School Programs & Field Studies

Download Our Teachers' Guide

COVID-19 Update - Depending upon where things stand this fall in-person or virtual - We'll be there!
Download our Environmental Education Opportunities Teachers’ Guide to read about the variety of program offerings! Depending upon where things stand this fall, in-person or virtual—We'll be there! Our Environmental Educators are ready to help you plan fun, standards-based programs through a number of options from virtual Field Studies, live or prerecorded Zoom meetings or seminars. We will do our best to work together on presenting what best fits your classroom needs. Contact us at (815) 479-5779 or Education@MCCDistrict.org.

A variety of field studies are offered at our conservation sites, as well as outreach programs where we come directly to your classroom. Programs are free for McHenry County schools! Download our Environmental Education Opportunities Teachers’ Guide or request a copy by contacting us at (815) 479-5779 or at Education@MCCDistrict.org.

Registration
Registration for Fall 2020 school programs is currently underway. Refer to the Environmental Education Opportunities Teachers’ Guide for the program's corresponding registration phone number.

McHenry County Registration Procedures: On the first day of registration please limit your class request to one field study choice per season, per site and/or one outreach program choice per season. You are welcome to check for availability of additional programs one week later.

Out-of-County Registration Procedures: Out-of-county schools may register for field studies two weeks after resident registration begins. The cost is $40 per class of 12-35 students. Exceptions to the minimum group size of 12 may be made for home school and special needs classes. In these circumstances the fee is $2.00 per student. Fees are confirmed by the program leader when the program is scheduled and the teacher receives a program confirmation and invoice. Fees are due in full five business days prior to the program by check payable to the McHenry County Conservation District, mailed to the Prairieview Education Center.

Give Us Feedback
We value your opinion and look forward to receiving your feedback. Once you have completed a school program with us we encourage you to complete an evaluation. 

Field Study Evaluation          Outreach Program Evaluation

At Prairieview Education Center

Animals in Winter Field Study
Discover ways adaptations help animals survive. The program includes a hike to find signs of animal activity.
Location: Prairieview Education Center

Grades: PreK-2
Time: 1.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 45
Available: December-February
Call: 815-479-5779

At Home in the Woods Field Study
A puppet show introduces various types of homes made by animals. Students hike to look for animal homes.
Location: Prairieview Education Center

Grades: PreK-2
Time: 1.5 hours 
Group Size: Min 12/Max 45
Available: April-May 
Call: 815-479-5779

Plant Life Cycles Field Study
Learn about seeds through indoor activities and outdoor explorations. Use your senses to explore the many patterns, sizes and shapes of seeds. Topics include parts of a plant, plant survival, seeds as a food source, and seed dispersal.
Location: Prairieview Education Center

Grades: PreK-2
Time: 1.5 hours 
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: September-November 
Call: 815-479-5779

Animal Babies Field Study
Learn about what animals need to survive, the habitats they live in, and the similarities and differences between adult animals and their offspring. The program begins with an indoor interactive discussion of animal needs followed by a story hike to learn more about local animals and their young.
Location: Prairieview Education Center

Grades: K-1
Time: 1.5 hours 
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: April-May
Call: 815-479-5779

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs: Insect Life Cycles Field Study
While assembling McHenry County’s biggest bug, discover the characteristics that make insects different from other animals. We discuss the unique life cycles of insects, including the process of metamorphosis. Students hike outdoors to catch, observe, and identify insects. Students will recognize the importance of insects to the environment and how their traits can be influenced by environmental factors.
Location: Prairieview Education Center

Grades: 2-3
Time: 2.5 hours 
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: September-October 
Call: 815-479-5779

Native American Program Field Study
Explore Native American cultures through games and activities focusing on survival skills while learning methods of utilizing native plants and animals. Participants gain an understanding and an appreciation of natural cycles. Activities center around a covered wigwam and the natural communities of Silver Creek Conservation Area.
Location: Prairieview Education Center

Grades: 3-5
Time: 3.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: September-October
Call: 815-479-5779

Natural Storytelling Field Study
Students listen to animal folklore and discover the morals and lessons hidden within the tales. Stories ofthe woodland habitat are discovered on an interpretive hike. With natural landscapes and objects as inspiration, students enhance their writing skills by creating stories and poems and then practice their presentation skills. Includes lunch on site.
Location: Prairieview Education Center

