Bronx Zoo Nature Club

Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

Get outside and explore!

The Bronx Zoo would like to invite you and your family to take a walk on the wild side! Thanks to funding from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, we will be posting monthly Nature Club activities to encourage you and your family to get outside and explore!

Why should we spend time in nature?

On average, NYC schools only allow for a 20-minute recess break outside and many are limited to an asphalt play space. Here are just a couple of reasons why it's important to spend time in nature:

  • Supports creativity and problem solving. Studies of children in schoolyards found that children engage in more creative forms of play in the green areas. They also played more cooperatively (Bell and Dyment, 2006).
  • Enhances cognitive abilities. Being exposed to natural settings increases children's ability to focus and enhances cognitive abilities (Wells, 2000).
  • Improves academic performance. Studies in the US show that schools that use outdoor classrooms and other forms of nature-based experiential education support significant gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math (American Institutes for Research, 2005).
  • Reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms. Spending time in nature can significantly reduce symptoms of attention deficit disorder in children as young as five years old (Kuo and Taylor, 2004).
  • Increases physical activity. Children who are exposed to diverse natural settings are more physically active, more aware of nutrition, more civil to one another and more creative (Belly and Dyment, 2006).
  • Improves eyesight. More time outside is related to reduced rates of nearsightedness in children and adolescents (American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2011).
  • Improves self-discipline. Time spent outside enhances peace, self-control and self-discipline within inner city youth, and particularly in girls (Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan, 2001).
  • Reduces stress. Green plants and vistas reduce stress among highly stressed children (Wells and Evans, 2003).


The Bronx Zoo Education Department is happy to join forces with Kids Unplugged and Tarrytown Family Nature Club to create the Bronx Zoo Nature Club!

Nature Spot of the Month

December: Van Cortlandt Park

Nature Club Van Cortlandt Park

Get outside this December at Van Cortlandt Park. Located in the Northwest Bronx, New York City's third largest park has lots to explore, including trails, playgrounds, forests, and fields. Take a winter stroll along Putnam Trail and discover New York's winter wildlife: Squirrels, chipmunks, birds, or maybe even a red fox! Follow the trail to Van Cortlandt Lake, one of New York's largest. The John Kieran Nature Trail is also a easy loop which shows off some of the park's more scenic areas! End your trip with some time to warm up in the Van Cortlandt Nature Center or Van Cortlandt House Museum (Hours vary). Van Cortlandt Park is accessible by both car and public transportation. Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Be sure to dress warmly and with layers so you can enjoy your time outside this winter!

Location: Northwest Bronx
Phone: 718.430.1890
Directions: Click here for directions using Google Maps:
Mass Transportation: Subway — W. 242nd Street (1), Woodlawn (4); Bx9, Bx16, Bx31, Bx34. Westchester bus lines 1, 2, 3, 4, 20, 21
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate, depending on trails
Dogs: No dogs off leash anywhere, except Dog Runs
Fees: No fee to enter site; free parking
You Might Want to Bring: Binoculars, warm clothing, hot chocolate in a thermos
Suggested Activities: winter birding, hiking, pine cone hunting, snowman making

Want to suggest a spot for the website? Please complete this form and you might see your site on our webpage!

Family Nature Club Activity of the Month

December: Build an Animal Home!

Choose a favorite stuffed or plastic animal to accompany you on an outdoor adventure. Think about what that animal might need in order to survive. Food? Water? Shelter? What kind of home might this animal like to live in? Collect sticks, leaves, and other treasures to build a comfortable home for your animal friend. While you are exploring, keep an eye out for other animal homes such as nests or burrows. Check out some of our animal home creations from this month's Bronx Zoo Nature Club meeting!

Nature Club

Previous Month's Activities

Click here to view previous month's activities

Nature Articles

5 Reasons to Join (or Start!) a Family Nature Club

Muir Inspiration:


Feel free to contact with any questions regarding the Bronx Zoo Nature Club!


Kids Unplugged -

Tarrytown Family Nature Club -