Located near Centura Health in Avon right off of I-70. An innovative natural science learning campus for residents and visitors of the Eagle Valley. Free and open to the public.

318 Walking Mountains Lane, Avon, CO 81620

Located at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola on Vail Mountain out of Lionshead Village, Vail. All visitors must have a pass to ride the gondola. Free and open to the public with valid gondola pass.
Nestled along Gore Creek near the Betty Ford Alpine Garden and Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail Village.
601 Vail Valley Drive, Vail, CO 81657

Walking Mountains Blog

Backyard Nature Challenge!

Posted by Walking Mountains Science Center on Mar 17, 2020 1:45:00 PM
Walking Mountains Science Center

backyard nature challenges for walking mountains

As we practice social distancing during turbulent times, we shouldn't stop learning and exploring. When exploring through the Backyard Nature Challenges, please treat humans like wildlife... give them their space!

Below, follow our Backyard Nature Challenges updated daily for new adventures to do at home or in your backyard (ie. backyard, neighborhood, balcony, open-space near by). These challenges come from our incredible Education Staff working to teach even during this time. 

You can follow our Facebook Page (@walkingmtns) to interact live with other community members and our staff. 

View all videos on our Youtube Page: Backyard Challenge Playlist

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Outdoor Engineering


Are your STEM skills feeling rusty? Do you need some privacy from all the people in your house who are working from home? You can practice your engineering skills in your backyard with fort building. Learn three steps to engineering and then practice those steps as you design your fort.

Scent Sense


Humans make lots of decisions, from what to eat to who to hang out with, in part based on smell. What are some of your favorite scents? Just outside the door, there are tons of smells in nature! Even if you think you don’t have a lot of natural scents near you, smell more closely. Let’s go out and take a quick inventory of the natural scents near your own home!

Tell an Epic Story


Have you ever gone on an adventure and experienced something amazing that you could not wait to share with your friends and family?  Members of the Walking Mountains education team share their stories and a quick guide on how to make your story truly epic.

Shadow Showdown


Where do shadows come from? Did you know that they can change throughout the day? Check out this cool shadow experiment and explore what you can do with shadows. 

Plant a Flower


It’s the perfect time of year to plant a flower and watch it grow. All you need is a shovel, watering can, flowers for planting, and some soil on the ground or in a planter. Follow along with us to plant some flowers and upload videos or pictures of your flowers to show us! Make sure you keep an eye on your flowers to catch a glimpse of any pollinators, like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, that might visit!

Staying at home doesn’t mean you have to stay inside! Each day Walking Mountains will post a backyard naturalist challenge for kids and adults. See how many challenges you can complete!

Outdoor Yoga


With a move to online work and learning, your body may get tired of the screens. You can stretch your body and mind through yoga. You don’t even have to go into public- just your backyard! Outdoor yoga will not only help your body, but that sunshine is good for your spirits. Check out some nature inspired poses from our local yoga studio and our frequent challenge viewers.

How To Poop In The Woods


Sometime when you are out hiking in the woods, you just gotta go. And I don’t mean go home.  So when the moment strikes and you need to go number two, be prepared! This video shows you the basics of how to take a proper poop in the woods. 

Staying at home doesn’t mean you have to stay inside! Each day Walking Mountains will post a backyard naturalist challenge for kids and adults. See how many challenges you can complete!

Soundscape Of Your Life


“Soundscapes” are the ambient sounds of environments. Many of us can recognize different soundscapes. For example, we know that a rainforest has different sounds than a city, and that all the birds singing in springtime is a different sound than the quiet of winter. Consider the soundscapes you experience in your own life. Do they change from day to night? How do different soundscapes affect you? What do you contribute to the soundscapes around you?
Leave No Trace

We have some amazing outdoor spaces in this valley and as long as we use them responsibly they will always be open. So put on your mask, grab your family, and go exploring at a local nature area near you. Watch this video to learn how to leave no trace and recreate responsibly. 

Have A Picnic

Being outdoors is good for your physical and mental health. One way to spend more time outdoors is by having a picnic! A picnic can be enjoyed with friends or family or even alone. Today’s challenge is to take a blanket and a meal to a special spot outside, whether it’s in your own backyard, at a park, or in the forest.

All That Scat


Scat can give us clues about what kinds of animals were on the trail. Learn how to find clues in scat. Today's challenge is to go look for scat on the trail and try to figure out which animal left the scat! You can also explore different shapes of scat with this recipe for chocolate scat! (½ c oatmeal, 2 tbs chocolate powder, water)
Identifying Plants

Have you ever wanted to know more about a plant around your home? Well to learn more about something, you first must identify it! Learn some quick tips to identifying plants around your home and then give it a try yourself!
Solar Compass

We can use the reliable rotation of the earth around the sun to make a tool that tells direction, a compass. Learn how to do this cool wildland skill and then give it a shot in your own backyard. Bonus points if you pair your compass with a map and use it to orient yourself.
Science Behind Bubbles

How are bubbles made? Why are they round? How do I make the biggest bubble? All these answers as well as a recipe for bubble mix in this latest Backyard Challenge!