Grades: 3-6
Time: 3 hours 
Group Size: Min 12/Max 90
Available: December-May 
Call: 815-479-5779

Wandering the Wetlands Field Study
Learn about the importance of wetlands and the plants and animals that live in them. After an indoor introduction, the bus brings the class to a pond to collect and observe aquatic life. Students hike back to the center for lunch and a closer look at the specimens collected.
Location: Prairieview Education Center

Grades: 4-6
Time: 3.5-4 hours 
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: April-May
Call: 815-479-5779

Exploring Ecosystems Field Study
Investigate a variety of ecosystems including pond, woodland, and restored prairie. Introductory activities focus on relationships between human and natural communities. The bus transports students to the pond to explore the aquatic ecosystem. Students hike back to the center, taking time to investigate components of the woodland and prairie communities. Includes lunch on site.
Location: Prairieview Education Center

Grades: 4-8
Time: 4 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: September-November
Call: 815-479-5779

Way Finding with Map, Compass and GPS Field Study
Students experience various methods of finding their way through the world in both natural and developed areas. Using a map and compass course, students explore natural relationships and human impact on the land. Using GPS units, students find beautiful vistas and hidden caches. Students learn about orienteering, geocaching and factors to consider while participating in any outdoor recreational activity. Orienteering involves skills in math, geography, teamwork, and problem solving. This program includes instruction in both compass and GPS use.
Location: Prairieview Education Center

Grades: 5-8
Time: 4 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: October-November and March-April 
Call: 815-479-5779

Winter Ecology Field Study 
Indoor lessons on wildlife adaptations and plant identification are combined with an interpretive hike to teach students about seasonal changes and life cycles. Worksheets allow for additional classroom lessons after the field study.
Location: Prairieview Education Center

Grades: 7-9
Time: 3.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 90
Available: December-February 
Call: 815-479-5779

At Lost Valley Visitor Center

Animal Homes Field Study
Go on an exploratory hike to look for animal signs and learn about wildlife and their habitats. Introductory activities focus on homes and habitats and their differences.  
Location: Lost Valley Visitor Center

Grades: PreK-2
Time: 1.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: April-May
Call: 815-678-4532

Plant Life Cycles Field Study
Learn about seeds through indoor activities and outdoor explorations. Use your senses to explore the many patterns, sizes and shapes of seeds. Topics include parts of a plant, plant survival, seeds as a food source, and seed dispersal.
Location: Lost Valley Visitor Center

Grades: PreK-2
Time: 1.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: September-November
Call: 815-678-4532

Pioneer Life Field Study
Hike and explore Glacial Park to discover the life of an early settler in McHenry County. Compare daily life then and now with a visit to a restored 1854 farm house. Participate in hands-on chores for an authentic historic experience. 
Location: Lost Valley Visitor Center

Grades: 1-5
Time: 3.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: September-November
Call: 815-678-4532

Bountiful Birds Field Study
Indoor lessons teach students about bird adaptations, behavior, habitats, and identification. Hike outdoors with binoculars to spot birds arriving on spring migration.
Location: Lost Valley Visitor Center

Grades: 2-6
Time: 3.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: April-May
Call: 815-678-4532

Animal Survival Field Study
This field study pairs well with the “What is Wrong with this Picture?” winter outreach program. Students visit three different types of habitat. Games and activities focus on why organisms are particularly suited to live in that habitat, or why they may have difficulty surviving outside of their niche habitat.
Location: Lost Valley Visitor Center

Grades: 3
Time: 3.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: April-May
Call: 815-678-4532

Life of an Oak Tree Field Study
By hiking through Glacial Park and comparing and contrasting different oak trees and their various traits, students discover more about what makes a good environment for oak growth and how different environments may affect the trees. We use math and measurements to compare and age the trees and learn about the life cycles of these majestic species.
Location: Lost Valley Visitor Center

Grades: 3-4
Time: 3.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: September-November and April-May
Call: 815-678-4532

LEED Certified Building Tour Field Study
In an interactive scavenger hunt, student teams discover how the Conservation District managed to reduce the use of natural resources during the renovation of the Lost Valley Visitor Center. The building earned a Gold award in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (L.E.E.D.) and we explain the innovative sustainable building design and landscaping methods used. Students also get a chance to come up with ideas on how they can reduce their impact upon the earth in their daily lives.
Location: Lost Valley Visitor Center

Grades: 4-6
Time: 3.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: December-February
Call: 815-678-4532

