Create Helpful Habitat with Native Planting, Virtual Learning

Looking for a reason to get out into nature?  How about making your property more wildlife-friendly by adding plants native to Virginia?  Find out why this is important during this webinar hosted by Audubon Society of Northern Virginia’s Audubon at Home program. The webinar was recorded on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, 2020, and is also is in celebration of our partnership with Green Muslims during National Arab-American Heritage Month.

Watch the webinar! Master naturalists earn one hour of continuing education credit.

Smithsonian Learning Resources for Families

Learning Lab: A free, interactive platform for discovering millions of authentic digital resources and creating content with online tools. The Learning Lab has an immense amount of content, and the Getting Started guide is a helpful resource. In addition, the weekly Smithsonian Activities Choice Boards features weekly highlights for various subject areas. Issue One and Issue Two are available now. New issues are released each Monday.

Smithsonian Open Access: Allows students to download, share and reuse millions of the Smithsonian’s images without asking permission because they have been released into the public domain.

Smithsonian Digital Volunteers Program: Allows the general public to make things like historical documents and biodiversity data more accessible. Students can join fellow volunteers to add more field notes, diaries, ledgers, logbooks, manuscripts, biodiversity specimen labels and more to the collection.

Sidedoor: A podcast for students that enlists the help of biologists, archaeologists, zookeepers and astrophysicists to tell engaging and educational stories. (Check out this one in particular, on Alexander von Humboldt: His might not be a name you know, but you can bet you know his ideas. Back when the United States were a wee collection of colonies huddled on the eastern seaboard, colonists found the wilderness surrounding them scary. It took a zealous Prussian explorer with a thing for barometers to show the colonists what they couldn’t see: a global ecosystem, and their own place in nature. In this episode, we learn how Humboldt—through science and art—inspired a key part of America’s national identity.)

Resources for PK-5: SI has also created a large google sheet with online self-directed activities for parents and caregivers that allows them to assign to children in PK-5 grades. Most of these resources are interactive games and activities.

SI Office Hours: SI is also offering office hours to better support teachers who are using these SI resources. Teachers are able to connect with a Smithsonian educator and ask further questions on how to best use the SI tools and features being offered.

Other Smithsonian Resources

Student Discovery Sets: Puts primary sources in student’s hands by bringing together historical artifacts and documents on a wide range of topics. The Student Discovery Sets are free on iBooks.

Digital Collections: Over 400 digital collections are available online, featuring content from U.S. Presidents, musicians, inventors, historic newspapers and more.

By the People: A crowdsourcing initiative that allows anyone to volunteer to improve access to history by transcribing, reviewing and tagging Library of Congress documents.

Classic Children’s books: Available for free online via the Library website.

The Library of Congress YouTube Channel: Contains a wide range of author programming, as well as content from scholars and musicians.

Ask a Librarian: The tool remains available to the public, with Librarians available to answer questions and provide research assistance.

The Library’s National Screening Room: Showcase the Library’s vast moving image collection. It is designed to make otherwise unavailable movies, both copyrighted and in the public domain, freely accessible to viewers worldwide.

Presentations and Activities: Presentations look across the Library’s online collections to explore events and issues from U.S. history and beyond.

Resources from Other Agencies

City Nature Challenge: Fairfax Master Naturalists educate and organize

By Ana Ka’ahanui, FMN and Director Experiential Programs at Capital Nature

Join us for the #citynaturechallenge, a friendly global effort to safely explore biodiversity April 24-27, 2020! Even with our movement limited to minimize the spread of COVID-19, there is plenty of nature to observe at our windows, gardens, and in our neighborhoods. Join the DC metro area’s fellow citizen scientists to discover and share the amazing life near you!

Join these projects to have your observations counted. City Nature Challenge (April 24-27)
City Nature Month (April 1-30)

Visit and join the project City Nature Challenge 2020: Washington DC Metro Area:

Photo and article by Barbara J. Saffir

To encourage people to participate in iNaturalist’s global “City Nature Challenge” bioblitz in April, I’m hosting two virtual Meetups: One through my own Nature  Photography DC/MD/VA Meetup and one through the  Sierra Club’s Meetup.  My fellow Virginia Master Naturalists and the public are invited to join these two free Meetups:

Earth Day 50th Anniversary Nature Journaling Challenge April 22 to 30, 2020

Article and drawings by Elaine Sevy

As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, I invite you to embrace this Nature Journaling Challenge and connect with nature on a more profound level.

