Morel of the Story: Learning And Play in Nature

September 28, 2020
Haley’s first morel!

One of my most cherished childhood memories is “hunting” for morel mushrooms with my family in my native Indiana woods. Well, truth be told, I actually vehemently protested going at the time because I didn’t like mushrooms! However, years later I realized the impression these experiences would have on my relationship with nature and my future goals as an adult, (plus now I really love mushrooms!)

Given time outside, I became unafraid of mud and dirt. I learned how and where to find food that isn’t in a grocery store. I gained curiosity about beetles, turtles, plants, and toads. I collected snail shells and rocks I thought were pretty or interesting. I imagined being on jungle expeditions in the Amazon or starring in my own nature TV show (inspired by the PBS shows my family watched!) And, most powerfully, I experienced the peaceful awe and wonder that can be gained from getting “lost” in the woods.

Nature fed my instinctive curiosity as a child. Ultimately, I largely credit my upbringing in an unstructured natural setting for laying the foundation of my adult career in art, education, collecting objects, and museums. It is now my personal and professional goal is to help create learning experiences for children that model the same awe, curiosity, and wonder.

REsources for Learning & Play in Nature

Elinor Wonders Why is PBS KIDS’ newest show!

PBS KIDS’ newest show Elinor Wonders Why helps children ages 3–5 ask and answer questions about the natural world they live in. Children learn through play, and playing surrounded by nature encourages interest in the real world. Adults who discover and learn in the outdoors are modeling curiosity for their children.
Cyberchase: Green It Up is a unique education program based on the show Cyberchase and helps students ages 6–8 learn about issues in environmental and nature topics through a STEM lens. Try some of the activities out for at-home learning! Adults can help extend learning from watching episodes of Elinor Wonders Why and Cyberchase with their children and apply the same concepts outside to their backyard or local woods.

Call for NAture Video submissions

For older nature-lovers, the premiere of a PBS special series, The Age of Nature will air on WFSU on October 14, at 10 pm ET. Over its three episodes this special series delves into the human relationship with nature. In conjunction with this show, WFSU will host a discussion on October 20 at 7 pm about local nature issues. We want you in on the conversation!

Families and teachers, we are encouraging our community of all ages to share their curiosity in nature with us. We want to see what nature means to you. Create a nature video with your children or students and share it with us! The following prompts might help you to get started with creating your special nature video. Additionally, please share with us what PBS show might have inspired your curiosity and learning!

  • What does nature mean to you?
  • How do you define nature?
  • Do you think nature is important? If so, why?
  • What is nature in your life?
  • Does nature have a place in our daily life?
  • What have our past mistakes taught us about nature?
  • How is our understanding of nature changing the way we live?
  • As the challenges we face mount, where are we heading next?

Any skill level of video is welcome! Need help getting started? Check out the Making Better Videos Collection from WGBH on PBS LearningMedia!

Send us your Nature videos using one or both of the following methods:

  1. Upload your videos to YouTube and send the video link to Rob Diaz de Villegas at
  2. Share your videos on Facebook or Instagram and tag @WFSUPublicMedia, @WSFUEducation, and #WFSUAgeofNature. Make sure your post is set to Public.

Be sure to follow WFSU’s Ecology Blog for updates about this project and tune in to your local PBS station to watch The Age of Nature, and on PBS KIDS 360 watch Cyberchase and new episodes of Elinor Wonders Why!

While morel mushrooms are a rare find in Floridian forests, playing, learning, and getting curious with your child in the great outdoors just might lead you to discover a whole lot more than expected. We can’t wait to see what you will find.

Questions about PBS KIDS shows or how to help your children/students create a nature video?
Email Haley at

Haley Babcock is the Education & Engagement Coordinator at WFSU Public Media. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Museum Education & Visitor-Centered Curation at Florida State University. A Hoosier-state native, you can find this transplant ogling at manatees in Wakulla Springs or painting en plein air at St Mark’s Wildlife Refuge with her fiancé, Ben.

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