Willistown Conservation Trust

Rushton Nature Keepers

Inspiring tomorrow’s conservationists

Rushton Nature Keepers (RNK) is an elevation of the Trust’s traditional environmental education programs (formerly the Jr. Birding Club and Carrot Club) to a more visionary level. The primary goal is to provide youth (ages 7-12) with abundant opportunities to develop a meaningful relationship with nature, keeping in mind that it is these precious experiences that will fuel a lifelong desire to safeguard the environment. Therefore, RNK is focused on shaping and empowering these future conservationists while nurturing a spirit of discovery and wonder.

Rushton Nature Keepers offers an array of monthly events covering four themes including: birds and wildlife, sustainable farming, watersheds and healthy habitat.

The RNK Mission is to cultivate the foundation for a lifetime of caring about and protecting nature.

Our Objectives for Your Child:

  • Create a conservation ethic by showing the importance of preserving open space.
  • Connect personally to nature in order to foster a lifelong respect of the natural world.  
  • Nurture a spirit of discovery and wonder.  
  • Refine birding abilities and cultivate a wholesome lifelong hobby.  
  • Develop observation skills and understanding of science beyond the classroom.  
  • Recognize the connection of wildlife, sustainable farming and watersheds.  
  • Understand how people can help create and preserve healthy habitat
  • Appreciate the origins of the food we eat, the rewards that come from a season on the farm, and how nature and agriculture can flourish side by side.
  • Demonstrate the positive role humans can play in the natural world. 
  • Foster an awareness of how everyday personal choices can help the planet.

RNK Membership is $50/family for the year and includes all children in the family.  Non-members pay on a per-program basis ($10 per child).  Membership gets you free registration to any program on Signup Genius, a t-shirt per child and a nature journal per child. All programs are appropriate for kids ages 7-12*, but some are adaptable for younger or older kids as well; email Blake Goll ([email protected]) if you are concerned about the age appropriateness of a program.

*Please note that there are some family events on the schedule that kids of all ages including teens will be invited to attend including the Songbird Banding Open Houses (April 28 and September 15), the Warbler Walk at Ridley (April 29) and the Family Moth Party (June 15).

A Rushton Junior Naturalist badge will be awarded to Rushton Nature Keepers who attend a total of two bird programs, two farm programs, two water programs and one habitat program in one calendar year (for a total of 7 programs).  They will also be invited to attend the Rushton Junior Naturalist Celebration in November in which prizes will be awarded.  Each program will allow time for reflection in a nature journal in which children will receive attendance stamps to document their progression.  Please see the RNK Events Schedule PDF, in which each event is designated with icons as covering one or more of the themes.


Sign-up:  All sign-ups and membership payments occur through our Signup Genius site. Only list your children’s names on Signup Genius even if you plan to attend (with the exception of the membership slot) so we can get an accurate attendance estimate for each program.

You will receive an e-newsletter each month with information about upcoming events and summaries of last month’s events.  Please double check whether you are signed up for events on Signup Genius. Space is limited, so if you can no longer attend, kindly remove your children’s name from Signup Genius or let us know so that others may take their place. 

Cancellations: Reminders, special instructions or cancellations due to weather will come from Blake Goll ([email protected]).

Other Payments: All payments other than membership (i.e., individual program costs of $10/child for non-members or additional program costs) may be presented as cash or check in person or mailed to Willistown Conservation Trust (925 Providence Rd., Newtown Square, PA 19073).

Drop-off:  Parents may choose to attend programs with their children or drop-off based on their individual needs.  If intending to drop- off, please inform Blake Goll ([email protected]).

A Closer Look: The RNK Conservation Strategy

While each of the four themes of Rushton Nature Keepers is an important part of what we do here at Willistown Conservation Trust, the connection to land stewardship and land protection is the universal thread. 

     1. Birds and wildlife

Birds are the global heartbeat, connecting people across continents with their awe-inspiring migrations and providing the charismatic face that compels people to protect habitat.  Our Rushton Woods Preserve is a hub of bird conservation, boasting the region’s premier bird banding station that attracts leaders in ornithology and inspires visitors to care about their avian neighbors.

     2. Sustainable Farming

Sustainable farming is the way of the future and quite possibly the answer to feeding the world’s growing population.  By taking care of soils first and minimizing overall impact on the land, organic methods have proven to be just as productive if not more than conventional methods.  Rushton Farm is a leading model of farming methods that create and enhance habitat for native wildlife and pollinators while growing food for the community.

     3. Watersheds

Watersheds are vital to all life and must be safeguarded through land conservation and sound environmental practices.  Our partnership with Drexel University and the Academy of Natural Sciences provides us with the tools we need to monitor the three watersheds we protect including Ridley, Crum and Darby Creek.  We study all aspects of stream health including underwater insects that serve as indicators of water quality.

     4. Healthy Habitat

Healthy habitat is not limited to conserved areas.  With 40 million acres of the U.S. covered in lawns, a great place to start is your own backyard.  The Trust has implemented a number of small-scale habitat restoration projects over the years, which serve as demos for landowners interested in supporting healthy habitat.  For example, native wildflower meadows have been established to support native pollinators, stream sides have been planted with native trees for erosion control and native shrub habitats have been planted to support migratory birds.