Take a journey underground to find out how the three types of rocks (igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary) are formed. Today’s challenge is to go out into your backyard and to try to find an example of these kinds of rocks!
Cloud Viewing

On a nice day it is relaxing to lay outside and watch the clouds. Learn how the clouds can indicate what kind of weather we will have. Your challenge today is to go outside and look at different types of clouds. 

For more information on clouds and a recipe for cloud dough, check out our other video “Whats Up With Clouds”.

Zoom In, Zoom Out

Get your pencils and paper out, it’s time for a nature journaling challenge. This is a simple one, find an interesting natural object, and draw it from afar. Then get yourself close to that object and pick a small detail to draw in more detail. These sketches are memories of interesting things that I have found while out and about in the outdoors. We challenge you to make your own zoom in zoom out sketch and share it with us at Walking Mountains.
Go Stargazing

Has your world been feeling a bit small and cramped lately? Go outside and look at the stars, and your universe will grow to infinite proportions! The Earth is part of the solar system, which is part of the Milky Way Galaxy, which is just one of millions of galaxies that make up our universe. After Wednesday night’s new moon, the sky will be nice and dark, perfect conditions for stargazing. See if you can spot some constellations or even catch the Lyrid meteor shower.
Build a Bee Watering Hole

Bees need our help!  Their populations are on the decline, but they are important to us and to the rest of nature.  Bees are pollinators and help fertilize plants so that seeds and fruit can grow.  In fact, bees are responsible for every ⅓ of bite of food we take!  How can we help bees? Today we’ll be building a bee watering hole with some simple supplies you can find around the house and in your backyard. 

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day from the Walking Mountains Science Center Education Team. We have all decided to make a commitment to help the Earth to celebrate. Check out this video to hear our ideas. We challenge you to make your own commitment and put it in the comments below!

Exploring for Aquatic Macroinvertebrates

Let’s get outdoors with a few tools and our curiosity and explore for aquatic macroinvertebrates.  Now is a great time, while the ice and snow in the rivers and streams are melting, to take an up close look at the critters living there.  Can you find any macroinvertebrates attached to rocks in the stream or try to identify what kind of bug they are?

Take a Book Outside

What do reading and being outside have in common? Both are proven to lower your stress! Reading can help us get lost in our imaginations and sunshine gives our bodies vitamin D. The Eagle Valley Library District has some suggestions for places to read outside and Vail Public Library and the Bookworm have great suggestions for books, for both kids and grownups.

Bird Ballet

Art is often inspired by nature. You can practice both your scientific observation skills and your artistic talents in today’s challenge. What you need to do is to practice observing birds in your yard and then make up a dance move inspired by a bird! Bonus points if your outfit matches your bird!

Log Study

Now that most of the snow is gone we can investigate all the life and death that was occuring underneath. The forest would look a lot different if there wasn’t anything to take care of all those dead plants. Get your hands dirty and dig into the dirt under a log or rock near your home and see what kind of decomposers you can find. Decomposers break down organic (once living) matter and turn it back into soil so new plants can grow. They are called the FBI: fungus, bacteria, and insects.
How old is this tree?

We received a great question from one of our students, Clara. “How can you tell the age of a tree?” Aidan will help us answer that question by demonstrating a couple of ways to find out the age of one of his backyard trees.

Leaf Rubbings

We’re starting to see new leaves and buds appear on trees and plants around us! This is a sure sign of Spring, along with the longer days and warmer temperatures. Now is a great time to head outside and see what leaves we can find on the ground! Whatever leaves you find you can use to make leaf rubbing art! Follow along with us and give it a try!

Sole Power

One way to celebrate Earth Month is to use your feet to get somewhere instead of a car. This will help reduce air pollution. Where can you go on your feet? Experiment with different ways to travel and share photos of your adventures or places that you plan on adventuring later on foot!

Howl at the Moon

Tonight is the full moon. That means the moon will rise at the same time as the sun sets and the full face of the moon will be illuminated. The moon is also in perigree, which means it is the closest to the Earth as it gets during its elliptical path around our planet. That also means that it will look extra large, especially as it is rising. Go outside and howl at the moon!

**I made a mistake in the video, each time I say “the moon’s trip around the sun” I actually mean the moon’s trip around the Earth… oops!**


Spring is in the air and more birds are arriving every day as they migrate north for the spring and summer months.  This is an excellent time to get outside and go birding. You can listen for bird calls, try to identify birds by sight, or observe bird behavior.  If you have binoculars or access to a bird guide, they are great tools to help you on your birding adventure. Really though, all you need is your eyes, your ears, and patience!  See if you can observe a bird with nesting material and discover where it’s finding its nest! Get outside and try birding. 

