Something special for youth

Buttonwood Nature Center, home of The Institute offers several special programs for children and families, separate from our school programs or summer offerings. Our goal is to keep kids engaged through many different avenues. Check out these possibilities for your next involvement!

In the warm summer months, Summer Programs offer educational and fun activities for kids, too!

Water Striders

Grades 6–12

“Water striders” are insects that skim the surface of pond and stream waters for food. Their feet hold a delicate balance on the water using surface tension to stay afloat. Water Striders are also middle school-aged students in the local area who are fascinated by life in the waters of our local streams and who want to help take care of the Antietam Creek Watershed. Most of them also have a desire to explore the greater watershed all the way to the Chesapeake Bay!

Buttonwood’s after-school program Water Striders offers youth the opportunity to “wade into” creek study and have fun too. Under the supervision of our teaching staff, Striders meet once a month to conduct water quality monitoring tests as part of the Antietam Watershed Association’s stream monitoring program. Striders also check out macroinvertebrates (water critters), participate in other watershed activities, take field trips and enjoy the company of their fellow Striders.

This group holds extra sessions to prepare for public outreach opportunities throughout the year, including a display table for Buttonwood’s Earth Celebration Day in April. Striders engage the public as they explain their exhibit and help people become “watershed aware for watershed care.”

Group size is limited. Contact our Watershed Coordinator, Mary Claire King for availability of openings.

A big thanks to our Water Striders sponsors, The John R. Hershey Jr. and Anna L. Hershey Family Foundation, Sondra Fries, and Jay & Pat Heefner.


Kids in grades K–5

EXPLORE! programs highlight educational and fun outdoor adventures for kids from kindergarten through grade 5. All program activities are outside, and each session features a different theme or topic.

Taught by Buttonwood educators, programs include educational activities related to the season and theme. Students may attend any or all sessions in a series.

The programs are offered seasonally throughout the year—check out our calendar of events, or contact Buttonwood Nature Center by phone at (717) 762-0373 or by email at [email protected] to learn what’s happening.

Coming soon: Group EXPLORE! adventures—check back for more information.


EXPLORE! programs are sponsored by The Anderson Family Fund, in memory of Vida Mae Anderson.

Wee Wonders

Children ages 2.5 to 5

Year-round seasonal series of outdoor nature programs for preschoolers. Designed for children ages 2.5 to 5, the Wee Wonder programs are taught by Buttonwood’s professional educators.

Age-appropriate program activities include exploring the outdoors, hikes, nature stories, rhymes, finger plays, nature games, nature-related arts and crafts, and puppets.


Wee Wonder programs are sponsored by Diana Dale, in memory of Mary Ann Payne and Helen Herr Moyer.

StoryWalk® Sundays

Children from Pre-K & Up

Free guided excursions on the second Sunday of select months along the StoryWalk® trail at Pine Hill Recreation Area for children.

With changing story books, kids join a fun guided walk along the story trail as they read the book together, then make a special related craft project to take home. All families are welcome, but activities are geared for preschool and elementary age kids.


StoryWalk® is underwritten by Julia Dawson and Kathy Helfrick.

Pine Hill’s StoryWalk® trail, a Buttonwood Nature Center/Institute project, was funded in part by Summit Endowment, Marge Kiersz and Rouzerville Business Association, with in-kind support from Washington Township, Hopewell Manufacturing, Waynesboro Area School District “Be the Village,” and Alexander Hamilton Memorial Free Library.

The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library.
StoryWalk® is a registered service mark owned by Ms. Ferguson.

Water Striders use a kick net to investigate creek life.
Fort building during an Institute EXPLORE! program.
Investigating a cicada on a tree during a Wee Wonders program.
A StoryWalk® Sundays group enjoys a book along the story trail.