The research is in: doing good deeds is good for you, so is being active outdoors. Put them together and voila! Families have the ideal way to spend time together and pay it forward by volunteering outdoors in South Florida. There’s a long list of physical, mental and social benefits, too, from boosting self-confidence to staying fit. Studies also show that those who volunteer, regardless of age, earn a sense of accomplishment and improve their mood. Ready to get started? Here are some fantastic ways to soak in the sunshine and bask in some well-deserved glory.Photo Gallery: Best After School Activities For Kids

Baynanza Cleanup Day
(305) 372-6784

Baynanza is the largest volunteer cleanup effort in South Florida and 2014 will mark its 32nd year. This monumental event happens each April and thousands of volunteers, young and old, gather at various clean-up sites around the county to pick up tons of trash from the shorelines and islands of Biscayne Bay. Be sure to bring gloves, a hat, sunscreen and bug spray; Baynanza will supply the trash bags. This is a great opportunity to show children the damage that littering can do to our oceans and sea life. And, you’ll get a recycled Ecospun t-shirt for your efforts. Log on or call for more info. This is a fantastic community event.

Environmentally Endangered Lands Workdays
(305) 257-0933, ext. 227

Sign up to help protect and restore rare native habitats by removing exotic species and planting native vegetation with the Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program. Its 2013-2014 volunteer season begins in September and with your help, Miami-Dade can become a whole lot greener. Workdays are 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and there are several natural areas to choose from. These habitats, and the plants and animals that live there, are all part of our shared natural heritage, and will be resources to be treasured for generations to come with your help. Receive a copy of the upcoming calendar and register for a workday by sending an email to or call (305) 257-0933, ext. 227. Students can earn community hours.

National Park Service Volunteer-In-Parks Program
(305) 242-7752

There is no place like it on Earth, and you can help protect and preserve it for years to come. Everglades National Park is right in our own backyard and offers a slew of volunteer opportunities that you can apply for, whether you want to just spend a day or ‘adopt’ a project and volunteer on a regular basis. You’ll learn about things like removing exotic plant life and recycling while spending time in this fragile ecosystem that is a World Heritage Site, and an International Biosphere Reserve. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Related: Best Boating Trips Near Miami

Florida State Parks

With so many state parks in South Florida (there are 15 located between Key West and Fort Lauderdale), there is always something to be done with the generous help of volunteers. Families are welcome to submit a group application online directly to the park that interests them the most. Perhaps you’ve camped at Bahia Honda in the lower Keys, snorkeled at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park or rode the amazing bike trails at Oleta River State Park. Whichever park calls to you, it would surely appreciate your family’s help. You can adopt a trail, an area of a park or an entire park, it’s up to you.

Zoo Miami
12400 S.W. 152nd St.
Miami, FL 33177
(305) 251-0400

Teens who are at least 14 years old can volunteer at Zoo Miami each summer as a Zoo Camp Aide. Applications are accepted in the spring. If your teen loves animals and kids, they can work five days a week, for two to three weeks, make new friends and earn community service hours. Zoo Miami also offers a Conservation Teen Scientist Program for high schoolers who want to learn all about animal conservation and the many environmental issues. Applications are available online. Best of all, volunteering can continue on weekends all year, not just during the summer. Be sure to check the many opportunities.

Related: Artsy Animals At Zoo Miami

Jill Martin is a family travel expert, appearing on numerous television and radio shows. She spent five years as the VISIT FLORIDA Family Insider, has penned children’s books, and is the creator of Sunshine Brain Games – trivia cards about Florida. A Miami native, Jill resides in Redland. Her work can be found on