School Programming

In-Class Programs

All classroom programs are offered November through April unless otherwise noted. 

  • PreK - Snakes Alive (45 minutes) - We often fear what we don't understand. Introduce your students to a live snake and learn what makes snakes special.
  • PreK - Spiders Aaarrgghh! (45 minutes) - Learn the body parts of spiders, basic web designs, how they catch food, and why they are important.
  • PreK & K - Animals Prepare for Winter (45 minutes; Nov.-Jan.) - Learn what animals are doing to prepare for the cold winter months. K-LS1-1, K-ESS3-1
  • PreK & K - Birds of a Feather (45 minutes) – Discover how birds use their special adaptations. K-LS1-1, K-ESS2-2, K-ESS3-1  
  • K- Furries (1 hour) - Explore furs in this hands-on program about mammals and their characteristics. K-LS1-1
  • K & 1st grade - Happening Herps (1 hour) - Learn the difference between reptiles and amphibians. Live animals are a part of this hands-on program. K-LS1-1, 1-LS3-1, 1-LS1-2
  • 1st grade - Ants Ants Ants (1 hour) - Investigate insects by studying ants. The program includes a demonstration of various ant jobs, general insect parts, and more. 1-LS3-1, 1-LS1-2
  • 1st grade - My Woods (1 hour) - Explore a special habitat by using your senses. Learn why the outdoors is an important place for animals and people. (observations and evidence, patterns)
  • 1st & 2nd grade - Who Goes There? (1 hour) - Be an animal detective! Learn to read the many signs left behind by animals to solve the mystery of "Who Goes There?" (patterns, cause and effect, observations and evidence) 
  • 2nd grade - Rainforest Links (1 hour) - Explore the tropical rainforests of the world. Learn about their form and function though activities and discussion. Help link rainforest creatures to each other and discover how we are linked as well. 2-LS4-1
  • 2nd grade - Animal Adaptations (1 hour) – Students will get their hands-on unique animal components and explore adaptations through inquiry-based team research. 2-LS4-1
  • 2nd grade - Dr. Dirt (1 hour) - Dr. Dirt cooks up the recipe for Iowa's million-dollar soils, and students get their hands dirty investigating soil properties. Find out why our soil is eroding and how we can save it! 2-PS1-1, 2-PS1-2, 2-ESS1-1, 2-ESS2-1
  • 2nd grade - Planting the Seeds (1 hour) - Lots of hands-on exploring while learning how seeds move, and what a seed needs to grow. 2-LS2-1, 2-LS2-2
  • 2nd & 3rd grade - EXTREME Reptiles (1.5 hours) - Through an interactive game, learn what strategies reptiles use to help the survival of their offspring. Students will develop a model to discover many unique adaptations reptiles use to survive in their habitats. 2-LS4-1, 3-LS4-3
  • 3rd grade - Raptors (1 hour) - Learn about raptors and their special adaptations that allow them to function and survive. If available, we will bring a live raptor. 3-LS4-3
  • 3rd grade - Wonders of Weather (1.25 hours) - Learn the components of weather through hands-on learning stations. 3-ESS2-1
  • 3rd & 4th grade - Ancient Animals (1 hour) - Discover what ancient animals lived in Iowa, extinction theories for Ice Age mammals, and what scientists learn from fossils. Students will make a fossil to keep. 3-LS4-1, 4-ESS1-1
  • 3rd & 4th grade - Fabulous Fossils (1.25 hours) - What was Iowa like 400 million years ago? This program explores Iowa’s geologic history and how fossils are made. 3-LS4-1, 4-ESS1-1
  • 3rd & 4th grade - Shocking Developments (1.25 hours; Nov.-March) - It’s a shock where electricity can be found in nature! Learn all about electricity and do some amazing hands-on experiments. 3PS2-3, 4-PS3-2, 4-PS3-4
