Outdoor Scavenger Hunt Explorer Kit and Downloadable Activities

Sick of being stuck inside? Go on an outdoor scavenger hunt!

Looking for an outdoor activity? Put together an outdoor scavenger hunt explorer kit and see what you can find around your neighborhood!

Materials you will need:

  • A notebook and pencil to record your findings! You could press leaves in the pages, sketch an animal’s footprint, draw an interesting tree to record and look up later.
  • Binoculars, if you have them! Birds of prey like ospreys like to build their nests on top of power poles and other tall structures. Can you find any?
  • Sunscreen! It’s important for outdoor explorers of all ages to protect their skin from sun exposure.
  • Hand sanitizer!
  • Sunglasses! It’s no fun squinting at a tree trying to figure out if that’s a squirrel or a lump of moss
materials for an outdoor scavenger hunt

Download your outdoor scavenger hunt chart, or learn how to make your own customized animal tracking chart!

outdoor scavenger hunt
orlando science center outdoor scavenger hunt

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Zoo Awareness Month: How Modern Zoos Contribute to Conservation and Research

Bringing Zoo Awareness from the Past to the Present

June is Zoo and Aquariums Awareness month! Let’s take a look at the history of the first animal collections, where the modern zoo or aquarium is today, and why animals are kept in human care.

The earliest record of an animal collection was Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s collection in Egypt. It was common in ancient times for rulers across the world to give exotic animals, as gifts. For the most part, little effort went into the well-being of the animals. Slowly, information about how to care for these animals spread, and eventually exotic animal trainers and the first zookeepers began to emerge.

In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, zoological gardens became more and more popular. Zoological gardens are any collection of animals that are kept for public viewing. Zoology developed into a field of science, and private collections slowly began to fade from popularity. The donations and ticket sales at zoological gardens partially funded the scientific research on the animal’s behavior, anatomy, breeding, and nutrition. In the United States, national parks were formed and laws were passed to preserve these natural areas.

A Look into the Modern Zoo

Not all Zoos and Aquariums are equal. Even though many scientific and technological advancements have helped the zoology field grow as a whole. There are millions of zoos worldwide, but there are many differences between them.

In fact, not even all animal collections are the same. Let’s look at some of the most common kinds of animal collections and zoological gardens there are.

  • Private Zoo – owned by an individual or organization, is open to the public usually by reservation only
  • Private Zoo (breeding facility) – owned by an organization or individual, the animals in this collection are bred for Species Survival Plans or for animals to go to other zoological facilities. May or may not be open to the public
  • For-profit Zoo – large or small, a zoo that is open to the public and profit comes from tickets sales, events, or outreach programs
  • Non-for-profit Zoo – has programs in place to benefit the animals, the community, and education, does not earn profit from ticket sales or outreach programs, receives local and federal funding
  • Exotic Animal Sanctuary – owned by an individual or organization, does not buy or breed animals, only receives animals that cannot go to zoos or be released out in nature for medical or behavioral reasons
  • Private animal collection – an animal collection that is not open to the public, is up to the individual whether animals breed or what animals are bought, is for personal fulfillment not educating the public or contributing to conservation efforts

There are many advisory boards and accreditation associations in the United States, and globally that oversee how zoos and aquariums are maintained, and help ensure that animals in these facilities are treated humanely. 

OSC is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to science learning for life, and we’re lucky to be a science learning center with live animals. Our animal ambassadors help people learn about nature and wildlife and hopefully inspire people to make small changes in their life that will have huge positive impacts on natural habitats. The variety of animals at the science center helps people see the issues some animals encounter in the wild like deforestation, poaching, and pollution.

 

The next time you visit the Orlando Science Center, or any animal facility, ask the staff members and volunteers questions. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • How is the animal exhibit similar to the natural habitat of this species?
  • Does this animal have a favorite food?
  • What conservation efforts is the zoo involved in?
  • What is animal enrichment?
  • What are some threats facing this animal in the wild?
Zoo Awareness- an old zoo

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Instructions for Cardboard Animals: Pangolin Project

Follow the instructions for cardboard animals and make a new friend. Literally! 

Pangolins are strange little creatures. They are very hard to keep in captivity, so you probably have never seen one in a zoo. So what are these animals, and why are they important? As you follow along with the instructions for cardboard animals, learn a little more about our pangolin pals!

