- July 18, 2012

Trade Counter at the Austin Nature and Science Center


If your family is like mine, then just about every walk you take with your kids results in a pocketful of of found treasures from nature that your kids are loathe to part with. What do you do with them all? It’s hard to throw them away (especially when your kids are looking), but there are only so many pine cones, pretty stones, and cicada carcasses that a house can stand. Lucky for us here in Austin, there is a very good solution to this predicament: the fascinating and free Trade Counter at the Austin Nature & Science Center.

Four mornings a week your kids can bring objects they have found in nature to the counter to trade for points. They can then use those points to buy new, more exotic treasures from the store.

We’ve been wanting to try out the trade counter for a while, and finally the other day we took a trip over there. Come see what we learned!

We were running short of time that morning, so instead of going on a nature walk we just gathered up some things we had found earlier. Here’s what we brought:

1. twig with lichen and moss
2. igneous rock
3. clam shell
4. chicken feather (we learned at the counter that feathers are actually a no-no because of the migratory bird act- oops!)
5. seed pod from a sunflower

Nothing too exciting. My daughter had fun though, poring over some nature identification books with her dad to see if they could figure out their names. (The Counter rewards you with extra points, depending on how much you know about your objects.)

When we arrived, the Trade Counter was abuzz with kids waiting to swap out their treasures. We didn’t mind the wait because the Naturalist Workshop that houses the counter is filled with wonderful things to see and touch. (Animals skins and the glass- encased living beehive were two of our favorites.)

It’s also fun to listen in on the other kids as they talk with the volunteers about their trades. The volunteers are very knowledgeable and teach kids interesting facts about nature as they talk with them.

When our turn came, the volunteer did a great job engaging my daughters out and getting them to talk and think about their objects. They ended up with 70 points for their trade, which the volunteer said they were welcome to save up for later visits if they liked, but my daughters are spenders!

They wanted to buy lots of little things, and this is what they decided on:

1. polished rock
2. pinecone
3. large acorn
4. cut agate stone
5. another clam shell!

If they had wanted to save up for more expensive items, they could have bought things like:

turtle shells, raccoon skulls, pinned butterflies, snake skins, deer antlers

It was lots of fun, and I’m sure we’ll be back. I think it will add an extra layer of excitement to our nature walks in the future as well!

Have your children traded at the Austin Nature and Science Center? What fun things have they found?

The Trade Counter is open Wednesday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Trade Counter and Naturalist Workshop
Visitor’s Pavilion
301 Nature Center Drive
Austin, Texas