  • 3rd-5th grade - Nature Inventions (1 hour) - Great inventors and inventions come alive with an interactive game exploring how nature had a hand in everything. 3-5ETS1-1, 3-5ETS1-2
  • 3rd-7th grade - The Wonderful World of Wetlands (1 hour) - Explore the wonderful world of wetlands and the importance of these vibrant ecosystems and the biodiversity they support! Students are transported to a wetland through audio and visual means, and interactive games of Habitat Hopscotch and Wetlands BINGO are woven throughout the in-classroom presentation. 3-LS4-3, 3-LS4-4, 4-ESS3-2, 5-ESS3-1, MS-LS2-1, MS-LS2-4 
  • 4th grade - Skins and Skulls (1 hour) – Investigate who eats what based on the evidence of teeth and skulls. Student teams match structure to function to reveal the identities of eight Iowa mammals in this hands-on program. 4-LS1-1 (Engaging in argument from evidence)
  • 4th grade - Dem Bones (1 hour) - Learn with games and puzzles the bones and skeletal systems of different vertebrates. Explore the unique similarities among them all. 4-LS1-1
  • 4th grade - The Garbologist (1 hour) - This interactive and wacky program introduces students to the garbage cycle. Learn what we throw away, how it fuels energy production, and what we can do to reduce garbage. 4-ESS3-1
  • 4th & 5th grade - Team Building (1 hour; August) - Team building is a fun, interactive way to get to know your class as a whole and as individuals. This program will challenge your students to think as a group and communicate with one another as a team. Because this program is meant to prepare you and your class for the year to come, it is offered during the first few weeks of school. 21.3-5.ES.1-4 This activity involves less than 3 feet physical distancing between students
  • 4th & 5th grade - Traveling Trunk (1.5 hours) - Meet a pioneer woman and learn about her move west and life on the prairie in the 1860s. SS.4.18, SS.4.19, SS.4.22, SS.4.23, SS.5.21, SS.5.22
  • 4th & 6th grade - Rock It (1 hour) - Explore the three processes that form rocks; it’s a real treat! 4-ESS1-1, MS-ESS2-1 
  • 4th & 6th grade - Digestion Discoveries (1 hour) - We will compare how monogastric, ruminant, avian, and hind-gut fermenters process their food. 4-LS1-1, MS-LS1-3
  • 4th & 6th grade - Circulation Spectacular! (1 hour) - Explore the circulatory systems of various animals. Dissected fish and mammal hearts will be brought into the classroom. If you want the full “hands-on” experience, please provide examination gloves for your students. 4-LS1-1, MS-LS1-3
  • 4th-8th grade - We All Live in A Watershed (1 hour) - Dive in to the water cycle, watersheds, and water quality with this highly interactive module. We all live in a watershed and play an important role there! Students each receive a “puzzle piece” of land and $5M, then are given free rein to be creative and build whatever they’d like with their money. How will the shared water resources be impacted by the cumulative effect of everyone’s choices? 4-ESS3-2, 5-ESS2-1, 5-ESS3-1, MS-ESS3-3 
  • 5th-8th grade - Biodiversity Bonanza (1 hour) - Students will learn about the importance of biodiversity, niches within ecosystems, trophic levels (who's eating who!), and more in this highly interactive unit. Activity options, depending on student age and time available, include a super competitive game of Biodiversity Jenga and Musical Oxbows. 5-LS2-1, MS-LS2-3, MS-LS2-4, MS-LS2-5
  • 5th & 8th grade - Endangered Species (1.25 hours) - Understand why animals become endangered and discover ways to help them. 5-ESS3-1, MS-ESS3-3
  • 5th & 8th grade - Enviroscape (1 hour) - Hands-on learning about water pollution connects what we do on land to what happens in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. 5-ESS2-1, 5-ESS3-1, MS-ESS3-3