Wonders of Wetlands Field Study
Learn about wetland characteristics and inhabitants, as well as the importance of wetlands to all living creatures, including humans. Hands-on investigations of the bog and marsh in Glacial Park help to compare and contrast these two wetland ecosystems.
Location: Lost Valley Visitor Center

Grades: 4-6
Time: 3.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: April-May
Call: 815-678-4532

Restoring the Nature of Illinois Field Study
Watch the history of Illinois’ natural landscape change through the transformation of a “living map” and a hike through the park. In addition the class participates in a District restoration project.
Location: Lost Valley Visitor Center

Grades: 4-8
Time: 3.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: April-May
Call: 815-678-4532

Predator-Prey Field Study
Students learn examples of predator prey relationships and why these relationships are important to the overall balance of the food web and ecosystem. Students participate in a simulation game in which each participant explores the predator-prey relationship of an animal in an ecosystem while searching for the basic needs of food and water.
Location: Lost Valley Visitor Center

Grades: 
Time: 3.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: April-May
Call: 815-678-4532

The Ice Age Field Study
Named for the massive ice sheet that shaped its landscape, Glacial Park is the perfect setting for this educational program on glacial landforms. Begin the day indoors, learning about geologic time, the formation of northern Illinois, Ice Age mammals, and glacial forces. Students listen to a lecture, watch a movie, and complete worksheets. Outdoor activities include a hike to see a kettle marsh, kettle bog, and the camelback kames.
Location: Lost Valley Visitor Center

Grades: 6-9
Time: 3.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: October-November
Call: 815-678-4532

At Other Conservation Areas

Festival of the Sugar Maples Field Study
Students learn the history of maple sugaring, how to identify a maple tree, and how a tree makes sap. They practice tapping a tree, witness modern sap collection, and taste pure maple syrup.
Location: Coral Woods

Grades: K-5
Dates: March 10-13 and March 17-19, 2020
Times: 9:30-10:45 a.m. | 10:45 a.m-12:00 p.m. | 12:00-1:15 p.m.
Register: Registration begins December 10, 2019 at 8:00 a.m. for McHenry County schools (out-of-county can register two weeks later.)
Call: 815-479-5779

Already Registered? Download our teacher packet for pre and post visit activities. We also recommend forwarding the packet to all the teachers and chaperones attending. There is important information for everyone! 

Geology on the Ridge Field Study
Marengo Ridge Conservation Area offers unique geological formations that were left behind by the last glacier. This field study has levels that reflect each grade of learners. Students can discover the rock cycle, do rock ID using a key, play geology jeopardy, test vocabulary knowledge, find out the secrets of erosion and glaciations and everyone gets to enjoy a hike to experience our glacial landscape history. This program is held entirely outside. Please dress for weather. Groups are welcome to stay for lunch and enjoy the view.
Location: Marengo Ridge

Grades: 4-7 
Time: 2.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 65
Available: Sept-Nov, April-May
Call: 815-678-4532

Outreach Program at Your Facility

Animals Outreach Program
During this program, students learn the differences between wild and domestic animals. Live animals visit the classroom.

Grades: PreK-K (minimum age 4)
Time: 30-45 minutes
Group Size: Min 12/Max 30
Available: September-May
Call: 815-728-8307

Nocturnal Animals Musical Puppet Show Outreach Program
Learn the definition of nocturnal as well as the animal adaptions that make the night a more suitable time to be out for certain creatures. These lessons are taught through a musical puppet show followed by an interactive game.

Grades: PreK-K
Time: 45 minutes
Group Size: Min 12/Max 30
Available: December-February
Call: 815-678-4532

Have to Have a Habitat Outreach Program
Students learn about local animals, what they need to survive, and how humans can help them. Highlights include a puppet show and a habitat game.

Grades: PreK-1
Time: 45 minutes 
Group Size: Min 12/Max 30
Available: December-February
Call: 815-678-4532

Fur, Feathers, or Scales Outreach Program

Students learn the characteristics of mammals, birds, and reptiles and discover some of their unique adaptations. A live animal visits the classroom.
Grades: 1-2
Time: 45 minutes-1 hour
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: September-May
Call: 815-728-8307

Nature in Winter Outreach Program
Students learn about the traits plants and animals possess that help them survive the winter in McHenry County. Real artifacts and seasonal changes are examined.

