spring valley environmental education

Spring Valley Environmental Education Programs

Spring Valley Nature Center offers numerous school field trip opportunities. Program themes change seasonally and all include outdoor activities and inspire curiosity and teach about the natural world.

The group programs offered at Spring Valley have student resources and teacher resources available online. These resources are great for learning more about topics taught in group programs. 

For more information, call 847/985-2100.

Program Survey

Take the program survey.

Programs

(Sorted by grade, season, and topic)

More information about programs offered are available in the Spring Valley Environmental Education Program Guide.

  • Caddie Woodlawn - This special adaptation of the Early Settler Life and Sugar Bush programs is based on the book and is only offered to those classes that actually read it! There is ongoing discussion of the story as participants card wool, weave, make butter and parched corn, try their hand at tapping trees and more.
  • Conservation in Action - Help with conservation efforts! Some time will be devoted to an explanation of the importance of the particular activity and the rest will be on the activity itself! Projects might include collecting seeds, planting wildflowers or trees, clearing brush or wood chipping.
  • Cycling - Fall is a time of great activity in the natural world as plants and animals prepare for winter. Search for seasonal changes under logs, in holes and just about everywhere.
  • Dancin' at Grandpa's -  This special program is only for the very young! Children ages 3 to 5 get the opportunity to walk to the cabin and experience a little of what Laura Ingalls Wilder writes about in this short story about pioneer life. Enjoy the warmth and smell of the fire, the dancing and a taste of freshly baked apple pie!
  • Early Settler Life - Early settlers were hard working people who relied on cooperation and their own skills to provide food, clothing and shelter from nature's resources. Try your hand at some of these same skills! Activities include weaving and candle-dipping for grades 4 to 6 and making cornbread, applesauce and butter for grades 1 to 3.
  • Eyes to the Skies - Use binoculars to become familiar with local and migratory birds. May include the slide show Birds in Your Backyard.
  • Fall Nature Ramble - Enjoy the beautiful colors, sounds, and fragrances of Spring Valley's meadows and prairies during this season of change and preparation for winter.
  • Forest Explorers -  Explore one of the wooded areas at Spring Valley! Activities can be chosen from include a classroom leaf collection, tree identification, forest ecology or trees as microhabitats.
  • Green Thumbs - Plant, transplant, weed and even eat vegetables and flowers from the Spring Valley kid's garden and greenhouse. Activities follow the seasonal growing calendar.
  • Growing Time - Spring is a time of new awakening! Sunlight, food, water, and nutrients are in high demand throughout the natural world and life is bursting out all over. Take a hike to discover signs of spring, look for animal life, and appreciate the gradual emergence of color. Explore various habitats using your senses. Younger students plant a seed to take home and watch develop. Older students explore plants and pollination.
  • Mighty Acorns - This unique conservation program includes seasonal visits to your classroom and three visits to Spring Valley. Students will have an opportunity to collect seed, remove non-native plant species, and plant a section of prairie, wetland, or woodland. Teachers will have the use of a prairie curriculum, posters and ready-made hands on materials.
  • Night Hike - Experience nature without the benefit of sight and use the rest of your senses on a walk at night.
  • Prairies: Illinois' Original Lawn & Garden - Experience the textures, sounds, sights and smells of Spring Valley's restored Illinois prairie. Visit all stages of prairie restoration. May include the slideshow Jewels of the Tallgrass Prairie.
  • Prairie Roots - Experience the textures, sounds, sights and smells of Spring Valley's restored Illinois prairie. Participate in role-playing activities and learn how plants and animals survive in Illinois' climate.
  • Predators, Pollinators or Pests? -  Insects are fascinating and often misunderstood! Take some time to appreciate and look for them. There is an indoor presentation and outdoor exploration.
  • Sleeping Beauties - Student will focus on adaptations of plants and animals and look for evidence that nature is still active in the winter.
  • Spring Nature Ramble - Enjoy the beautiful colors, shapes and fragrances of Spring Valley's meadows, prairies and wetlands during this lush season of growth, emerging insects and seed production.
  • Spring Sing - Become an expert birder! Learn to recognize the chickadee, cardinal, robin, goose and mallard by sight and sound through an interactive story, songs, fingerplays and a hike.
  • Sugar Bush - When nighttime temperatures are below freezing and daytime temperatures are above, the sap begins to flow and maples are ready to be tapped! Celebrate spring with a tapping demonstration, boildown and a taste test.
  • Summer Nature Ramble - Enjoy the beautiful colors, shapes and fragrances of Spring Valley's meadows, prairies and wetlands during this lush season of growth, emerging insects and seed production.
  • Summer Surplus - Enjoy the beautiful colors, shapes and fragrances of Spring Valley's meadows, prairies and wetlands during this lush season of growth, emerging insects and seed production. Every day is an adventure as students explore Spring Valley hunting for insects and becoming part of the food chain.
  • Wetlands - Marshes, streams, rivers, lakes and ponds are precious habitats that provide homes for wildlife and purify drinking water. Look for animals and experience an aquatic food web! Activities center around the diversity of animal and plant life within a wetland and how wetlands are formed and changed.
  • Wetlands, Not Wastelands -  Marshes, streams, rivers, lakes and ponds are precious habitats that provide homes for wildlife and purify drinking water. Compare and contrast several wetlands, do a pond dip and view aquatic insects under a microscope.
  • Winter Nature Ramble - Winter is a harsh time for plants and animals, yet can be beautiful for those with a sense of adventure! Students explore Spring Valley looking for signs of activity at the bird feeders and along the trails. May include the slide show Animal and Plant Adaptations.
  • Winter Wonderland - Winter is a challenging time for plants and animals. Students focus on the adaptations they use to survive and look for evidence that they're still active around Spring Valley. Participants view birds at the birdfeeders and if there's snow, may go snowshoeing.

