Nature Pal Exchange began in 2015 when two homeschool moms on separate coasts thought it would be fun to collect and exchange nature items their families discovered in their native environments. Once we stepped foot in the outdoors, discovered new pieces of God’s creation, and then shared this with new friends, we knew we had to keep this going. Now, we get to share this amazing experience with you!
In the words of Charlotte Mason, “Nature knowledge is the most important for young children. It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get in touch with nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.” (Home Education vol.1, p.61)
How Does Nature Pal Exchange Work?
Sign ups are open seasonally through a link that allows you to fill out your family’s info. This info helps us pair you with another family, with similar aged children if possible, located in a completely different region. It’s like having a pen pal with nature items included. Once sign-ups are closed and all information is received, it takes our team about a week to email your pal assignments. Then the fun really starts!
You and your family go on a hike at a local nature park, wander through the grass or weeds in your backyard, explore a creek in your area, walk along a local beach, or even take a stroll around your neighborhood. While you’re out on your adventure, keep your eyes peeled for any little nature treasures that pop out at you. Discover the beautiful and often overlooked natural treasures of God’s creation. Going outside with the intent to discover along with curious eyes are the key ingredients to building a great nature collection. After you and your littles have filled your pockets, hands, or bags with these bits from the outdoors take your collection home to study and examine each piece. This is your opportunity to fill your nature journals or even start one! Once you’ve examined and labeled, it’s time to carefully package up these new-found treasures. Be as creative as you like, in-fact the more creative the better! You can include a letter explaining your area and introducing your family. You can even include postcards, crafts, stickers, or whatever you think captures the heart of your state. We just ask that you mail your boxes by the mailing deadline! Opening up a box from another family from a different part of the country kind of feels like Christmas! It’s always amazing to explore finds from somewhere you might be unfamiliar with and possibly have never visited. It opens up a whole new world of learning!
After our first Nature Pal Exchange, we really wanted to do more. So, we decided to bring attention to small charities who are doing big things for those in need! Our goal is to encourage families to explore and discover, but we also want make an impact outside of our exchange to those really in need. With each sign-up we request a participation fee; a portion of those funds collected are then donated to the charity we are currently sponsoring. For instance, we donated $2120 in one exchange through the sign-up fees to SoleHope to help them “effectively put in place preventive methods to combat diseases that enter through the feet and to create a positive physical and spiritual difference in the lives of individuals in impoverished communities.” The Nature Pal Exchange is benefitting you and your families through exploration and nature study, as well as families in need across the globe through your generosity. Unfortunately all fees are not tax-deductable and are non-refundable.
Exposing our children to the beautiful creation that surrounds us is one of the most important things we can do for them. Cultivating a love for nature is something they will carry with them always. We must instruct them on how to be good stewards with what God has given us. One aspect of that is insuring that we send and share specimens safely.
We encourage you to go over invasive species and introduced species. Here is another link to learn more about invasive species in the U.S. and in Canada. We strongly encourage all of our participants to research their state regulations. The more we learn the better stewards we become.
The introduction of invasive species has risen greatly; introduced by shipping, boating, garden planting, escaping captivity or cargo transportation. A detailed explanation
This is just a bit of the information available on the topic. We urge you to continue to learn and prevent the spread of invasive species!
Here are some pointers to ensure a safe exchange:
- Learn about the non-native and invasive species in your area. Visit your state department of agriculture’s web site.
- Don’t plant seeds you receive.
- Sterilize seeds before you send them. This can be done by placing the seeds on a cookie sheet and baking at 300 degrees for 30 min or in a paper bag in the microwave on high for 5 min.
- Instead of sending bark make bark rubbings instead
- If you decide to throw away some of your collection burn it instead
Nature Pal Exchange and those affiliated are not responsible for lost or damaged packages. Nature Pal Exchange and those affiliated are not responsible for those that choose not to follow the laws and/or mailing guidelines. Nature Pal Exchange and those affiliated reserve the right to deny participation to anyone who does not comply with rules and/or requirements.
Nature Pal Exchange participates in the Amazon affiliate program. When you purchase from Amazon by following the links here on the site, we receive a small commission from Amazon. We only link books and products that we know and love.
Nature Pal Exchange does not sell or share your personal information.