Grades: 1-3
Time: 1 hour
Group Size: Min12/Max 30
Available: November-February
Call: 815-678-4532

Turtles Outreach Program
This program covers the classification and natural history of turtles. Students also learn how to identify some common turtle species. A live turtle visits the classroom.

Grades: 1-3
Time: 45 minutes-1 hour
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: September-November 
Call: 815-728-8307

Native Americans and Natural Resources Outreach Program
Learn how local Native American tribes utilized natural resources in this part of Illinois. Students get a hands-on look at examples of dress, tools, and foods that were used.

Grades: 3-6
Time: 45 minutes-1 hour 
Group Size: Min 12/Max varies
Available: December-February
Call: 815-479-5779

Nature in Art Outreach Program
This unique program offers art teachers a chance to have a live animal as an inspiration for their students’ creations in art class. After a brief presentation about the animal by District staff, students sketch, paint, or possibly sculpt per the instruction of the art teacher. Art supplies and instruction are to be provided by the art teacher.

Grades:  1-12
Time: Varies
Group Size: Min 12/Max 30
Available: September-May
Call: 815-728-8307

Site Safety Outreach Program
This interactive educational experience led by a McHenry County Conservation District Police Officer covers safety topics concerning bicycles, boats and water, site usage, and trails. Program time ranges from 20 to 45 minutes, and utilizes visual aids and handouts.

Grades: 1-12
Time: Varies
Group Size: Min 12/Max 30
Available: September-May
Call: 815-338-6223, ext. 1210

What is Wrong with this Picture? Outreach Program
Students learn how various organisms play a role in ecosystems by examining mock nature scenes to find examples of nature that are out of place with their natural role. These scenes explore habitats, inter-relationships between species, and how organisms’ niche roles contribute to a healthy biodiversity.

Grades: 2-3
Time: 1 hour
Group Size: Min 12/Max 30
Available: December-February
Call: 815-678-4532

Owls of Illinois Outreach Program
Students learn about the natural history of owls, their relationships with humans, and their importance in the wild. A live owl visits the classroom.

Grades: 3-4
Time: 45 minutes-1 hour
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: September-May
Call: 815-728-8307

Amazing Animal Adaptations Outreach Program
Students learn how native wildlife have adapted to living in Illinois habitats by examining animal tracks, skulls, and furs. Learned concepts are emphasized in an animal adaptations game.

Grades: 3-5
Time: 1 hour
Group Size: Min 12/Max 30
Available: November-May
Call: 815-678-4532

Chains Make Webs Outreach Program 
Students learn about food chains and food webs with the introduction of vocabulary words. Concepts are defined with role-playing and interactive games. Local ecosystems are used as examples.

Grades: 3-5
Time: 1 hour
Group Size: Min 12/Max 30
Available: November-May
Call: 815-678-4532

Wonderful Water Outreach Program
Students learn about the value of water by using data to find out how much fresh water is on the planet, create a water cycle demonstration and do a simulated water quality assessment on a favorite pond. Students use the data assessment to discover ways that humans can protect our water resources.

Grades: 4-6
Time: 1.25 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 30
Available: November-April 
Call: 815-678-4532

Endangered Species of Illinois Outreach Program
A presentation and interactive activities introduce students to concepts of extinction, extirpation and endangered. A few of McHenry County’s endangered species are revealed and the impacts that changed their habitat are shared. After discovering where and how the animals live, students determine the necessary steps to protect them.

Grades: 4-6
Time: 1 hour
Group Size: Min 12/Max 30
Available: November-April 
Call: 815-678-4532

Birds of Prey Outreach Program
Learn what makes these birds unique and why they are important to ecosystems. A live raptor visits the classroom.

Grades: 5-6
Time: 45 minutes-1 hour
Group Size: Min 12/Max 60
Available: September-May
Call: 815-728-8307

Town Hall Outreach Program
Students role-play members of a community and discover different perspectives on a community environmental issue. Through interactions with their fellow citizens, students must solve or compromise to make their community a better place.

Grades: 6-8
Time: 1 hour or 1.5 hours
Group Size: Min 12/Max 30
Available: November-April
Call: 815-678-4532

Conservation District Police Outreach Program
Learn about the duties and roles of a Conservation Police Officer. Through an interactive multimedia presentation, students learn about the role these officers play in protecting the natural resources around us.

Grades: 6-12
Time: Varies
Group Size: Min 12/Max 30
Available: September-May
Call: 815-338-6223 ext. 1210