Enjoy a Beautiful Sunset

Have you ever wondered why the sky is blue or why the sunset is so vibrant? It’s not just because some adult told you so! There is a scientific explanation that just makes the beauty that much more real. Go outside and enjoy a sunset or sunrise and send us photos or drawings of what you see. The best part of watching the sunset is that you can do it from anywhere from your backyard to the top of a mountain as long as you are outside. Don’t forget to ooh and ahh! 

Rock Smashing

The snow is finally melting and we are starting to see some bare ground. There are cool rocks to be found everywhere and the best way to learn more about them is to look inside. Grab an adult, some safety gear, and a hammer and smash away. As you collect and smash rocks, make observations about the colors you see, the size of the crystals or grains, how easily does the rock break? These are all clues to tell us more about what kinds of rocks we are looking at. Share pictures and observations about the rocks you find and smash!

Trash Attack

Welcome to April! Do you know what that means? It’s Earth Month! Help celebrate by becoming a steward for planet Earth. How? Get outside and go on a trash attack! As the snow melts, it appears that some trash may have gotten loose. Take a walk through your neighborhood, or along your favorite trail, and pick up as much trash as possible. Sort the trash into things that you can recycle and things that have to go to the landfill! Share a picture of all the trash, or maybe even treasures, that you find!

How to Use a Compass

Take your map reading skills one set further and learn the basics of how to use a compass. When you pair a map and a compass together you can explore all new territory. Learn how to use your compass to get oriented and take a bearing and then go adventuring outside with your favorite adult. Share pictures of cool things you find while hiking or pictures of you and your family using these amazing tools!

Nature Instruments

Do you like listening to music? How about making music?! Today we’re going to go outside to find natural objects we can use to make our very own nature instrument. Get creative with what objects you find outside of your house or on a nature trail nearby, but remember to only use objects that are already on the ground and not taken off of a living organism. Share what you made with a friend or family member and make music with them! Happy playing!

Watershed Wonders

As the snow melts the water will flow into local streams and rivers. This is where our watersheds get a lot of their water. A watershed is the area of land where all the smaller streams and rivers flow into a bigger river. Today’s challenge is to find a stream near where you live. Follow the stream for as long as you are comfortable. Does it meet a bigger stream or river?  Take photos or draw what you see. 

Map Making

Maps are an important aspect of everyday life. What are the five essential parts of a map? How do maps show the shape of the land? Watch this video to learn more about map making and then send us photos of the maps you create of your favorite places! 

Gratitude Journal

It can be easy to get stuck in a cycle of negativity, especially if you’re stuck indoors or miss your companions. However, practicing gratitude, or what you are thankful for, can actually improve your mindset and bring positivity to your day! Walking Mountains challenges you to bring positivity to your day and practice gratitude by writing a thank-you letter to Nature! You can use words or drawings to let Nature know why you are thankful. Hang up your letter somewhere where you and your family can see it and be reminded throughout the day of all there is to be thankful for.

Home in a Habitat

Today’s challenge is to build a habitat for an animal that may live outside near your house (like a squirrel or bird). What makes up a habitat? It’s food, water, shelter, and space. Want to know more about what animals need in their habitats? Learn from our friends in Girl Scout Brownie Troop 57212 who show us how their pets get their habitat needs met.  When you finish designing your habitat post a picture in the comments or a video of a virtual tour of your animal’s habitat.


There is so much beauty around us in nature. Eco-art is the practice of making art from natural objects you find outside. It can be a small sculpture, a design, or just a shape that you really like. After completing your art show a friend or family member, take a picture, and then destroy it so it looks as though it was never there. Don’t forget to use materials that are already on the ground and not taken off of a living organism. Comment on this post with pictures of your eco-art creations! Or tag #WMSCBackyardChallenge.

Spring Sleuth

Saturday will be the first day of spring!  There are many signs of spring. How many can you find around your home? Send us a photo of something that indicates spring is coming and any stories about something that surprised you.

Need ideas of where to look? Check out this scavenger hunt page

Leaf Out

Spring is when the leaves start to come out. We call this “leaf out”. Are any leaves coming out in your neighborhood? Go for a walk and see if you can see leaves in any of these stages. If you find a leaf that is fully open take a picture of it and try to identify what plant it is. Post a photo or drawing of your leaf in the comments. If you can’t identify it- maybe we can.

Check out project budburst to learn about how everyday people can make observations about leaf-out and share them with scientists. https://budburst.org/

Backyard Nature Challenge - Special Spot

Staying at home doesn’t mean you have to stay inside! Each day Walking Mountains will post a backyard naturalist challenge for kids and adults. See how many challenges you can complete!

Spending 10 minutes in the peace of nature can be good for your body and your mind. Find a quiet spot outside where you can see trees or plants. Get comfy. For 10 minutes be very quiet and see what you can see, smell, hear and feel. You can write or draw what you are experiencing.




Topics: Family Activities, Kids Activities, Backyard Nature Challenge

Walking Mountains Science Center

Written by Walking Mountains Science Center

Our mission is to awaken a sense of wonder and inspire environmental stewardship and sustainability through natural science education.