Nature Journaling forces you to slow down and pay attention to what is around you. It will help you encounter beauty and wonder you would have otherwise missed.

Visit a nearby trail or explore your own backyard.

Allow yourself to relax and have fun, and worry less about drawing pretty pictures and more about creating a memory. Write notes about what you’re seeing, and let it pique your curiosity.

Do you have a favorite wild bird? Do you wonder if that bird is a resident or migrant? Look at it more closely and be amazed. Learn more about it at (Cornell Lab of Ornithology) and Write in your journal about what you see and learn, and develop a deep personal relationship with your bird.

Drawing by Elaine Sevy

Find a new pretty wild plant or look closely at one of your favorites and count the petals. Do the petals have stripes similar to a landing pad leading pollinators to the nectar? What kind of bee did I just see on that flower?

Make sure to note the place, date, time, weather, sounds, temperature, and how the experience makes you feel.

Consider downloading the iNaturalist App on your cell phone to help you identify the plants and animals you find. Visit to learn about and participate in the City Nature Challenge 2020: Washington DC Metro Area, April 24-27. There’s a link under announcements on the Capital Naturalist Facebook page.

Include your family and children, and make it a game to find as many insects, birds, frogs, flowers, mushrooms, etc., as possible. Quickly draw little images of each critter on the same Earth Day journal page.

Want inspiration and ideas about how to create a journal page? There’s support groups that can help. Join The NOVA Nature Journal Club at Once there, you can find a link to John Muir Laws’ The Nature Journal Club, which has an international following, free workshops and tools of all kinds. Copy ideas from other people, which will give you a new lens to look through. Let someone else’s journal page ignite your own creativity.

A good basic Nature Journaling kit includes: 6×8” or 5×7”sketchbook (at least 100 lb. weight paper to handle light watercolor washes), a mechanical pencil or 2B drawing pencil, pencil sharpener, kneaded eraser, a waterproof ink pen such as a Pigma Micron 05, set of watercolor pencils (Derwent is a good brand), a Pentel Aquash Water Brush and a paper towel. Also bring your cell phone for photo references, and binoculars. A shoulder bag makes your tools easily accessible.

Try your best to do some nature journaling on Earth Day, but there’s no pressure. Enjoy working on your journal through the end of April for this challenge.

Please submit photos of your journal pages to me (Elaine Sevy), so I can share them with others on Springfield Art Guild’s (SAG’s) Facebook Page and The NOVA Nature Journal Club Facebook Group.

Learn about Spring Warblers on line through ASNV, April 15, 16, 22 and 23

Get ready for spring by learning about the largest and most colorful family of birds who visit the Washington area. Warblers are some of the most challenging birds to identify – they are often small and fast moving with distinctive but easily confused calls and songs. This 4-part FREE Audubon Society of Northern Virginia webinar will help you learn warbler plumages, behaviors and vocalizations. Each webinar will start at 7 p.m. and last about an hour. 

Instructor: Bill Young is a writer who lives in Arlington. He is the author of The Fascination of Birds: From the Albatross to the Yellowthroat (Dover, 2014). He is the co-creator of the website, which contains information about birds, plants and other aspects of the natural history at Monticello Park in Alexandria. Bill also makes nature videos, and his YouTube channel has had over half a million views.

Class 1 – Plumage (Wednesday, April 15)
Learn about the appearance of the 30+ species of wood warblers who visit during the spring.

Class 2 – Behavior (Thursday, April 16)
Learn about the behavior of the 30+ species of wood warblers who visit during the spring.

Class 3 – Vocalizations Part 1 (Wednesday, April 22)
Most warblers are heard before they are seen. Learn how to identify their vocalizations so that you will be better able to find them in the field.

Class 4 – Vocalizations Part 2 (Thursday, April 23)
Most warblers are heard before they are seen. Learn how to identify their vocalizations so that you will be better able to find them in the field.

The series was recorded and can be accessed here.

Becoming a Culturally Responsive Interpreter, April 13 & 14

Two-day course
13 & 14 April 2020
12-2:30 pm each day
NAI members $75/Nonmembers $100
Register here

The National Association for Interpretation presents a program to discuss the question, how can we be more effective interpreters with participants from cultures other than our own? Interpretation has both the opportunity and a responsibility to be more inclusive of all communities and to question dominant and privileged cultural perspectives. In this interactive virtual session, participants will examine privilege and bias as it pertains to interpretive planning and programming. Participants will reflect on individual and organizational practices and develop strategies for creating engaging and meaningful programming for diverse audiences.

