The Ecologist School is the backbone of all of our programming. When we take families out into nature, or train guides to take their own communities outdoors, the Ecologist School lessons provide the answer to “what do we do now that we’re outside?” The Ecologist School is an informal science education program that allows people to earn badges in 16 branches of science by learning and playing in nature together. The lessons in the guidebook are intended for all ages all together and most can be done in your own backyard, or even in your house, with minimal materials. The Ecologist School lessons can be done by a Nature Community, by a family, by a group of friends, by a classroom, by a learning pod, or by anyone who wants to learn about and connect to nature more deeply. Each lesson is open ended and encourages curiosity that naturally leads to learning.

Now that we are entering the 2020/2021 school year with a global pandemic still raging, FIN has adjusted our long time programs to incorporate new safety measures, and we have added new programs to support our community during this difficult time. The resources we created in response to COVID-19 include the 96 free lessons found below in each of 16 branches of science in both English and Spanish.

You can now join our in-person Ecologist School lessons taught after school by FIN staff in Pease Park (in Central Austin) on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

Supporting you and your family or classroom during the COVID-19 Pandemic

During this time of global health crisis, we would like to support you and your family while you are staying at home by giving you ideas to get out into nature in your own backyard, to encourage siblings to play and learn together at home, and to support or supplement your family’s science education. During the first four months of the pandemic, we posted 6 lessons per week from our Ecologist School Guidebook (which is currently being published by Texas A&M University Press) as a free resource for the community. Those 96 lessons, in both English and Spanish, are linked below by science, or you can download the pdf versions here that are less graphic heavy for easier printing for your classroom, learning pod or family.
96 Lessons in Spanish
96 Lessons in English

The Ecologist School Program

This graphic summarizes the structure of the Ecologist School Program, which has been the backbone of all of our programming for over a decade. It is broken into 16 Science Slices, each of which contains the following 8 categories: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math, Outdoor Skills, Volunteerism, and Leadership. You can earn a badge in each branch of science by doing 4 activities in these categories. Once you complete 4 activities, you can go onto our website and order a badge for that branch of science. Our original badge designs were created by DKNG Studios, an incredible graphic design company based in LA. The ES Badges and FIN Nature Journals can be ordered here.

In FIN, we encourage our participants to keep a Nature Journal to record their memories, the lessons learned, the thoughts the lessons inspired, and to express themselves creatively through writing or drawing after each activity. We recommend that each child (and parent if they’d like to) write or draw in a journal after each activity, with expectations of your children that match their age (the goal is for them to express themselves, not for them to necessarily create a magnificent work of art or graduate level science writing piece, so there is no need to correct spelling or grade this work.)

We would love to see what you are doing, so please email photos to and/or tag us if you post your FIN Ecologist School experiences on social media.
Facebook, Instagram @familiesinnature, twitter @familiesnnature #familiesinnature #ecologistschool

Here is one lesson example to get you started.

Each of our Ecologist School lessons will feel like play to a child, but as most nature experiences are, they are filled with learning opportunities created by curiosity and hands-on experience. You can use the Science Seeds in each lesson to answer their questions or to inspire their curiosity about the world around them.

The following links will take you to a page of 6 lessons each – one branch of science lessons will be posted here each week. There are English versions and Spanish versions of each activity. (Just scroll down for Spanish.) We may decide to change the order of release to mix up the different families of sciences, but here are the categories:

Week 1 – Geology

Week 2 – Paleontology

Week 3 – Hydrology

Week 4 – Geography

Week 5 – Botany

Week 6 – Climatology

Week 7 – Meteorology

Week 8 – Astronomy

Week 9 – Entomology

Week 10 – Ichthyology

Week 11 – Herpetology

Week 12 – Ornithology

Week 13 – Mammalogy

Week 14 – Oceanography/Marine Biology

Week 15 – Anthropology

Week 16 – Ecology


Families in Nature would also like to connect our teachers and guides to one of our partner organizations: Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants. They are a non-profit dedicated to inspiring the next generation of scientists and explorers by bringing science, exploration, conservation and adventure live into classrooms everywhere through virtual guest speakers and field trips. Each month they host over 40 free, live events for classrooms, tackling themes like climate change, ocean plastic, biodiversity, space exploration, women in science and exploration, conservation and much more. Check them out on their website, youtube, or social media for free classroom resources.


More Information About the Ecologist School Program

The Ecologist School Program will support our organizational mission and vision by helping youth and adult participants become well versed in ecological principles, competent in the outdoors, and experienced in leadership. Unstructured time in nature is also included and is an essential part of all Families in Nature events.

FIN is committed to including all people in our programming and creating equitable access to nature for all. The Ecologist School Program allows us to invite people everywhere to join us out in nature.

The Ecologist School Program is based on our original curriculum that includes:

  • 1400+ lessons in science, technology, engineering, art and math (S.T.E.A.M.), volunteerism, outdoor skills, and leadership in each of 16 branches of science relevant to ecology (Geology, Hydrology, Oceanography, Meteorology, Climatology, Geography, Paleontology, Astronomy, Botany, Entomology, Ichthyology, Herpetology, Ornithology, Mammology, Ecology, Anthropology)
  • Badges that can be earned through hands-on experiences within each of the 16 branches of science, or “Science Slices”
      • Curriculum is currently being published as a book and eBook
  • Leadership opportunities are possible within the organization or with partners to plan ecological projects, teach, present at conferences, and become young conservation leaders
  • Mentorship from experts in the field of interest and FIN staff to plan and implement a significant, impactful, and ecologically-focused final project, the Humboldt Project
  • Junior or Citizen Ecologist Certification upon earning ten of the sixteen badges and receiving the Humboldt Award (Junior Ecologist for under age 18, Citizen Ecologist for adult participants)
  • Amplification of the Humboldt Projects through our network of local, national and international organizations
    • Two students’ projects earned 2 out of only 200 spaces worldwide in the Sustainable Oceans Alliance Youth Summit at the Our Ocean conference in Bali 2018.
    • Students presented at the Children & Nature Network international conference
    • FIN young conservation leaders will attend the IUCN World Conservation Congress in France 2020 – FIN is a founding partner of the #NatureForAll program started by the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication.
    • Student films, articles and blogs have been published or screened in collaboration with “Chasing Coral,” The Children & Nature Network, and others
  • Guide Development available to adult leaders who are passionate about connecting people to nature, including access to the curriculum, support in creating new Nature Communities, instruction in teaching hope, risk management, event planning and more, and inclusion in a community of practice