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Teach kids to fall in love with nature (in three easy steps)

Scott Sampson - Dinosaur Train

Paleontologist Scott Sampson, chief curator of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, is using his passion for Tyrannosaurus Rex and the gang to encourage America’s most indoor-oriented generation to get outside and explore nature.

Sampson—or "Dr. Scott," as he's known to millions of young fans around the world, hosts the Emmy-award-nominated PBS kids show Dinosaur TrainThe show is two parts fun and one part science, blending vibrant animation and catchy tunes with a live-action educational segment hosted by Dr. Scott himself. 

Dinosaur Train encourages kids to go outside and make their own discoveries," said Sampson, during an interview with The Trust for Public Land for the family issue of Land&People. "They’re getting out there and engaging with nature, looking for plants and bugs and birds because they’re encouraged to do so on the show.”  

So what are Dr. Scott's tips to get kids excited about the natural world?

1) "Start in the backyard or the park. Ask your child to pick one aspect of nature that they’re most interested in—it could be anything ... a cloud, a plant, or a bug. Then give them a piece of paper and a pencil and ask them to closely observe the item and draw it—or maybe write a couple of notes about it." 

A child observes a caterpillar at The Preserve in Old Saybrook, CT. A child observes a caterpillar at The Preserve in Old Saybrook, CT. Photo credit: Mim Adkins

2) "They’ll see structures they've never noticed before in a blade of grass, or veins in a leaf, the feel of bark on a tree, and they'll write down their observations. Just by doing that, they've started a nature journal. Encourage them to do this for five minutes a day, to sit and write about what they hear, what they see, what they feel." 

3) "Next, make a game out of this activity. How many different types of animals can you see in the next ten minutes? How many different plants can you find in the backyard?”

A family enjoys a walk in the woodsPhoto credit: Anna Kuperberg

Sounds like fun to us!

To read the full interview with Dr. Scott, check out the recent family-themed issue of Land&People, our member magazine. And share your tips for raising the next generation of naturophiles by leaving a comment below. 



Dr. Scott is the coolest Paleontologist ever! He's inspired my 4-year old son to be a Paleontologist--to "get outside, get I to nature, and make his own discoveries every day." After the snow melts in CT, my sons are ready to discover nature in our back yard. Can't wait to meet Dr. Scott at Cornell in May!

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