Pangolins are mammals that are completely covered in scales. They are solitary animals and primarily nocturnal. Pangolins eat ants and termites specific to their region of the world. They have no teeth, so they catch bugs with their sticky tongue. They curl up into a ball when under attack; their scales protect them against most predators. There are eight species of pangolin across Africa and Asia, and all of them range from vulnerable to critically endangered. The primary threat to pangolins is illegal wildlife trade for their meat and their scales. This severely harms the pangolin population, and sometimes harms humans – removing scales can subject people to disease.

Pangolins are extremely important to their ecosystems! They eat most of the time they’re awake, so they control the insect population in a huge way. They also dig up soil while they look for food or when they burrow, which aerates it and creates a healthier surface for plants to grow in. When their burrows are abandoned, other animals move in and are protected.

Materials you will need:

  • A soda box (or a few cereal or granola bar boxes)
  • A hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Optional: a strip of paper for the pangolin’s tongue
Materials for making cardboard pangolin

Instructions for Cardboard Animals: Pangolin

Step 1: Cut out a body shape (like a rounded x) and strips for the neck and tail – make sure it’s wide enough to hold some scales!

Step2: Make a small cone for the head. You can do this by cutting a strip of the box and rolling it tightly from one corner, then cutting off the excess. Glue the cone together.

Step 3: Glue the head cone to the neck and onto the body. DON’T glue the tail on yet.

 

Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin steps 1 - 3

Step 4: Now for the tough part – let’s cut some scales! Scales are teardrop shaped, but they don’t all need to be exactly the same. Variety looks natural.  

  • 20 small scales, about the size of your thumbnail 
  • 35 medium scales, about the size of your thumbprint 
  • 40 large scales, about the size of a guitar pick 
Make scales- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin step 4

Step 5: Start gluing scales to your pangolin's head, legs, neck, and tail.

  • Glue a small scale to each leg with the point facing down.  
  • Glue 7 small scales to the head, layering on top as you move backwards on the pangolin’s body.  
  • Glue 7 small scales to one end of the tail, layering on top as you move forwards on the pangolin’s body.
glue scales- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin step 5

Step 6: Now, let’s create some body structure. Create a trapezoid shape where the smaller end is about the size of the back of the pangolin’s head with the scales on.  

Step 7: Create a slightly larger trapezoid than the first one. Then, create one more, larger than the middle one.  

Give each trapezoid shape some curve, like an arch. 

create body structure for- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin steps 6-7

Step 8: Glue some scales onto the smallest trapezoid, starting with layers of small scales. You can use all the rest of your small scales and move onto medium if you have room. Don’t over layer – just fill in spots where you can see the trapezoid underneath.  

Step 9: Glue the smallest trapezoid to the body shape. 

add scales to body structure for- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin

Step 10: Repeat steps 6-7 with medium and large trapezoids. 

  • Glue some scales onto the medium trapezoid, a row or two of medium and then large.  
  • Glue the medium trapezoid so it’s layered slightly underneath the smallest trapezoid.  
  • Glue some scales onto the largest trapezoid. 
  • Glue the largest trapezoid so it’s layered slightly underneath the medium trapezoid.  

    *If you need it, you can fold up a piece of cardboard to slip between the body shape and the trapezoid for support.  
add body structure to body for- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin

Step 11: Add the finishing touches

  • Glue the tail onto the largest trapezoid.  
  • Fill in the tail with medium or large scales.  
  • Fill in the legs with medium scales with the point facing downwards. 

    *Optional: curl up a thin strip of paper and glue it in the mouth to represent the tongue.  
add body structure to body for- Instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin

Step 12: Name your pangolin!

How can you help pangolins? The biggest challenge is education – most people don’t know that pangolins exist! Tell your friends about these cute little creatures. You can also support wildlife sanctuaries and advocacy groups.

results of instructions for Cardboard Animals pangolin

Expand on this activity

  • Learn more about pangolins!
    • Why do we know so little about pangolins? Because of their natural behaviors and specific diet, only a few sanctuaries exist where their natural behaviors can be observed or they can be studied up close.
    • Check out The Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary in Liberia, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife Rescue, and even some zoos in the United States are working hard to get the pangolin population back up.

  • Have you been online shopping? Check out more ways to get creative with cardboard!

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Science Facts About Dogs: Unleash Fun Facts About Your Furry Friends!

How much do you know about our canine companions? Test your knowledge with these fun science facts about dogs!

How much do you know about your pet? Are their behaviors a mystery to you? Let’s unleash some fun science facts about dogs!

Dogs see color the same way that a red-green colorblind person would.

Dogs can only distinguish a few hues, mostly blues and yellows. This is why some dogs have trouble finding red toys on green grass. They can’t see them!