Outdoor Experiences Outdoor Experience Info 

Two half-day outdoor experiences can be combined for a full-day experience. *Teacher and/or parent-led activities are a part of this outdoor experience. 

  • All Grades - Discovery Hike (1-1.5 hours; Sept.-May) - Spontaneous interpretation. Nature only knows what we will find.
  • Pre-K - I Spy (45 minutes; October - November & late April - May) - Explore nature using letters, colors, and numbers.
  • K- *Nature Detectives(1.5 hours; late April - May) - Using their senses to uncover clues, "detectives" will investigate the forest through inquiry and hands-on observation. K-LS1-1, K-ESS2-2, K-ESS3-1
  • 1st Grade - *Bird Nerds!(2.5 hours; late April - May) - Discover how adult bird behaviors help young birds survive and thrive. Students will design a safe nest, protect and feed their "nestlings," and hike to meet the birds in their habitats. 1-LS1-2, 1-LS3-1
  • 1st & 3rd Grade - *Insectology (1.5 & 2 hours; September - October & May) - Learn the characteristics of insects and their survival strategies. Collect insects to observe and identify. 1-LS1-1, 3-LS1-1
  • 2nd Grade - Plant Parts and Pollination (1.5 hours; Sept-Oct. & late April-May) - Learn about plant parts and life cycles, pollination, and how animals interact with a forest plant community. 2-LS2-1, 2-LS2-2
  • 2nd Grade- *Pond Study (2.5 hours or 9am - 2:30pm; May) - A lake is an amazing habitat full of critters. Students will learn about the food chain and use nets to explore and discover pond life. 2-LS4-1, 2-ESS2-3
  • 2nd Grade - *Tree-rific! (2.5 hours; October) - Students learn about the inner workings of trees, their benefit to wildlife, and tree identification. 2-LS2-1, 2-LS2-2, 2-LS4-1
  • 3rd Grade - *Birding Bonanza(2.5 hours; late April - May) - Students scour different habitats to learn about bird adaptations, practice using binoculars, and identify birds by sight and call. 3-LS1-1, 3-LS2-1, 3-LS4-2, 3-LS4-3
  • 3rd Grade - *Prairies(2.5 hours; Sept.-Oct.) - Through hands-on discovery, students learn about Iowa's once vast prairies and their animal inhabitants. 3-LS4-3, 3-LS4-4 
  • 3rd & 4th Grade - *Naturally Sensational(2.5 hours; Sept-May) - Discover how local organisms use their senses to survive within their habitats. A series of hands-on experiments, a naturalist-led hike, and journaling make this program "Naturally Sensational." 4-LS1-1, 4-LS1-2 
  • 4th & 5th Grade - *Iowa History Day(9am-2:30pm; late April -May) - Students travel back to 1869. Cooking, making soap, and doing laundry are a few of the hands-on activities offered. Prerequisite: Traveling Trunk in-class program. SS.4.10, SS.4.23, SS.4.25, SS.5.21, SS.5.22, SS.5.24
  • 4th Grade and Up - *GPS and Geocaching (2.5 hours; October - May) - Understand how to use a GPS to find a location based on latitude and longitude, find a location using new coordinates, and learn the sport of geocaching. 21.3-5.ES.1, 21.3-5.TL.6, 21.3-5.HL.5, 21.6-8.HL.5, 21.6-8.ES.1
  • 4th Grade and Up - Snowshoeing(1.5-2.5 hours; Dec.-Feb.) - Snowshoeing is a great way to spend a winter day. After learning about equipment, techniques, and safety, students will venture through McFarland Park. 21.3-5.HL.5,21.6-8.HL.5, 21.9-12.HL.5
  • 4th Grade and Up - *Service Learning(2.5 hours; Sept-May) - Help your students learn the importance of giving back to the community through volunteerism. Many of our county areas need help! Your class can help remove invasive species or collect prairie seed. The service project will depend on the season and the time will depend on the activity. 5-ESS3-1
  • 5th Grade - *Hatchet(2.5 hours; Oct.-May) - After your students finish reading Hatchet or another wilderness survival-bases book, bring them to McFarland Park to experience survival shelter and fire building. Please tell us which book you will read. RL.5.1, RL.5.2, RL.5.3
  • 5th & 6th Grade - Outdoor 1/2 Day(9-11:30a.m. or 12-2:30p.m.; September or May) - Orienteering and team building are taught at McFarland Park or Hickory Grove Park. 21.3-5.ES.1, 21.3-5.ES.2, 21.3-5.ES.3, 21.3-5.ES.4, 21.6-8.ES.1, 21.6-8.ES.2, 21.6-8.ES.3, 21.3-8.HL.5. This activity involves less than 3 feet physical distancing between students. 
  • 5th Grade & Up - Ice Fishing(2.5 hours; Dec.-Feb.) - Ice fishing is a great way to spend a winter day. After learning about equipment, techniques, and safety, students will venture onto the ice to try catching fish. 21.3-5.HL.5, 21.6-8.HL.5, 21.9-12.HL.5


Fees are assessed to school attendance centers scheduling environmental education programs sponsored by Story County Conservation. Two options are offered, to be decided in advance by each school attendance center:

  • $1.25 per student enrolled in the school attendance center for multiple programs; or
  • $1.25 per student per program (minimum charge of $20).

Environmental Education Fee Form (PDF)

Online Learning Resources

We also offer Online Learning Resources. There are many options here that can be done without having to schedule a naturalist.

Preschool & Lower Elementary Nature Tubs

We have a variety of nature tubs available for checkout for up to two weeks. View the available subjects here.

  1. Jerry Keys

    Jerry Keys

    Environmental Education Coordinator

Not seeing what you need?

How can we help you? We are happy to connect with your students and focus on other topics relevant to what they are learning. Schedule a class virtual meeting with a naturalist or request special supplemental resources.