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!

Week 6 is June 13, 2020 : Let's Try a Water Adventure

Now that it is starting to warm up outside, take part in an activity or program with your family involving water such as water-related games and programs, fishing, swimming, or boating. These activities will get your family outside and active.  Take time to try something new with your family.  Be safe and have fun while enjoying your time in or near the water!  


COVID-19 Related Tips: Recreational boating is open in CT waters for outdoor recreational enjoyment.  Please be sure as a boater that you maintain the proper 6’ of social distancing. CT State Park inland swimming locations are currently closed, while many shoreline beaches do allow for swimming.  Please be aware that lifeguards may or may not be on duty.  Visitors to Connecticut’s beaches and lakefront swim areas will experience reduced access this season because of COVID-19 precautions.  Please visit the Connecticut Waterfront Updates site before heading out to public swim areas.  This website provides information on the status of swimming areas throughout the state to help you plan ahead. Please note that information is updated frequently but may not reflect all daily capacity closures, so it’s best to check local sources of information to confirm whether a location is open on a given day.


Suggested Readings for Families:

A Drop Around the World by Barbara Shaw McKinney and Illustrated by Michael S. Maydak

In One Tidepool: Crabs, Snails, & Salty Trails by Anthony D. Fredericks

Not Quite Narwal(with ASL) by Jessie Sima  

Water is Water by Miranda Paul

The Adventure of Owlie Skywarn and Sanctuary Sam

Materials List:  Digital device (computer, ipad, tablet, or cell phone), bathing suit, towel, sunscreen, bug spray, water, snacks, life jacket/Personal flotation device (PFD),fishing pole/bait/lure, items needed to make twig boats #1 below (items found outside in your yard like twigs, grass, flowers), items needed for Project Wet #1 below (play games and click links for materials needed), items needed for Project Wild #2 below (clink links for material needed)  for Got Water and Fashion a Fish, craft supplies and art supplies) and items needed for water games #5b below (water balloons, sponges, bucket/bowls, paper cups).

Activities: Below are a number of water related ideas/activities/programs for your family to participate in.  Feel free to take part in some or all of them. 


1)  Project WET (Water Education Today) Activities- What does the role of water play in our lives?  Take part in a variety of fun, and educational activities to find out more about water in our world.  Take part in backyard water investigations and challenges using H2O Olympics offered by Project WET.  Download a free copy of the activity using this link,   A Spanish version is provided here for home use.  Other free resources are available using this link as well.  For some water fun online you can also enjoy  to learn about the role of water in our environment an our lives.


2) Project Wild Activities – Project WILD's mission is to provide wildlife-based conservation and environmental education that fosters responsible actions toward wildlife and related natural resources.  Visit the WILD About Remote Learning pages for educators and parents and take part in a variety of activities  relating to water. and


3) Boating

  1. Try a boating activity (canoe, kayak, paddleboard).  If you are paddling in CT, be sure to Take the Free Paddle Sports Safety Course.  This is a comprehensive canoe, kayak, and paddleboard safety course.

  2. Before heading out onto the water,  please visit the link to the Connecticut Boaters Guide for useful information.  Be sure to wear your life jacket/personal flotation device (PFD).

  3. Watch the JR Boater videos for some distance learning  about safe boating.  These videos are geared towards middle and high school students, but all the family can enjoy together.  Visit the other DEEP Boating Education pages to discover more.

  4. Learn about weather and tides from the National Weather Service Education and Outreach site.  Have fun while learning Science and Safety with the National Weather Service Education and Outreach mascot Owlie Skywan.   

  5. How to make a twig boat.  Be creative with the family and make your own boat out of materials you find in your backyard or neighborhood.  Use your sink, bathtub, kiddie pool, or local stream to see how well your boat floats. 

    4) Fishing 

  1. Learn to fish with Connecticut Aquatic Resources Education (CARE) with the Introduction to Fishing CourseThe topics covered in this course can be found in our Connecticut-specific "Let's Go Fishing!" student workbook and include:  fishing tackle, knots, responsible and ethical angling, going fishing, fish identification, baits and lures, care for the catch and casting. 

  2. Get a free YOUth Fishing Passport for those 16 years and under.  Sign-up today!  The YOUth Fishing Passport is your invitation to many great fishing destinations in Connecticut.  Fishing Challenge - Try to catch at least one of every type of fish on the official list.  Catch the most and be recognized at the Annual Trophy Fish Award Ceremony.

  3. Watch one or several fishing videos:  learn how to fish; filet a fish or the CT Trout Park Tutorial.  Be sure those in your family over the age of 16 have their fishing license and adhere to all fishing regulations. Use the Fishing Guide (formerly known as the Angler’s Guide) to learn more about fishing, fish species, locations to fish, etc.    Then head out on your fishing adventure with the family. 

  4.  How to Play Go Fish!  Play the card game with your family inside on a rainy day or outside in the yard.

    5) Swimming and Water Safety go hand in hand

  5. a)  Swimming and water safety-visit your favorite local swimming location or your backyard pool and enjoy the time spent with your family/team.  Please be safe by the water and don’t forget your sunscreen    


    b)  Play some fun games together as a family using water. 

Please choose from the list of 5 options above and share two photos of your family taking part in the water related activities described.

For Weekend 6 Kaylee and I will be visiting the shoreline in Guilford, CT with our family to beachcomb, look for horseshoe crabs and take the kayaks out.  We wish all of the Great Backyard Pursuit families a great weekend taking part in a variety of water adventures.


