Great Backyard Pursuit Clues

Our 15th Annual No Child Left Inside® Great Backyard Pursuit ("GBP"): CT State Parks Adventure begins on Saturday May 9, 2020 and ends on Saturday June 20, 2020, with 7 weekends of adventures having fun with your family exploring and playing outside in your local community while photo journaling.   We invite our families to take part in all adventures in their yards, backyards, local park, forest or trail or in local open space areas. Registered families participating in the GBP will be provided with an email on Thursday of each week providing details of the weekends activities and theme.  This same information will also be posted on the DEEP State Parks Facebook page as well as this page  (Great Backyard Pursuit Clues page).

We encourage families to register.  However, even if you aren't registered, you are still welcome to take part in the weekend activities but will not be eligible for a prize.  

By 9 am on Thursday of each week, The Great Backyard Pursuit Clues page of the No Child Left Inside® website will be updated so that families can find detailed information about the upcoming weekend activities.

Participant information/instructions to get started:

1.  Families/Teams register for the Great Backyard Pursuit.

2.  Registered Families/Teams complete the activities as outlined each week (below) in their yard, backyard, local park, trail or forest, or open space areas.  Please note that within each week there are embedded links for suggesting readings as well as for the activities. 

3.  Registered Families/Teams document their activities by photo journaling.

4.  Registered Families/Teams must submit the weekly required photographs to the following email address: and must provide their Family/Team name used during registration to receive credit. 

5.  Families/Teams can also post photographs using the following hashtag #CTNCLI. 

6.  Families/Teams can find information posted on this page every Thursday regarding the upcoming GBP weekend activities. 

7.  Families/Teams can visit the DEEP State Parks Facebook page every Thursday for information regarding the upcoming GBP weekend activities.  

8.  Those Registered Families/Teams that participate in at least 4 of the 7 weekends of GBP adventures AND submit the required photos, will be eligible for a prize.   

9.  All materials needed for the Great Backyard Pursuit weekly adventures can be found inside your home, outside in your yard, backyard, neighborhood, local park, forest or trail or in open spaces areas.  If necessary, supplies can be purchased inexpensively from any local discount store. 

Don't forget to check out the weekly Great Backyard Pursuit videos that are posted on the bottom of the Great Backyard Pursuit Main Page 

Weekend 1 is May 9, 2020 : Find Art of Nature

Before you start, read the No Child Left Inside® Mission Statement since we will be introducing your family to the wonder of nature through the Great Backyard Pursuit. As your family is participating in the 7 weekends of adventures, think about the ten (10) components of the pledge. 

Suggested Readings for Families/Teams

Anywhere Artist by Nikki Slade Robinson

The Day I Met My Shadow by Melissa Brun

Sky Tree by Thomas Locker

For Weekend 1, families should explore their yard and neighborhood and look for color, signs of Spring, shapes, leaves, rocks, shadows, clouds, trees, wildlife, and/or anything else your family finds interesting.  Take time to stop and smell the flowers, listen to the sounds around you and enjoy Natures' art.  Use your hands and natures' tools to create something beautiful.  

Materials List: phone/ipad/computer; small cup of water; small toys, elastic bands; paper clips, string, natural materials collected from outside (examples-mud, berries, flowers, leaves, sticks, acorns, grass, soil); washable paint; markers, crayons, or colored pencils; paper 


  • Complete the art activities: 1) Natures' Paintbrushes and Painting with Natural Materials and  2) Art with Rocks with your Family/Team.  Create your paintbrushes and paint, then use both to paint/decorate your rock masterpieces.  Be sure to submit a photograph that shows your painting tools/paint as well as your colorful rock(s).
  • Shadow Drawings inside or outside: Have fun choosing toys or any objects outside (examples-trees, flowers, yourself or a family member), and trace what you see.  Then color or decorate it.  Be sure to submit a photograph of your favorite shadow drawing(s).

Don't forget to send in your photos from Weekend 1 to to receive credit.

Weekend 2 is  May 16, 2020 : Go Outside and Play  

Suggested Readings for Families/Teams

Are You Ready to Play Outside by Mo Willems (English version, Spanish version)

Run Wild by David Covell

You're Missing It by Brody Smith and Tiffany Thiessen

For weekend 2, head outside with your Family/Team for some fresh air and enjoy an outdoor activity that gets you moving and having fun together.  During the day, take a family bike ride or a walk, or play a family game/sport outside and then come back and relax and look up at the clouds in the sky.  What do you see? At night, head back outside and take a look at the night sky and the stars.  Do you see the moon and the stars?  Lie flat in the grass, or bring towels, blankets and pillows outside and put them on the ground when viewing the sky during the day and at night.  As a Family/Team lie down and look up.  Talk to each other about what you see.  Make a telescope to help you focus on the stars and nighttime clouds.