Early Conservation Experiences for Teens

Opportunities exist on a case-by-case basis for children over 12 to get involved.  These include service at the farm, working at the bird banding station, helping with watershed study activities, participating in bird counts and stream cleanups, internships or other projects agreed upon with Willistown Conservation Trust staff.  To arrange, contact Blake Goll ([email protected]).

Nature Education Coordinator:  For more information, please contact Blake Goll at 610-353-2562, ext.20 or [email protected]

The Willistown Conservation Trust is a non-profit land trust working to protect the rural beauty of the 28,000 acres surrounding Willistown, Pennsylvania.  We're dedicated to permanently protecting our countryside from development and inspiring in people a lifelong love of the land and the natural world.  Please visit our website to learn more about us, and subscribe to our bird blog to learn about what's been going on at our bird banding station this year.

Full RNK 2018 Program Guide

Created by:   Blake Goll
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Available Slot

2018 Rushton Nature Keepers Family Membership


Membership is $50 for the calendar year and includes all children in the family. Membership gets you free registration to any program, a t-shirt per child and a nature journal for each child. Non-members pay per-program $10/child.

41 slots filled - more available

February 19 – Great Backyard Bird Count (7-8:30 am) @ WCT Headquarters, 925 Providence Rd., Newtown Square (20)

Bring a friend out for some winter birding on a beautiful property! This popular citizen science project gives scientists at the National Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology the largest instantaneous global snapshot of bird populations.

11 of 20 slots filled

March 3 – Duck Hunt (7:45 am – Noon) @ John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia (20)

Join birders who are very familiar with the refuge (a premier birding hotspot in Southeast PA) to see overwintering waterfowl and other birds using this special green space in the heart of the city. Meet at Rushton Farm at 7:45 AM for carpooling.

10 of 20 slots filled

March 29 – Pop-up Salamander Search (7-8:30 pm) at Ashbridge Preserve (25)

Vernal pools are special habitats that salamanders and frogs seek early in the spring, migrating under the cover of darkness and during the first warm rains. Stay tuned as we watch for the window to observe these fascinating creatures.

19 of 25 slots filled

April 18 – Sheep Shearing (4:30-6 pm) @ Plumsock Farm: 920 Plumsock Road, Newtown Square (30)

Join us in a pastoral setting for a sheep shearing demonstration. Children will get to witness and take part in a sheep shearing and learn about the history of domesticated sheep as farm animals.

Already filled

April 28 – Songbird Banding Open House (6-10:30 am) @ Rushton Woods Preserve and Farm (50)

Stop by the region’s premier bird banding station anytime between the operating hours of 6am and 10:30am (arrive by 9am) to observe the incredible science of bird banding. You’ll see handsome spring warblers and also get to tour the stream and its life.

37 of 50 slots filled

April 29 – Warbler Walk at Ridley (7:30-9:30 am) @The Bridle Trail on Gradyville Road, Newtown Square (20)

Join birders from Delaware Valley Ornithological Club at Ridley Creek State Park at the height of spring warbler migration to see and hear these living gems in the habitat along the stream. We’ll practice spring identification as well as birding by ear.

9 of 20 slots filled

May 3 – Nature Poetry Workshop (4:30-6 pm) @ Rushton Farm (25)

In the merry month of May after the earth has fully awakened, we will explore the preserve looking for birds, wildflowers and other wonders of spring. Then guided by Villanova poetry professor, Cathy Staples, we will create memorable works of poetry.

Already filled

May 9 - Potato Planting (4:30-6:30 pm) @ Rushton Farm (31)

Get your hands dirty and help the farmers plant potatoes in the fields. Since this farm is sustainable, it provides habitat for myriad living things besides just crops! We’ll come across many interesting insects and learn how farm is habitat.

29 of 31 slots filled

May 20 – “Belle’s Journey” Book Signing and Art Workshop (2-4:30 pm) @ WCT Headquarters: 925 Providence Road, Newtown Square (28)

Get a pre-ordered copy of “Belle’s Journey”, a new chapter book about an osprey born in Martha’s Vineyard who makes her first flight to Brazil with a satellite transmitter. Ornithologist/author, Rob Bierregard, will be there with artist, Kate Garchinsky!

Already filled

June 7 – Stream Walk (4- 6 pm) @ Ashbridge Preserve (30)

Explore different stretches of the stream with our watershed experts while learning about the basics of stream ecology and food webs. We will wander the enchanting Hawthorn Forest and get up close and personal with macroinvertebrates in the water.

Already filled

June 14 - Field Trip to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia (12:30-2:30 pm) Meet at 19th Street entrance (20)

We have a special invite to visit behind the scenes of the Academy of Natural Sciences, home to one of the world’s largest collections of bird specimens. We will get to observe ornithologists preparing study skins and see the amazing bird collection!

