Stone Harbor, NJ – For the summer of 2020, The Wetlands Institute launched an exciting new nature discovery experience – the Summer Nature Program Adventure Chest. An adaptation of its popular and much-loved Summer Nature Program, the once-weekly Adventure Chests provide nature explorers aged 4-13 the Institute’s traditional Summer Nature Program experience right in their own backyards.

Summer Nature Program Adventure Chests are one component of a larger effort to rework the Institute’s visitor and formal education programs. Dubbed the Virtual Wetlands Experience, the goal is to inspire and foster a new virtual connection to the natural world. It is a first step in addressing the changing landscape of environmental education, and the Adventure Chests play a critical role in this effort.

“Making outdoor and environmental education impactful and real relies on the interaction of participant, educator, and outdoor experience,” said Brooke Knapick, Director of Educational Program Development at The Wetlands Institute. “They work together to create a genuine human connection to the environment. Replicating this exact emotional and experiential connection might not be possible, but innovating and creating an entirely new and equally profound virtual connection is.”

Traditionally, the core of the Institute’s Summer Nature Program is full-immersion science exploration. Though the current situation has forced the Institute to cancel the in-person component of the program, Summer Nature Program Adventure Chests preserve the heart of the experience, and provide parents an ideal way to explore nature with their children.

“One of the most important components of our mission is helping people connect to nature,” said Dr. Lenore Tedesco, The Wetlands Institute’s Executive Director. “This summer, we wanted to be sure to continue to provide the opportunity for these connections that are so enriching. We are pleased to be open for visitors again and hope that families can explore the wonders of our coastal environment with visits and self-guided exploration.”

“We hold strong to the notion that children need nature, and nature needs children,” said Knapick. “Summer Nature Program is about exploration and discovery, the warmth of the sun, the saltiness of the breeze, the smell and feel of the salt marsh, and the joy of being outdoors. It is at the heart of what we do, and while our in-person Summer Nature Program is canceled, the Summer Nature Program experience is not.”

The new Summer Nature Program runs through Wednesday, August 26. Two Adventure Chests are available each week: one for younger children ages 4-7 and one for older children ages 8-13. Each Summer Nature Program Adventure Chest holds everything kids need to explore the week’s theme. Adventure Chests are available for curbside pick-up at The Wetlands Institute or can be shipped right to your door. More information is available at