Graphic depicting how dogs see color differently

A dog’s mouth isn’t actually cleaner than a human’s.

Dogs have about the same number of germs in their mouth as we do. Keep in mind that dogs use their mouths like we use our hands, so wash up after playing a slobbery game of tug o’ war!

Dog with its tongue out

Dogs can sweat!

Dogs can sweat through their paw pads. They do this in addition to regulating their temperature by panting. Some dog owners say that their dog’s paws smell like stale corn chips. Eww!

close-up of dog paw

Dogs are omnivores.

Over years of selective breeding, humans were actually able to change the diet of dogs! Domestic dogs are able to eat meat and plants. Most wild dog species are carnivores.

puppies eating

Dogs have about 300 million olfactory receptors.

Humans only have about 6 million! Dogs are known for their keen sense of smell – that's why they’re used for search and rescue and sniffing out crime.

close up of a dog nose

Expand on the Activity:

  •  Learn how our animal handlers in NatureWorks teach our animal ambassadors positive reinforcement.
  • Put your Animal Kingdom knowledge to the test with a Bee identification game To Bee or Not to Bee.

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Bee Identification Game: To Bee or Not to Bee

Put your bee identification skills to the test!

Bee identification can BEE tricky when many bees, hornets, wasps, and other insects can have similar yellow patterns (or jackets).

 

Let’s find out as we play a bee identification game – a bee or not a bee! Test your knowledge of our pollinating pals, and find out what makes a bee a bee? 

 

Guess whether the picture is a bee or not a bee, then reveal the answer and some fun facts about our buzzing buddies! 

American Bumble Bee

Bumble bees live in underground colonies with a queen and many workers. They are the only bees that can perform buzz pollination - certain plants like tomatoes require specific vibration to release pollen. Bumble bees are the fuzziest bees. Because bumble bees are bigger and warmer, they can be out earlier and later in the day, at colder temperatures, and higher altitudes than other bees.

Hover Fly

These flies may hover around flowers like bees, but you can tell them apart if you look closely! Bees have four wings while flies only have two. Also, check out the antennae – fly antennae are usually small and hard to see, but bee antennae have a bend in them that’s pretty visible.

Blue Orchard Mason Bee

Mason bees are solitary; they use individual nesting holes but live near each other. These are the bees that you may have made bee houses for in the Hive! These bees use mud, like masons, to build walls in their nest tunnels. They can pollinate many plants including apple, peach, pear, and plum trees. Because of their efficient pollination, many farmers like to have them around.

Yellow Jacket

Wasps and bees have similar coloration, wings, and both have stingers so they are often confused. While most bees are gentle and solitary, wasps can be more aggressive and territorial. How do you tell them apart? Wasps often have brighter colors and a smooth texture. Wasps are not as hairy looking as bees are.

European Honey Bee

Of about 20,000 bee species, only seven produce honey! Honey bees are not native to the United States. Although they can pollinate plants, they are not nearly as efficient as native bee species. These bees are social and live in hives with up to several hundred bees.

 

Every bee performs specific tasks to accomplish goals for the hive. Because honey bees live in a community and have a home to defend, they will be upset and may sting if you disturb a hive. It’s important to respect animals and leave them alone to do their important job in our ecosystems.

Hornet

Hornets are the largest group of wasps. Remember how to tell bees and wasps apart? Wasps usually have brighter colors and are less hairy looking than bees!

Mud Dauber Wasp

Mud dauber wasps build their nests by molding mud with their mouths. You probably have seen mud dauber nests before – we have a lot of them in Florida! These wasps are carnivorous – they eat other creatures, such as spiders.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Moths and bees both have fuzzy bodies and both have two sets of wing per side. Most moths are nocturnal, but some are out during the day and are easily confused with bees. How do you tell them apart? Moths have slender legs, with no fluff or obvious pollen basket like a bee. Moths have a unique mouthpart, the long proboscis they use to feed.

Drone Fly

Drone flies look and sound like bees, but you can tell them apart by their antennae and wings. Flies have short antennae and two wings, not four like a bee.

Sweat Bee

Most types of sweat bees nest in the ground, but a few nest in rotten wood. Like most bees, they eat nectar and pollen. Sweat bees often hover around or land on sweaty humans because they want the salt in their sweat, not because they think humans are flowers.

Expand on the activity:

What was your score? Are you a bee expert?

  • Learn how you can help our pollinating pals at www.thehoneybeeconservancy.org/

  • You may have heard about the Asian giant hornet, an invasive species to the United States, starting to make its way here and harming the local bees. 

