Bridges to the Natural World

A Natural History Guide for Teachers of Grades Pre-K through Six.
Funded through a generous grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

Why "Bridges to the Natural World"?

Being children of the 21st century, we are conditioned by our "indoor" lifestyle. Becoming familiar with what is "outdoors" may be likened to crossing a bridge over a wide span of the unknown and unfamiliar. The lessons and information contained in Bridges to the Natural World is that bridge for the people of New Jersey who recognize the state's great natural beauty, who want to know more about its natural treasures, and who want to share them with future generation.

Revised 2003, after 10 years!

Bridges to the Natural World was first published in 1992.  During those years we have learned a tremendous amount from the educators who have used the guide.  The revised edition includes new lessons, new twists to old favorites, several rubrics to assess student understanding and field trip effectiveness, and an updated habitat section.

Take your children by the hand and explore the natural areas of our state, from the cracks of a sidewalk to a secluded forest. The New Jersey Audubon Society offers this guide for the seekers, the wonderers, and those who love the earth . . .

. . . As A Group Leader

Each section offers exciting adventures for your youngsters.

  • Make your meetings more fun with creative and educational games that teach children to understand and love the natural world.

. . . As a Teacher of Grades Pre-K through 6

  • Fully developed, interdisciplinary lesson plans with scientific background information.
  • Easy-to-follow motivational activities, procedures, and closing activities that include questions for the students and proposed answers.
  • Questions within the lessons labeled with the applied critical-thinking skills.
  • Worksheets and illustrations for classroom and field trip use with permission to duplicate for student use.
  • Correlation to the NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards.
  • How to go from classroom to outdoor teaching.

. . . As a Parent, Grandparent, or Caregiver

  • Are you looking for something wholesome to do with the children? Does your weekend and holiday time with them have less quality than you would like? Take the New Jersey Audubon Habitat Passport, a New Jersey roadmap, and begin your travels around the state. Your children can earn the NJAS Junior Naturalist Award and the whole family will have fun.

Four books in one! Over 250 pages!

Habitats of New Jersey including vacant lot, field, pond and lake, river and stream, freshwater marsh, cedar swamp, sugar maple/mixed hardwood forest, hemlock forest, northern New Jersey mixed oak forest, hardwood swamp, southern New Jersey oak forest, pine forest, coastal dunes and forest, salt marsh, and beach.

  • Full-page illustration of each habitat by Carol Decker.
  • Narrative description of each habitat with lists of the most common plants and animals.  
  • Directory of over 50 nature centers, parks, and environmental facilities that know about Bridges to the Natural World and will welcome your visit.
  • Habitat Passport -- Earn the New Jersey Audubon Society's Natural Science Award or the Junior Naturalist Award.
  • Click here for a description of the "Urban Neighborhood" habitat (PDF).

Twenty-seven lessons that teach about: habitats, natural communities, ecosystems, human ecological impacts, and stewardship practices. Children learn through simulation, dramatization, exploration, and discovery activities that can be used:

  • In a classroom
  • On school grounds
  • At a scout camp
  • At a birthday party

Click on the following links to download a sample lesson (PDF):


  • Over 25 exciting, easy-to-use activities will help any adult leader:
  • Lead a schoolyard or backyard exploration
  • Use simple natural events and items to stir curiosity, spark imagination, and arouse the children's' sense of wonder.
  • Create an atmosphere that inspires careful behavior while exploring the wonders of nature.
  • Click here for "How to Identify a Bird" (PDF).


This section includes such things as how to conduct an outdoor investigation and how to assess student learning.



For Teachers, Interpretive Naturalists, and Group Leaders

The New Jersey Audubon Society offers teacher education workshops to schools and school districts by appointment.  Every school ground from urban to rural has the potential to be a learning resource for teachers and students. On-site workshops show teachers how to motivate their students by using the immediate school environs. Continued study by students throughout the year will develop their environmental sensitivity as they practice the science process skills and critical thinking skills that are part of Bridges to the Natural World activities. Since the activities are interdisciplinary, workshops are suitable for schools with self-contained classrooms as well as those with departmentalized systems.

If you would like a complete Bridges Workshop it includes the following aspects.  Contact NJAS Department of Education for more information.

  • SCHOOLYARD EVALUATION. A New Jersey Audubon interpretive-naturalist will do a preliminary survey of the grounds available for study. Appropriate activities will be selected to suit the unique circumstances of each site.
  • INTERPRETATION. The teachers will be given an interpretive guided tour of the available study area. Activities for student observation and exploration will be suggested and demonstrated. Descriptions of the tools and materials needed for the activities will be discussed.
  • SCHOOL-SITE LESSONS. Actual activities and simulation from SECTION 2 of Bridges to the Natural World will be implemented with the workshop participants. Teachers will experience the effectiveness of the lessons in the five concept categories: Habitat; natural communities; ecosystems; human ecological impact; and stewardship.
Pat Kane was an elementary school teacher before coming to New Jersey Audubon in 1975. During her tenure she coauthored the original version of  Bridges to the Natural World, developed school and day camp programs as well as professional development programs for teachers.  She advanced to Director of Education and NJAS Vice President for Education. Now retired, she lives with her husband in Stewartsville, New Jersey. 
Dale Rosselet gained experience in elementary education as a science teacher, resource room teacher and classroom teacher before beginning as a teacher naturalist for New Jersey Audubon Society in 1983.  During her tenure she co-authored Bridges to the Natural World and New Jersey WATERS: A Watershed Approach to Teaching the Ecology of Regional Systems.  She is the sole author of Linking Our Treasures, a bilingual student guide about the New Jersey Highlands, Songbirds at the Crossroads of Migration and Fishing for Answers in an Urban Estuary, a cooperative curriculum project done with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.  Dale now serves as NJAS Vice President for Education out of NJAS's Center for Research and Education in Cape May County.
Jerry Schierloh is a retired professor of the School of Conservation, an outreach campus of Montclair University where he taught environmental education for over twenty-five years.  Currently he is an environmental education consultant leading teacher workshops and working with school districts to integrate environmental education into their curricula and implementing a nationwide education reform project entitled "Using the Environment as an Integrating Context for Learning" (EIC). 
  Karl Anderson leads national and international botany and birding tours. He came to New Jersey Audubon in 1975 and served for as the director of the Rancocas Nature Center until 2002.  His great expertise is botany and is co-author of Plant Communities of New Jersey as well as numerous other published natural history articles. Karl is responsible for writing the Habitats of New Jersey section of Bridges to the Natural World.
Carol Decker, Wildlife Artist, sees the life in her subjects and captures it with her brush and pen. "Education is an important part of my work. I want my art to draw the observer into the mood of what's happening. I want people to experience the expectation or peace or apprehension of the captured moment." For forty years this self-taught artist has been sharing her love of the natural world. She painted 75 covers for New Jersey Outdoors, and illustrated five books. His work is recognized by awards and commissions from the National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation Affiliates, Canadian Wildlife Federation, and the Salmagundi Club. The Girl Scouts of America named her 1992 Woman of Distinction, recognizing her as an outstanding role model for young women in the world of the arts and environmental conservation. 

For additional information, call, write or email
NJAS Department of Education
 Center for Research and Education
 600 Route 47 North
 Cape May Court House, NJ  08210
  (609) 861-0700  

New Jersey Audubon Society (NJAS) is a statewide, not-for-profit, membership organization committed to preserving New Jersey's habitats and species biodiversity.  We invite your support through
membership and participation in our programs.