Pre-K-2

  • Conservation in Action
  • Cycling
  • Dancin' at Grandpa's
  • Early Settler Life
  • Forest Explorers
  • Green Thumbs
  • Growing Time
  • Night Hike
  • Sleeping Beauties
  • Spring Sing
  • Sugar Bush
  • Summer Surplus
  • Wetlands

Grades 3-5

  • Caddie Woodlawn
  • Conservation in Action
  • Cycling
  • Early Settler Life
  • Forest Explorers
  • Green Thumbs
  • Growing Time
  • Night Hike
  • Prairie Roots
  • Sleeping Beauties
  • Sugar Bush
  • Summer Surplus
  • Wetlands

Grades 4-6

  • Mighty Acorns

Grades 6-High School

  • Conservation in Action
  • Eyes to the Skies
  • Fall Nature Ramble
  • Prairies: Illinois’ Original Lawn & Garden
  • Predators, Pollinators, or Pests?
  • Sleeping Beauties
  • Spring Nature Ramble
  • Sugar Bush
  • Summer Nature Ramble
  • Wetlands, not Wastelands
  • Winter Nature Ramble
  • Winter Wonderland

Fall

  • Conservation in Action
  • Cycling
  • Dancin' at Grandpa's
  • Early Settler Life
  • Forest Explorers
  • Green Thumbs
  • Fall Nature Ramble
  • Night Hike
  • Prairie Roots
  • Prairies: Illinois’ Original Lawn & Garden
  • Predators, Pollinators, or Pests?
  • Wetlands

Winter

  • Caddie Woodlawn
  • Dancin' at Grandpa's
  • Early Settler Life
  • Night Hike
  • Sleeping Beauties
  • Sugar Bush
  • Winter Nature Ramble
  • Winter Wonderland

Spring

  • Conservation in Action
  • Eyes to the Skies
  • Green Thumbs
  • Growing Time
  • Night Hike
  • Spring Nature Ramble
  • Spring Sing
  • Wetlands
  • Wetlands, not Wastelands

Summer

  • Forest Explorers
  • Night Hike
  • Prairie Roots
  • Summer Surplus
  • Wetlands

Insects

  • Prairie Roots
  • Cycling
  • Growing Time
  • Wetlands

Birds

  • Growing Time
  • Night Hike
  • Wetlands
  • Spring Sing
  • Sleeping Beauties

Soil

  • Prairie Roots
  • Cycling

Mammals

  • Growing Time
  • Night Hike
  • Sleeping Beauties

Snow

  • Sleeping Beauties

Seeds

  • Prairie Roots
  • Cycling
  • Green Thumbs
  • Growing Time

Forest/Trees

  • Forest Explorers
  • Sleeping Beauties
  • Sugar Bush

Early Illinois History

  • Dancin' at Grandpa's
  • Early Settler Life
  • Sugar Bush
  • Caddie Woodlawn
  • Prairie Roots

Program Guide

For program descriptions and more information, download the Spring Valley Environmental Education Program Guide (PDF) or view it below.

Additional Resources to Explore