Weekend 7 is June 20, 2020 : Let’s Camp-in or Camp-out-Gather the family together to unplug, recharge and reconnect with a camping adventure inside your house or in your own yard/backyard.  Since all of the Great Backyard Pursuit Families are unable to gather together for our yearly Campout in a CT State Park or Forest due to COVID-19 and the inability to gather in large groups, we are asking our families to be part of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great American CampoutBy visiting the National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Campout site, you will find valuable resources for camping as well as everything you will need to know to turn the event into one your family will never forget by camping-in or camping-out at home.


Suggested Readings for Families/Teams:

Joyful Noise by Paul Fleichman


What’s in the Garden by Marianne Berkes


Fire Safety with Smokey Bear


S is for S’mores-A Camping Alphabet Read Aloud by Helen Foster James and illustrated by Lita Judge


Materials List:  Digital device (computer, ipad/tablet, or cell phone); paper, crayons, markers, any materials needed for your camping experience (tent, sleeping bags, flashlight, lantern, firepit, etc.); or craft/art materials needed for the camping themed activities and crafts.



  1. We are asking all of our GBP families to camp-in or camp-out in your house or in your own yard/backyard this weekend by taking part in the Great American Campout.  Visit the camping checklist to get an idea of what you might need for a wonderful camping experience.  

  2. While spending time together camping, visit the kids activities section of the Great American Campout for fun camping themed activities and crafts. 

  3. Visit the I Spy camping page, print it out and see how quickly your family/team can complete it. 

  4. Play a game called Flashlight Foraging: Someone hides a small trinket or toy somewhere in the yard or backyard, then, when it starts getting dark, everybody goes on a hunt to find the item. The hider may need to give people a hint for where to look, but they’ll love scavenging to find the treasure! 

  5. Campfire Stories: What’s a campfire without gathering around for some storytelling? Start with spooky stories with an eerie flashlight glow illuminating your face. Or tell a story in-the-round, where each person takes turns to build upon the story as it goes. (Get ready for giggles!)

  6. After you are done telling campfire stories, look up into the night sky and stargaze.  (Fun fact:  On Saturday, June 20 at 5:54 p.m. EDT, or 21:44 GMT, the sun will reach its northernmost declination for the year, resulting in the longest daylight hours of the year for the Northern Hemisphere and the shortest daylight hours of the year for the Southern Hemisphere. The solstice marks the beginning of the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere, and winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Cited from


    A must have for every camping trip is a S'mores- which you can make indoors or outside.  Please take a photo of your families fabulous S’mores creation (or other campfire dessert of your choosing and let us know what it is) and share it with us. 


    Send us a photograph of your indoor or outdoor “camp” that your family sets up.  

Bonus Week 8 is June 27, 2020: Virtual Learning with our No Child Left Inside Collaborators and Partners-Should your family wish to dive deeper into virtual learning, feel free to participate in or watch instructional videos, on-line programs, learn new skills, learn about what each group does or provides, or take a virtual tour from some our Great Park Pursuit Collaborators/Groups and Partners.  A Great Big Thank You to these collaborators, groups, and partners that have been part of our programs in one form or another over the years:


Connecticut Aquatic Resources Education (CARE)

Connecticut Forest and Park Association

Connecticut Sea Kayakers

Connecticut’s Conservation Education/Firearms Safety Program

CT DEEP Boating

CT DEEP Wildlife Division

CT Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Aquaculture

CT Horse Council, Inc.

CT Seagrant

CT Valley Siberian Husky Club

CT DEEP Environmental Conservation Police

DEEP Forestry Division

Environmental Learning Centers of CT

Friends of American Legion and Peoples State Forests

Friends of Connecticut State Parks

Girls Scouts of CT 

Girl Scouts of CT Family Opportunities

Kevin Estela Wilderness Education

LL Bean Outdoor Discovery Programs

LL Bean Outside

Morsel Munk


Reach Your Summit    

Resources in Search and Rescue

The Institute for American Indian Studies

Torrington Fire Department

Torrington Police Department

Torrington Parks & Recreation Department

Torrington Trails Network

Torrington Police Activities League

White Memorial Conservation Center

Master Wildlife Conservationists

Suggested Family Readings

For this week, we are asking families to sit down together and read about the collaborators, groups and partners above that have been part of our programs.  

Materials List: Phone, Ipad or computer


Look through the list of collaborators, groups, and partners, above.   As a family, please visit at least 5 of the links above.  In an email to; please do the following:

  1.  Tell us why you visited the sites you did. 

  2.  Tell us something that your family learned by visiting the links.

  3.  Send us a Week 8 Family/Team selfie to end the Great Backyard Pursuit Program. 

  4.  Tell us what you liked BEST about the Great Backyard Pursuit Program.

Please be sure to submit your families photographs with Team Name from Weekends 1 through 7 to by June 27, 2020 to receive credit. Registered families that have completed 4 of the 7 weeks of Great Backyard Pursuit Adventures and have submitted their required photographs by June 27, 2020 will be eligible for a GBP prize.   

Please note that Weekend 7 was the last official date scheduled for the Great Backyard Pursuit Program.  Bonus Week 8 does not count towards families qualifying for prizes.  This week is an extra week for our families to continue having fun together while getting outside.  

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