your imagination!”

Rachel, Visitor Engagement Coordinator: “A favorite activity of mine is to create little fairy forts in my neighborhood. When I am on a walk, I use whatever is lying around to make a miniature house just a few inches tall for any tiny friends (insects or imaginary) to call home. I like to use different building materials to challenge my creativity, and I would love to see your creations, too!”

Elise, Zoo Camp Coordinator:  “All animals need homes to provide protection to themselves and their young.  Fort building is a great way to teach our young about how animals create their homes.  Our Zoo Camplette “Animal Architects” highlights activities, videos, and crafts to teach kids all about different types of animal homes.  Enjoy!”

Nature Try #3: Follow a Bug

Bugs are everywhere you look, and looking closely at bugs can be a great way to find focus. Spend some time following the trail of a bug (make sure you and the bug stay safe!) and notice how they move and where they go. What might that tell us about how they live? What different bugs share your space, and how long can you follow them? Take a turn yourself and try moving or behaving like a bug!

Watch the video to see some of our bug-following skills, and tag us on social media to share yours! @LAZoo #NatureTries

More Ways to Try

Here are some ideas and inspiration from the Zoo’s Learning & Engagement team:

Renae, Outreach Coordinator: “Leaves are some of my favorite things in nature! There is so much variety in their shapes, colors, textures, and even smells. I love collecting leaves on my walks and will bring them home to create art — especially bug art!”

Shayna, Visitor Engagement Coordinator: “I love bees! Not just honeybees, but native California bumblebees and solitary bees too. Now is a great time to watch pollinators visiting flowers in our neighborhoods. Contribute your count to community science efforts like the Great Sunflower Project.”

Rosalio, School Programs Coordinator: “The bug population in Los Angeles is as diverse as the city itself!  Discover some of the sights and sounds of our smallest neighbors with NHM’s virtual exhibit on L.A. insects. What do you notice about insect eyes? Why do you think some of them are so colorful? How can something so small make sounds we can hear? What questions and observations can you make?”

Shayna, Visitor Engagement Coordinator: “Want to get a better look at nighttime wildlife in your neighborhood? You can create a DIY moth light with any white cloth and a porch light or flashlight. Try checking back at different times of night to see if your moth landing pad gets different visitors!”

Nature Try #2: Make Art with Nature

With nature as our canvas, we’re all artists!

Making art with nature opens new ways to understand and see our world. Nature can be your muse, your brushes and tools, or incorporated into your creation. Collect items from nature and any additional supplies you want to use. Be inspired, create, and play!

Watch the video to see some of the nature art we created, and tag us on social media to share yours! @LAZoo #NatureTries

More Ways to Try

Making art with nature has infinite possibilities! Here are some ideas and inspiration from the Zoo’s Learning & Engagement team:

Renae, Outreach Coordinator: “Nature is a source of inspiration for art but it can also be used as a fun tool to help create it! I like to collect sticks, leaves, and flowers on my walks and will use them to paint something exciting. The possibilities are endless when you use your imagination!”

Rachel, Visitor Engagement Coordinator: Nature in Chalk is a treasured activity that we host each Spring in the Winnick Family Children’s Zoo. It’s simple— grab some chalk and create your own nature space! What can you add to your chalk drawings to bring nature to you?

Anna, Family Nature Club Coordinator: “Whatever you do: get messy!”

Dan, Director of Learning & Engagement: “Even (non-human) animals can make art! David Attenborough calls the Japanese Puffer Fish ‘nature’s greatest artist’ in this National Geographic video clip.”

Nature Try #1: Find Your Sit Spot

Find a “sit spot” where you can safely observe and connect with nature.

Nature can be as simple as the spider in your bathroom or the view out your window.

Sit spots are important for many reasons. They allow us to engage with a place in a mindful way, using every sense we have. Ideally, your sit spot is somewhere you can revisit often, giving you an opportunity to observe new things over time and build a sense of place and belonging.

Watch the video to see some of our favorite sit spots, and tag us on social media to share yours! @LAZoo #NatureTries

More Ways to Try

What you do with your Sit Spot is up to you! Here are some ideas and inspiration from the Zoo’s Learning & Engagement team:

Elise, Zoo Camp Coordinator: “In Zoo Camp, we try to mirror the topic of the day with an activity or craft to engage the campers in what they have been learning. To enhance your sit spot, an easy DIY bird feeder can attract birds (and other animals) and engage your child(ren) in nature observations.”

Rachel, Visitor Engagement Coordinator: “I like to meditate for a while I am in my sit spot. I use it as a time to breathe deeply, relax my body, and check in with how I am feeling while my coffee is brewing. Even counting 10 breaths helps center me for the rest of the day!”

Anna, Family Nature Club Coordinator: “Touch is the first experience we have with the world around us. Touch enhances curiosity. It deepens the connections we make to nature and each other and directly benefits our health and mood. Explore your sit spot through touch. What other ways can you explore senses in your sit spot?”

Shayna, Visitor Engagement Coordinator: “We’re not at the Zoo, but nature is all around us, even in the most urban spaces! Explore different sit spots in and around your home or neighborhood to find the living things that share your space. Use tech platforms, like community-driven iNaturalist and family-friendly Seek, to document what you find and learn about your neighborhood nature.”