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Nature Scouting for You and the Kids!


Saige Cox gathers Indian grass seed as she helps restore Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale, Illinois.

The primary purpose of ChicagoNatureNOW! is to introduce people to nature so that they will volunteer at our many ailing preserves and restore them to health. Help us spread the word! Here, at Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale, Saige Cox does her part by gathering Indian grass seed to rehabilitate the grassland near her home.

It’s April, and the third season of ChicagoNatureNOW! scouting and reporting is about to begin! This means that, each week for the next six months, I’ll be posting an alert telling you exactly where to experience breathtaking displays of wildflowers around Chicago. A small number of volunteer nature scouts will begin venturing across 5,000-square-miles  to find out what’s going on at our twenty-eight showcase preserves.

We need your help exploring these preserves so we can continue to share the exciting news with others.

Here’s what Zeke Wei had to say about his first year of scouting with CNN!:

Last year, I started scouting the featured nature preserves at CNN!, using Mike’s guidance and 15 years of data about the best times visit. My eyes were opened to a whole new world of Chicago nature. This world is full of excitement, sometimes breathtaking: from color, bloom, beauty, tenderness, texture, light, smell, dynamics, biodiversity, and wild animals. It is a non-stop performance with a new show happening every couple of weeks. But these performances can only be found at the right place and at the right time. Because of my wonderful experiences with nature, I’ve transitioned from someone who wasn’t that interested in nature to someone who is now in love with nature. Nature has made my life more colorful and more enjoyable. I am now a happier person.

Wow! So, if you want to be a happier person, like Zeke, there are two great ways to scout: adopt-a-preserve and multi-site scouting. If you regularly visit one of the the showcase preserves on this website because you live nearby or you volunteer at the site, then adopting a preserve is a convenient option. Multi-site scouting is an efficient and rewarding way to discover and learn about the many beautiful preserves in our area. Learn more about joining our fun and enthusiastic team.

Getting out into nature with your kids is a wonderful bonding and learning experience for the entire family. For science teachers and scout troop leaders, having your kids become our nature explorers is an exciting summer project. Ask your kids if they’d like to become a CNN! junior nature scout. (And, let me know if you have a good name to suggest for our kid scouts.)

In additional to an end-of-year party, scouting deepens your bond with nature. Plus it’s fun and rewarding. You’ll learn a lot from your adventures and, when you post your reports, everyone chips in to identify plants and to make your journey easier and more enjoyable. You’ll also have the inside track on what’s about to come, as well as receiving expert advice from me and the crew. And, If you’re new to Chicago, you’ll quickly discover where to find natural beauty around your new home.

At this time last year, we only had 114 subscribers. Now we have 564! This means that more people are relying on CNN! for complete and accurate information. We don’t want to send people on wild goose chases. (No offense to wild geese.) And this means that we need more scouts and also more funding.

If you can’t scout and you find this website useful, then consider funding our efforts. If you’re a member of public radio or TV (WBEZ or WTTW), it’s the same idea. We’re providing a public service that’s also good for nature. Our income is well out of step with the number of followers, having only raised $270 in two years. Donate here. I’m also interested in hearing your fundraising ideas, especially if you have experience in this area.

For me, ChicagoNatureNOW! is a labor of love, but it has become quite laborious. Please help me continue the mission by scouting, donating, and/or purchasing my inspirational book about Chicago nature.

Thanks to all!


© 2018, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.