How to collect your nature items…
We recommend as much as possible not to disturb the wildlife and to choose items that have already fallen from trees, been left behind by animals, or are in abundance. You can collect your items in a basket or loose backpack or bag for safekeeping until you get home. Your nature items can be collected on any nature outing your family goes on whether in your own backyard, on a trail, while on vacation, in a park, or wherever your family enjoys spending time outdoors.
Always follow the rules of any state or national park or any park as far as collecting nature items from their property. Most state and national parks do not allow items to be taken at all from their parks and other private parks may have restrictions as well so please be a good citizen and follow their rules.
We also recommend looking up each item your family finds in field guides as you observe to determine its exact name and then write it down with any other pertinent information so that you can not only learn more together as a family but be able to share about your treasures with your pen pals.
How to set up your package for mailing…
Everyone is responsible for their own shipping expenses. You will need to store your nature items in the compartments of an egg carton to send to your pen pals. With having 12 compartments for a standard egg carton, you could send your pen pals 12 different items. Or if you’d like you could send them in an 18 count egg carton or a couple of different 12 count cartons. There really is no limit to how much you would like to send your pen pals, however, we recommend sending one 12-count carton to save on space for packaging and money.
After placing each item into your egg carton, you will need to cover everything with a few layers of paper towels. Then label the inside lid/cover of your egg carton with the names of each item within. A great way to do this is to trace around the lid of the egg carton and then cut around the tracing to create an insert that would act as a “key” to your nature carton writing out the names of each item in your carton in the exact position that you place each of them in their compartments.
Some additional items may not fit in your carton compartments such as a feather or leaf. You could store these separately from your carton or fit them on top of your layer of paper towels with labels attached to them. If you are sending one 12-count egg carton, you should be able to fit this inside a large bubble mailer. If you are sending more than 1 carton, you can send everything in a box.
The safety of the local ecology…
When you mail your nature items, please keep the following things in mind to ensure the safety of the local ecology:
- Always contact your local DNR or the USDA before shipping items. Some items could be considered invasive species and could be harmful to the ecology of your area. If you find that an item is invasive to the area where you are shipping, please don’t send it.
- If you receive seeds, do not plant them.
- Press and dry flowers before shipping as this will help to keep them from breaking and keep their colors vibrant.
- If you plan to ship seeds, you can sterilize them by putting them in a paper bag and baking them on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.
- After you have enjoyed your nature pen pal package contents, dispose of them by burning. If your family is like ours, you may not get rid of your nature treasures from your pen pals for a very long time if at all. But if you decide to be done with enjoying them, please burn what you can.
There are so many different ways to personalize your packages for your pen pals and make them even more fun and special. These are totally optional but here is a list for those that would like to add some of these elements to their package.
- Decorating your egg carton and/or package (painting, coloring, drawing, stickers…)
- Adding in a postcard from the area your family is from with a little note about your family and area
- Adding in a family photo
- Making a watercolor painting or drawing (could be of some of the items sent or something else in nature in your area)
- Sending a nature book to enjoy as a family
- Sending any other nature printouts that your family loves to use or maybe that your family created
- Adding in a nature poem that your family loves with possibly a drawing/s to go with it.
Again, these are just some optional ideas to add to your packages if you’d like but they are fun and our family really enjoyed doing some of them in our past exchanges with other families.