    We're not likely to see any of these hornets in Florida as sightings so far have been limited to the West Coast. Here are some tips to help you differentiate helpful bees from these and other hornet species: www.agr.wa.gov/departments/insects-pests-and-weeds/insects/hornets

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Are Lionfish Safe to Eat? How You Can Help Advance Ocean Conservation

Are lionfish safe to eat? If they are, why should we have lionfish for lunch?

Deadly. Beautiful. Devastating. While lionfish may be stunning to look at, this invasive species has been wreaking havoc among marine ecosystems such as coral reefs along Florida coasts since the 1990s. In Florida waters, lionfish have no predators and have been eating many native species of fish, causing great ecological damage, with some areas showing an 85-90% decrease in their native fish.

 

The good news is you can help by having a snack! You probably won't see them on the menu at many seafood restaurants, so you may be wondering "Are lionfish safe to eat?" The answer is yes! 

Lionfish spines are venomous, not poisonous. Meaning, once the spines are removed, the rest of the fish is completely edible – and quite delicious. Not only does eating lionfish help remove these pesky fish from Florida’s waters, but it also offers a sustainable fishing alternative.

 

By including lionfish in your diet, you’re promoting sustainable fishing which is a great way to help advance ocean conservation. Growing demand for seafood has led to fishing practices that are depleting populations of fish and other aquatic creatures. Together, we can make a difference by purchasing seafood from responsible, sustainable fisheries and by creating demand for lionfish by purchasing it directly from reputable sources.

 

This information was sourced from National Geographic and NOAA Fisheries

How to be a Conservation Hero! 

Did you know oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth's surface and contain 97 percent of the Earth's water? Although many of us, especially in Florida, think of the oceans as a place to relax and soak up the sun – they are also vital to life on Earth and home to an estimated one million species. It is our duty to help conserve and protect our oceans, and the marine life that inhabit them.

 

There are many ways you can help protect the oceans and marine life. Check out these six ways you can practice ocean-friendly habits and help save our oceans. 

Florida Sea Grant is Making Waves with New Education Program

Florida Sea Grant Presents: Bite-Sized Science

Florida Sea Grant is a university-based program from the University of Florida with a mission to support integrated research, education, and extension to conserve coastal resources and enhance economic opportunities for the people of Florida. Florida Sea Grant taps into the research expertise of over 800 coastal and ocean scientists across Florida’s 16 major universities and research laboratories. Through their efforts, they support ocean education for students ranging from K-12 to graduate school. OSC's committed effort to improving students' and visitors' understanding of sustainability and conservation aligns with the Florida Sea Grant’s numerous activities that educate people on the importance of preservation and sustainability of Florida’s economically and environmentally vital coastal and marine resources.

 

Florida Sea Grant staff work closely with residents in a variety of educational and outreach programs across the state and in response to social distancing measures scientists and researchers are sharing their research and programming virtually with the public. We wanted to share resources and activities from our friends at Florida Sea Grant about environmental education! Visit their website to learn more!

 

What is Bite-Sized Science?

The Bite-Sized Science webinars are presented by UF/IFAS Extension Florida Sea Grant agents. During the webinars, viewers have the opportunity to listen and engage with researchers and scientists while learning about topics ranging from Florida marine life and invasive species like Lion Fish to learning the science behind artificial reefs and bioplastics.

 

Starting in June, Florida Sea Grant webinar topics will focus on harmful algal blooms and cover a range of marine-oriented themes. Webinars are 30 minutes long and include a Q&A with the presenter. Presentations will be recorded and participants will be sent a link to playback the recordings. While the webinars are for a general adult audience, upper-middle and high school students may benefit from supplementing their curriculum and we would encourage families with children to listen in and watch together.

 

Things You Can Make At Home

  • Edible Estuary 
    • Discover how biotic and abiotic components influence our ecosystems
  • Estuary Food Web 
    • This activity shows different animals and plants that live in estuaries and shows the complexity of a food web.
  • Beach Coloring Book
    • Great for kids to color, cut out and assemble. Best for K-2nd
 

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Animal Chart Activity: Who Are Your Tree-Dwelling Neighbors?

Find out who's home with this early childhood animal chart activity! 

Age recommendation: 3 – 7 years 

 

Who’s home? The trees all around us are a habitat or home to many different animals. Learn about how a tree can provide shelter, food, and a place to play!  

