By Micaela Williamson
Rust Nature Sanctuary in Leesburg is a lush, 68-acre reserve rich with meadows, forests, ponds and even a sandpit for toddlers to play in. Part of the Audubon Naturalist Society, Rust Nature Sanctuary boasts many unique programs that offer families exciting chances to experience nature.
New this year at Rust is the Fresh Air Kids program for children ages five and younger. Naturalist Susanne Ortmann was inspired by the forest kindergarten model in Germany and Scandinavian countries and designed the Fresh Air Kids curriculum to reflect the fact that children are born naturalists. This brand new series will build on children’s inherent curiosity about the world by using hands-on, nature-based activities to foster social, physical and academic skills development. The class meets weekly and involves crafts, songs, books and always a hike.
Other family friendly programs at Rust Nature Sanctuary include the Unplug and Play Afterschool program, nature programs for scouts, regularly-scheduled special family events and the very popular summer camp hosted at both the Rust Sanctuary and Broadlands Nature center locations.
“We are a throwback outdoor summer camp: we’re outdoors, playing games, walking in the woods,” says camp director Karen Vernon. “But the magic climbing over fallen logs or finding a salamander under the leaves unlocks for our campers is transformative, like only experiences in nature can be.”
Birthday parties are also big at Rust Nature Sanctuary. Ranging from worms to ponds to reptiles, there are seven year-round themes for eco-friendly kids to choose from. The parties are lead by an experienced naturalist and include hikes, crafts, and games.
“Come and enjoy the Rust Nature Sanctuary anytime from dawn to dusk, seven days a week, every day of the year. Bring your binoculars, camera, and a picnic lunch. Take photographs, and leave with pleasant memories and plans to return again and again,” claims the official website.
NoVA families should take advantage of this great natural gem and see what they can discover together in nature.
Audubon Naturalist Society-Rust Nature Sanctuary
802 Children’s Center Road
Leesburg, 20175; 703-669-0000
Micaela Williamson is a co-author of local travel guide, Kid Trips Northern Virginia, an extraordinary resource that provides descriptions, useful information and insider tips for hundreds of local destinations. Micaela is also an award winning blogger who enjoys supporting area businesses and scouting out family-friendly venues with her two young sons.