Materials List:  Digital device (computer, ipad/tablet, or cell phone); bike, scooter, skate board, helmet, sturdy shoes, towel, blanket, pillow, scissors, tape, crayons, markers, 2 paper towel tubes and 2 convex lenses (or a pair of old glasses-enough to make 1 telescope), any type of sports equipment, any materials needed for games.     


  • While on your bike ride or walk, or playing an outdoor game/sport, be sure to take a family/team selfie.  
  • Take photos of the sky and clouds that you see as well as the night sky and stars.  Please note that if it is clear this weekend, you should be able to see Neptune, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.  
  • Submit two (2) photos of your choice from your time outside to: 

Don't forget to send in your photos from Weekend 2 to to receive credit.

Weekend 3 is May 23, 2020 : Let's Discover and Learn about CT's Wildlife Species

Suggested Readings for Families/Teams:

Hey Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose


Secret Place by Eve Bunting


Flutes Journey by Lynne Cherry


Head outside in your yard, neighborhood, local forest, park or trail and identify and document signs of wildlife in your yard. Look up in trees for birds and other animals, and on the ground and sidewalk; look under tree stumps and rocks to see what you might find.    Be sure to notice several different animals and the various habitats that they live in.  You can also use iNaturalist to identify everything you see.  As you are out searching for wildlife, be sure to keep a safe distance.  Should you have questions about the mammals, birds and reptiles that you may come across, visit the DEEP Wildlife Fact Sheets .  Visit the Just for Kids section of the DEEP Wildlife page for educational pages with activities, fun facts, and even some coloring pages for kids and families to learn about wildlife together.


Materials List:  Digital device (computer, ipad/tablet, or cell phone); paper, crayons, markers, any materials needed for participating in 25 Wildlife Activities You Can do at Home



  • Complete 2 activities (i.e. word scramble, coloring page, fill in the blank, etc.) in the Explore Connecticut’s Wildlife at Sessions Woods booklet and submit a photograph showing the completed activities.  My families favorite pages of the booklet were pages 8 and 9 (Bears) and page 23 (Turtles).  Our neighbors recently had some bears visit their backyard and another neighbor found a turtle in the stream behind her house. 
  • Visit the 25 Wildlife Activities You Can do at Home on the DEEP website.  Pick one activity from the list to do as a family.  Please submit a photograph of your family participating in the activity you choose. Over the weekend, my daughter Kaylee and I used iNaturalist in our yard and neighborhood and started a nature journal.  We specifically used Activity 10 and Activity 13 from the list.  She loved exploring and learning.   

Bonus activity for more family fun:  Visit author David Allen Sibley (Sibley Guide to Birds) on You Tube and learn how to draw several bird species:  a Chickadee, Owl, Osprey, Bald Eagle or Great Blue Heron.    

Week 4 is May 30, 2020 : Virtual Outdoor Time:   Try some new and exciting “virtual” opportunities with on-line experiences and outdoor adventures with our CT DEEP State Parks Education & Outreach team.   Since our CT DEEP Nature Centers and Museums are currently closed, please visit the 7 locations virtually and connect to nature and our parks/forestsOur team has done a wonderful job putting together all of these on-line educational resources for our families and educators to experience the outdoors in a virtual way.  A huge Thank You to my colleagues for allowing our Great Backyard Pursuit families the opportunity to participate as well:  Micheal P. Ross-Education Director at Dinosaur State Park, Beth Bernard-Education Director at Goodwin Conservation Center, Susan Quincy-Environmental Education Specialist at Kellogg Environmental Center, Susan Robinson-Environmental Educator at Osborne Homestead Museum, Russ Miller “aka Ranger Russ”-Education Specialist at Meigs Point Nature Center, Alan Levere-Parks Historian/Supervisor, and Lori Brant-Education and Outreach Assistant Director.   

Suggested Reading for Families/Teams:


Listen to the Noisy Frog Sing Along Read Aloud with Connecticut author and illustrator John Himmelman


Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner


In the Woods: Who’s Been Here? by Lindsey Barrett George, Author and Illustrator


Some Smug Slug  by Pamela Duncan Edwards and Illustrated by Henry Cole

The World of Dinosaurs Big and Small by Maya Ray

Materials List:  Digital device (computer, ipad, tablet, or cell phone), any materials needed for Family Outdoor Activities (see #3 below-ruler, measuring tape, paper crayons, markers, scissors, cups, binoculars)



  • Visit the Meigs Point Nature Center and its Virtual Learning Center.  Join Ranger Russ for a facebook live program during the week, Tuesday through Friday, 11 am for Live Animals and 2pm for an Environmental Experience or watch one of the archived programs.  Feel free to send Ranger Russ questions about the animal or experience you are watching.   Send us a photo of your family taking part in one of Ranger Russ’ live programs.   
  • Kellogg Environmental Center – visit the website, learn about the center and its offerings, then use one of the bingo boards What Flew By Bingo or Forest Floor Bingo to go outside and take a photo of one of the items you find in your yard or neighborhood that is on the bingo board.  Send in the photo you take.  
  • CT State Parks History Tour–watch and listen to a narrated presentation of the History of CT State Parks featuring interesting facts and photographs.  Send us a photograph of your families or teams favorite park in CT (local or state).

