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At-home EcoQuest

As an EcoExplorer, your child will carry out simple, fun EcoChallenges that will guide them in completing their EcoQuest. For every completed EcoChallenge, your child earns a badge!


Discover ecology in your backyard!

Our EcoQuest Zoom sessions filled fast*, but materials are available to help students earn EcoQuest badges independently.

  • Download the free EcoQuest activity booklet and work through EcoChallenges at your own pace. You can earn badges to be mailed to your home. 
  • Have questions about the activities? Our educators are available to assist. Email Ashley Alred at alreda@caryinstitute.org for support and to receive badges. 
  • *To be added to the waitlist for weekly Zoom meetings with EcoQuest program instructors, please email Ashley Alred at alreda@caryinstitute.org. You will be notified by Friday, July 17 if space becomes available. 

Join us on an EcoQuest this summer to uncover the secret ecosystem where you live! How many different organisms live all around you, and what in the world are they eating? Learn how to use ecological tools to understand these fascinating consumers and their bizarre eating habits in your home ecosystem.

The Cary EcoQuest program gets children connected to nature with activities that are straightforward, accessible, and accomplished with minimal parental assistance. It will spark children’s curiosity about the local ecosystem that exists right where they live, instill confidence in their skills to think and explore like an ecologist, and prepare them for future science investigations back in the classroom and beyond. 

The EcoQuest summer program will run for 6 weeks, from July 13th through August 21st. Your child can work at their own pace to achieve badges - and can even continue their EcoQuest after the summer program concludes. 

Registration deadline: July 10, 2020

How the EcoQuest Badges program works

EcoExplorers will carry out investigations outside of their homes to learn ecology the way scientists at Cary do. The goal of this program is for kids to learn all they can about the ecosystem that exists in the natural space outside their homes, such as a backyard, potted plants on a patio, whatever green space may be available!  They will keep a personal nature journal, collect insects, fungi and plants, participate in citizen science projects, set up experiments, and try their hand at being eco-educators and eco-artists. 

To complete this EcoQuest, your child must complete a series of EcoChallenges for which they will receive fun metal button badges. We would love to see these badges on backpacks, hats or tee-shirts at future Cary camps!

The week before the program begins, you will receive an email with a list of basic materials found around the home that will aid children in their outdoor investigations, as well as a PDF of the EcoQuest Activity Booklet, which has all the necessary instructions to complete the EcoQuest. If you register by Wednesday, July 8th, you will receive a hard copy of the EcoQuest Activity Booklet and some surprise investigation tools in the mail during the first week of the program (July 13-17)!

After July 8th, your kit may arrive during the second week or later. There will be two parent/guardian orientations scheduled via Zoom to provide an interactive introduction and space to ask questions.

In addition to the EcoQuest activity booklet, we are providing online enrichment activities as a supplement, which are optional but will add even more fun to the program! Each week, we will provide a structured focus for each badge for families who would like to take that approach. 

child field collecting
EcoExplorers will carry out investigations outside of their homes such as a backyard, potted plants on a patio, or whatever green space may be available.

Who can participate?

Cary EcoQuest is recommended for children entering grades 2-7. We have suggested participation levels:

  • Junior EcoExplorer (suggested for grades 2-3): To complete the EcoQuest at the Junior EcoExplorer level, participants must complete three EcoChallenge badges.
  • Senior EcoExplorer (suggested for grades 4-7): To complete the EcoQuest at the Senior EcoExplorer level, participants must complete all five EcoChallenge badges.

What is the time commitment? 

This program is flexible and your child can work at their own pace to achieve badges - they can do activities for an hour each day or longer, complete a badge within one week or spread it out over multiple weeks. They can even continue their EcoQuest after the summer program concludes!

Optional—yet encouraged!—Online Activities

For added support, we are offering themed guidance and activities that align with a specific badge each week through the program. Although screen time is not absolutely required to complete the EcoChallenges, we do recommend at least minimal participation in our online enrichment opportunities—like being part of an EcoQuest Crew—because they allow participants to connect with Cary Educators and fellow EcoExplorers.

For those interested in being part of an EcoQuest Crew, there will be virtual get-togethers each week of no more than 45 minutes for EcoExplorers in each of three age bands - entering grades 2-3, 4-5, 6-7. These sessions will invite EcoExplorers to share their discoveries, get to know each other and the educators, and receive encouragement and guidance on their path to completing the EcoQuest. 

The online get-togethers are on a drop-in basis each week, though full participation is encouraged. At registration, please indicate if you would like your child to participate. We would like the EcoQuest Crews to be consistent groups where children become familiar and comfortable with each other and with the leaders through the six weeks.

EcoQuest Educators will also be online for Quest Questions “office hours” at designated times each week for any EcoExplorer to drop in for help, encouragement, or just to say hello! Additionally, we will offer a few weekly enrichment activities such as fun crafts, scavenger hunts, and games.

We will be using Zoom as our communication platform and Padlet as the platform to post weekly activities and discoveries. Both are private platforms that are free and simple to use, and will only be used by the EcoQuest program participants. As an alternative to using the internet for EcoExplorer feedback, we are happy to share a phone number to communicate directly with one of the program leaders during designated weekly Quest Questions times.

Program Leaders

The EcoQuest Program will be led by Ashley Alred, Amelia Goldstein and Shelly Forster, with the assistance of high school Eco-Leaders from prior Cary EcoDiscovery Camps.