*Reflect upon how personal values, biases and assumptions can impact the quality of programming that we create.
*How to identify Bias in instructional materials.
*Strategies for creating a culturally-responsive programming.

Parker McMullen Bushman is the VP for Community Engagement, Education and Inclusion at Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, CO. Parker’s background in the interpretation, conservation, and environmental education fields spans 22+ years. Parker has a passion for justice, accessibility, and equity issues. In addition to Parker’s role at Butterfly Pavilion she is also the founder of a DEI consulting firm called Ecoinclusive, the creator of Earth KWEEN and the founder of Summit for Action.

A Special Webinar Series for VMNs Stuck at Home, April 6-May 5

In addition to VMN’s normal monthly Continuing Education webinar series, this month they are adding a “High Five from Nature” series. Don’t we all need a little encouragement from nature in our lives right now?

In each webinar, presenters will go over five species or concepts on a theme. These will be somewhat informal webinars of varying lengths, from 20 minutes to an hour. They’ll focus on Virginia species and on seasonal observations. We will record them and provide links to the recordings from our web site.

Please visit the web page for the Zoom link and Meeting ID for each webinar.

The Current Lineup

Five Frogs to Recognize by Ear

  • With Michelle Prysby, Program Director, Virginia Master Naturalist Program
  • Monday, April 6, 2:00 pm

Five Needled Trees (Plus 5 More as a Bonus)

Five Native Shrubs

Five Dragonflies

  • With Emily Luebke, VMN-Rivanna Chapter volunteer and nature photographer
  • Wednesday, April 15, 2:00 pm

Five Measures of Stream Quality That Have Nothing To Do With Water

  • With Rikki Lucas, Biogeochemist and VMN-Central Rappahannock Chapter volunteer
  • Tuesday, April 28, 12:00 pm

Five Ferns

  • With Kit Sheffield, Fairfax Chapter volunteer
  • Tuesday, May 5, 7:00 pm

…and more! We will be adding additional High Five webinars in the coming weeks. If you or someone you know would like to be a High Five presenter, contact Michelle Prysby.

Each of these webinars is listed with its separate Zoom link on our website.

FMNs can get credit for attending these webinars under: A Special Webinar Series for VMNs Stuck at Home

Virtual Warbler Song Bootcamp, April 24

Friday, April 24, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM

This Clifton Institute program is online. Please register if you would like to watch live so we can communicate and share links via email.

Participants will listen to the songs of each of the migratory warblers that pass through our region in spring, while looking at spectrograms to help visual learners identify differences in similar songs. We will also briefly discuss habitats where breeding warblers can be found in our area and cover a handful of other migrants such as vireos and thrushes. This workshop will be of interest to birdwatchers of all skill levels. It will definitely be more fun than listening to a warbler song CD in your car! Photo by Cameron Darnell.

Virtual Book Club on April 10: No Way Home, by David Wilcove

Friday, April 10, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

No Way Home: The Decline of the World’s Great Animal Migrations, by David Wilcove, exposes readers to the wonders and perils of animal movement across the landscape.

Clifton Institute offers multiple online options for participation, including a Facebook discussion group and a live online meeting at the original time. If you are interested in participating live, please register so they have your email address.

Alison Zak will be interviewing author David Wilcove and then sharing the recording with the group, so please email any questions for the author to

Dr. Wilcove is a professor of ecology, evolutionary biology, and public affairs at Princeton University. The primary question driving his research is “How do we find room for biodiversity in an increasingly hot, hungry, and crowded world?” He is the also the author of The Condor’s Shadow: The Loss and Recovery of Wildlife in America (1999).

International Beaver Day: Recorded Online Presentation and Pond Sit

Was Tuesday, April 7, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Here is the link to the recording:

Join the Clifton Institute in celebrating International Beaver Day!

Alison Zak will give a live, online presentation on the challenges and benefits to coexisting with beavers. Please register if you would like to watch live so we can communicate and share links via email. The presentation will be recorded if you are interested but can’t tune in live. Photo by Amy Johnson.

FMNs get CE credit: International Beaver Day: Online Presentation and Pond Sit