Pick from two of the virtual learning categories options above, participate in the on-line program/game/offerings, etc. and then submit photographs as described.

For this week’s video, my daughter Kaylee and I will be exploring our neighborhood and local trail using the bingo boards mentioned in bullet #4 above.  While we are outside, we will also be participating in one of the In Your Own Backyard activities mentioned in bullet #3 above. 

Week 5: Hiking the Trails in CT. CT Trails Day 2020 is a DIY (Do It Yourself)  Event this year on June 6th and June 7th, 2020 since we are unable to gather in groups due to COVID-19.  Take a walk in your neighborhood/yard; or hike on your favorite trail, land trust property, open space area or at your local park. Enjoy the adventure by finding the perfect walking stick, and enjoying all that nature has to offer. Be sure to be prepared for your hike by bringing water, snacks, sun tan lotion and bug spray (read the labels before applying the sunscreen and/or bug spray).  Also visit the Hiker Resources page to learn how to use the trails, plan for your outing, and have a successful trail adventure. Most of all-Just have fun and be safe out on the trails!  

Suggested Readings for Families/Teams:

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen Illustrated by John Schoenherr

Curious George Goes Hiking by Margaret and H.A. Reys

Cloud Dance by Thomas Locker

Stickeen: John Muir and The Brave Little Dog as retold by Donnell Rubay

Materials List:  Digital device (computer, ipad, tablet, or cell phone), any materials needed for hiking (sturdy footwear, backpack/bag, bug spray, suntan lotion, snacks, water, and anything else you would need after reviewing the Be Prepared section above, and anything else you would like to bring with you hiking)


  1. While taking a walk in the neighborhood, or a hike out on a trail make a game of it.   
  2. Before heading out, watch the video regarding walking sticks.Be sure to find the perfect walking stick while you are out on your walk or hike exploring.
  3. Before heading out on a trail, learn how to read a trail map for the area/trail you plan to visit close to home.  Once your family/team chooses the trail, be sure to find the map for the location.
  4. Choose a local park/trail, CT Trails Day hike listing, land trust property, CT Rail Trail, CT State Parks and Forests trail or CFPA blue blazed trails from the attached links.  Come up with a plan with your family/team and do some homework in advance of heading out, to find a safe location that allows for proper social distancing.  
  5. Take a look at some video postcards from the Trails Day Hike Leaders.  These leaders have taken the time to tell you a bit more about featured trails they enjoy and want to share this information with you for CT Trails Day.  Check out their video postcards and learn the back story and highlights of these great places from the folks who know them best.

Share with us the location for your walk or hike and submit two photographs of your family hiking or walking.   

There are a number of hikes for CT Trails Day that are Great Park Pursuit sponsored events.  When visiting the listing of hikes, look for the Great Park Pursuit Event icon.  A heartfelt Thank you to Connecticut Forest & Park Association ("CFPA") (specifically Chuck Toal, Claire Cain, and Eric Hammerling) for allowing hike leaders to sponsor hikes for our program.

Kaylee and I will be visiting several trails over Trails Day Weekend.  There are so many great locations to choose from.  We plan to stay close to home , so will likely be visiting Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area in Burlington, CT; Shade Swamp Sanctuary in Farmington, CT (Blue Trail and White Trail); and Barnes Nature Center Trails (Environmental Learning Centers of CT in Bristol, CT) and a portion of the Farmington Canal Trail.  Wishing all of the Great Backyard Pursuit Families Happy Trails!

Please be sure to submit your families photographs with Team Name from Weekend 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 to the following email: to receive credit. 

The Great Backyard Pursuit weekly information has been translated into Spanish for our families.  Please visit the following: (Gran búsqueda en el Patio) - Nuestra actualización semanal se traducirá al español para nuestras familias bilingües de habla hispana.

Please keep a look out on our website as well as on the CT DEEP State Parks Facebook page weekly for our squirrel mascots - Nuts 2 and Nuts Jr. to see what they are up to and what information they have to share with our Great Backyard Pursuit families. 

For more information contact: 
Kristen Bellantuono

Nuts 2 with NCLI sign 
Nuts Jr. pic