Key West Botanical Garden making Easter educational

A group of young children sitting next to a child - Tree
Heidi Seidel led an experiment for these Reynolds School students to discover what foods would attract the most ants – pretzels, grated parmesan cheese, mustard or grape jelly.

Migration Mania events begin next weekend

Keeping an eye out for migratory species flying and flitting over the Keys may be, well, for the birds for lots of kids.

The mention of birding immediately conjures the image of wind-brimmed hats and super-strength binoculars.

So three years ago, when Leyla Nedin joined the educational department at Key West Botanical Garden and Tropical Forest, one of the first programs on her radar for enhancement was the annual Migration Mania celebration.

“I thought, well, we’re talking about birds and birds lay eggs, so why not incorporate an egg hunt into the event to attract more families?” she explained.

Last year, before the facility had even opened its doors at 10 am, kids and their parents were lined up for an hour to get first dibs on the chocolate-filled plastic eggs tucked into the bushes and botanicals around the expansive grounds.

Heidi Seidel led an experiment for these Reynolds School students to discover what foods would attract the most ants – pretzels, grated parmesan cheese, mustard or grape jelly.

A host of age-appropriate craft activities will teach kids about the migratory birds that use Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden as a stopping off point. Maya Totman of Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue, Inc. will be bringing a variety of birds and is excited to teach the community how to protect and support both native and migrating birds. There will also be a toddler area, birding games, bird face painting, a bird-themed puppet show and a bounce house where kids can fly like birds.

Egg hunt times are 10:15 and 11 am; 12 noon and 1:15 pm.

All of these activities are available for families at only $5 per child.

“It’s hard for a family of five to go to the movies with tickets, popcorn and candy,” Nedin continued. “When families come here and spend $5, it’s all educational and the money goes right back into our programs for the following year!”

This week, garden’s Living Labratory hosted hundreds of Head Start and Voluntary Pre-K kids from Key West and the Lower Keys communities as part of their expanded educational programming made possible this year with grant funding from the Dogwood Family Foundation, Eckerd Family Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

For every hands-on lesson at the garden, Nedin and educational coordinators Heidi Seidel and Erica Stokes include two classroom lessons – one before and one after each visit.

Preschoolers from Leslie Warnock’s class at Reynolds School in Key West look out over one of Key West Tropical Forest’s two fresh water ponds in search of insects during their Living Laboratory Tour this week with a little help from Erica Stokes.

With county school budgets continually being slashed, teachers being laid off and class field trips inevitably eliminated with dwindling travel budgets, Nedin said it’s worth noting that her department and staff of three are serving 4,500 Monroe County students each year.

Two “Parent & Me” Science programs that incorporate Florida’s State Standards for Early Childhood Learning, held the first Tuesday of each month, help children ages 2 to 5 discover the wonders of nature with storytelling, hands-on activities and exploration.

The Annual Middle School Go Green Science Fair as well as monthly Middle School Campouts continue as well as the launch in partnership with Key West High School of the Eco Club Movie Night.

“We had 107 high school kids here in January to watch the movie, ‘Dirt’!” Nedin continued of what’s become a monthly event for the club.

Following next weekend’s egg hunt and bird festival, families are invited to attend the second Migration Mania family affair that includes a butterfly release and festival on Saturday, April 14 from 10-2 pm.

For more information about the educational and family-friendly programs hosted by the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden in the coming weeks, visit