9 of 20 slots filled

June 15 – Family Moth Party (7:30-10 pm) @ Rushton Woods Preserve and Farm (36)

Enjoy a summer night with the moths! We will survey what species are here by using special lights against white sheets. Adam Mitchell, Associate Wildlife Biologist of University of DE, and local moth enthusiast Sheryl Johnson will help with moth ID!

25 of 36 slots filled

June TBA - Glen Mills School Purple Martin Banding @ Glen Mills School (15)

Watch the banding of hundreds of Purple Martin chicks at the official Purple Martin colony of PA. Banding these birds is important for their conservation because they are declining. Timing of this event depends on timing of the hatch. Stay tuned!

13 of 15 slots filled

July 11- Meet the Bees and Honey Tasting (4:30-6:00 pm) @ Rushton Farm (30)

Join Rushton’s beekeeper, Noah Gress, as he harvests honey from Rushton’s busy honeybee colony. Children will have the opportunity to extract yummy honey straight off the honeycomb and learn about the importance of other native bees as pollinators.

Already filled

August 2 – Wildflowers and Watercolor Workshop (1-4 pm) @ WCT Headquarters : 925 Providence Road, Newtown Square (30)

Explore the Trust’s spectacular wildflower meadow and paint with watercolors in the fresh air! We’ll also learn about the importance of native plants for pollinators and what you can do in your own yard to support these insects.

29 of 30 slots filled

August 6 - Leaf Pack Walk (Noon -2 pm) @ Ashbridge Preserve (25)

Dive deeper into stream ecology with our Field Study Site Coordinator as we focus on understanding food webs and trophic levels. We’ll play games, explore the stream looking for bugs and make “leaf packs", connecting aquatic & terrestrial ecosystems.

6 of 25 slots filled

August 22 – Discover Rushton Mini Camp (9 am-1 pm) @ Rushton Farm (30)

Spend a half day at Rushton exploring the woods and fields, monitoring bird boxes, and making bouquets and gnome homes. We’ll also work on the farm harvesting the potatoes you helped plant in May! Snacks will be provided.

Already filled

August 30- Nighthawk Watch at Haverford College (6-8pm) @ Haverford College Observatory (30)

Watch the skies with expert bird watchers from Birding Club of Delaware County during the height of Common Nighthawk migration for the official count! These aerial insectivores can be seen in large flocks during migration, but are in steep decline.

18 of 30 slots filled

September 22 – Songbird Banding Open House (6-10:30 am) @ Rushton Woods Preserve and Farm (50)

Bring a friend to the banding station anytime between the operating hours of 6 and 10:30am (arrive by 9am) to observe the inspiring science of bird banding, meet field biologists, see beautiful migrant birds up close and "practice banding skills."

38 of 50 slots filled

October 5 – Harvest Hoopla (4:30-6 pm) @ Rushton Farm (43)

It’s time for Rushton Nature Keepers to celebrate the harvest at Rushton Farm! Join us for a fun evening of pumpkin carving and a hayride with Farmer Fred.

Already filled

October 14 – Hawk Watch at Rose Tree Park (2-4 pm) @Rose Tree Park: 1671 N. Providence Road, Media (30)

Join expert hawk watchers and e-Birders at the Rose Tree Park Hawk Watch during the height of the fall migration. You’ll learn all about raptor identification and see migrating raptors like Broad-winged Hawks overhead!

18 of 30 slots filled

October 30- Monster Night (4-6pm) @ Rushton Farm (or other location TBD) (30)

Observe spooky stream creatures projected from a microscope onto a screen to MONSTER size! Learn all about which fish are native and which are invasive (the real monsters!). Then get creative designing your own stream bug or fish and making a costume!

29 of 30 slots filled

November 9 – Northern Saw-whet Owl Banding (6-8 pm) @ Rushton Farm (32)

Observe Northern Saw-whet Owl banding and experience nature at night. These owls (no bigger than a soda can) travel through Pennsylvania in the fall in search of ideal overwintering habitat. Learn all about their ecology and conservation!

Already filled

November 14 - Visit to Chester County Food Bank (4 - 5:30pm) @ Chester County Food Bank : 650 Pennsylvania Drive, Exton (28)

Join us for a tour of the Chester County Food Bank, which serves the hungry and food insecure of our county. We’ll learn all about the problem of food insecurity and the process of food donation. Rushton Farm donates about 3,000 pounds of food annually.

Already filled

November 30 – Rushton Junior Naturalist Celebration (4:30 - 6:30 pm) @ Rushton Woods Preserve and Farm (30)

During this fun celebration Rushton Nature Keepers will receive their Jr. Naturalist badge if they have attended 2 bird events, 2 farm events, 2 water events and 1 habitat event as designated by the icons on the schedule (7 total).

24 of 30 slots filled

December 8 – Winter Bird Count (9:30-11 am) @ Rushton Farm (28)

Enjoy a morning of birding at Rushton Woods. We will count birds in the tradition of the National Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC), which is the longest running wildlife survey in the world. We’ll also learn how to enter our sightings into eBird.

25 of 28 slots filled
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