You can complete this animal chart activity by simply following the steps below, but if you'd like to add to the activity, we recommend you make it a story time with the book The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Lisa Falkenstern and published by Two Lions, an Amazon Publishing imprint. Get the book on Amazon.com here, or consider getting an e-book or checking it out from your local library if it's available! 

If you want to keep an eye out for the animals you see in The Busy Treeyou can print out this pre-made chart by clicking here. You can also use this chart as a start instead of making your own but keep in mind you may not see all of these animals during your observations. We’ve left one column blank so if you see an animal neighbor who lives near you that isn’t in the book, you can still include them in your data!

Who are your tree-dwelling neighbors? 

Lots of the animals who live in The Busy Tree are animals that we see here in Florida. Take some time to observe the outdoors through a window, in a backyard, or on a nature walk. 

As you’re observing, collect data on what you see! As scientists, when we collect data we are gathering information about something so that we can better understand it. As you collect data on the animals that live in the trees near your home, you are learning more about your environment and the critters who share a space with you. 

Materials For Your Animal Chart Activity:

  • Paper 
  • Clipboard or something to lean and write against 
  • Marker, crayon, or pencil 
  • Straightedge like a ruler, the side of a book, or anything you have on hand
  • Binoculars (optional) 
  • Magnifying glass (optional) 
How to create Orlando Science Center's animal chart activity

Directions:

STEP 1
  • Using your paper and writing utensil, create a simple chart. You can use your straightedge to help you make straight lines.

    A
    chart is a way to keep track of information, this is one of the ways scientists collect data. In our chart we will keep track of which animals we see at the bottom, and how many of that animal we see in the top columns (the tall skinny space above the animal)Be sure to add the date and time you are collecting your observations! 
STEP 2 
  • Attach your chart to a clipboard with your writing utensil and get ready to explore. Binoculars can help you see things that are far away (like up in a tree!) and magnifying glasses can help you see things that are small (like insects at the roots of a tree or on the tree’s bark). Bring binoculars and a magnifying glass if you have them. If not, you can still make amazing observations with just your eyes!  
You tools like binoculars or magnifying glass to help complete your animal chart activity
STEP 3 
  • You need to find a place around your home to observe. This could be in a yard, a nearby park, or out on a walk. Bring your supplies with you to start making observations!
    Always ask a grown-up before going outside!
STEP 4
  • Pay attention to the animals you see around the trees near your home. When you see an animal, write the name of the animal or draw a picture at the bottom of your chart.

Using your animal activity chart, go outside to observe animals and complete chart
STEP 5
  • Make one “x” in the column above an animal for each one you see. Only count an individual animal once! If you see the same squirrel again, don’t make another “x”. If you see a different squirrel, make an “x”. This will make our data more accurate!
STEP 6
  • When you are done observing and collecting data, count how many of each animal you wrote down on your chart. Analyze or think about the information from your chart. Which animal did you see the most? Which animal did you see the least? Why might that be?
Mark which animals you see on your animal activity chart
STEP 7
  • This is an experiment that you can repeat. Some animals are more active during different times of day. Choose a different time of day to collect data from your observations, then compare and contrast the data you have collected. Did you notice more of a certain animal during the evening than during the day? If you repeat this experiment all year, you may notice different animals are busier during certain seasons.
STEP 8
  • Enjoy getting to know your animal neighbors!
collect data by marking the animals you observe on your animal activity chart

Be a citizen scientist!

You can become a citizen scientist when you use the data you collect while watching animals around your home to help real-life scientists with their projects! Check out the projects below to see how you can help.

Always ask a grown-up before visiting a new website and before posting anything online!

 

The Lost Ladybug Project

Website: http://www.lostladybug.org/

If you come across ladybugs during your observations, consider contributing to The Lost Ladybug Project. This project is investigating ladybug diversity and will help scientists better understand where all of the native ladybugs have gone as well as provide information for other insect species!

 

Project Noah

Website: https://www.projectnoah.org/

Share your observations with pictures and notes through Project Noah. Project Noah is a place where people like you can help keep track of wildlife by sharing what you see! Researchers can then use your observations to collect ecological data (that’s information about how living things depend on one another).

 

iNaturalist

Website: https://www.inaturalist.org/

Citizen scientists all over the world observe animals and plants just like you are in our activity! You can share your observations on iNaturalist with others who love nature. The data that you and others share can be used by scientists globally (that means all over the world!) to help them with their projects.

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In these ever-changing times, it is our pleasure to adapt quality Orlando Science Center experiences to engage with everyone while they are safe at home. Please consider supporting our operating fund to ensure we can continue developing resources today and well into the future. Thank you for your generosity and support!