Elementary and Middle School Field Trips

Home School Programs Elementary and Middle School Field Trips

Plan your field trip at Indian Creek Nature Center! Click the field trip name for a complete description of each field trip, along with a list of the Iowa Core Requirements it meets.

Maple Syruping | All Grades

Learn about the lore and history of this unique North American heritage activity, and explore the Native American, colonial and pioneer history of ‘sugaring.’ The teacher-naturalist shares that maple syrup is the first agricultural crop harvested in Iowa each year. The physiology and identification of maple trees are reviewed. Then participants visit the sugar bush (woods where the maple trees grow) and use tools (bit & brace, hammer, spile and collection bucket) to tap a maple tree. Classes then tour the sugarhouse to learn how sap is boiled to create maple syrup. Each participant enjoys a sample of the maple syrup made at Indian Creek Nature Center on a small ice cream cone. Concepts: Tree anatomy and physiology, seasonal changes, Native American culture, American history of maple syruping.

Honeybees | Grades K-5

Students observe honeybees and their activities within the indoor observation hive. Students observe the worker bees, the queen and drones. Discussion includes honeybee life cycles, bee adaptations, the value of pollination, the relationship between flowers and bees, beekeeping, and bee products. Students participate in a pollinator hunt in our gardens and visit the apiary. 

Iowa Butterflies | Grades K-5

Students will review butterfly/moth life cycles and needs; protection tactics butterflies use including camouflage, mimicry &  behaviors;  learn about conservation issues and what individuals can do in their own yards to help butterflies; and tour our butterfly hoop house containing milkweed plants, native flowers and monarch butterflies.

Plants and Animals | Grades K-3

Join us for a sensory exploration of the creek, floodplain, prairie and woodland habitats of Indian Creek Nature Center! Students will discover the diverse plant and animal life along the trails, in the creek, and amongst the prairie plants. Various activities will help them understand food chains, life cycles and the interdependence between people, wild plants, animals and the earth.

Insects | Grades K-3

Students will discover the vast diversity in the insect world, review insects’ basic characteristics, and explore the essential roles insects fulfill in our environments. Observe adaptations for survival, finding food, mating, and pollination. Students will have an opportunity to look at the Nature Center’s collection of insect specimens, visit our indoor observation honeybee hive, and use nets to do an insect collection in the prairie. We will discuss both the positive aspects of insects and the reasons people dislike insects. Learn about life cycles and metamorphosis, and observe butterflies in our butterfly hoop house.

Plants, Seeds, & Pollinators | Grades K-3

The Nature Center is the perfect place for hands-on learning about plants and flowers! Students will learn about habitat needs of plants, plant anatomy and purpose, seed and flower anatomy and purpose, and native pollinators and flowers. Go on a scavenger hunt to find examples of different seed dispersal mechanisms and pollinators. Students will learn how animals use plants and seeds and how plants sometimes use animals.

Ponds & Wetlands | Grades 1-3

A teacher-naturalist leads the way as students explore the wetland and participate in a variety of exciting activities, like dip-netting, listening to frog sounds, and more! Students will watch birds at the wetland, feel furs, examine skulls and pass around a turtle shell before looking for turtles in the water. Concepts covered include: wetland characteristics, importance, function, water cycle, habitats, adaptations, life cycles, food chains and diversity.

Weather | Grades 2-3

Students explore forces that create the seasons, the water cycle, and weather. Learn how butterflies, vultures and other birds take advantage of thermals for migration, and then make a vulture model and make it soar! Go on a weather scavenger hunt, and collect data on temperature, cloud cover, cloud type, precipitation, and wind speed. Students will also explore the relationship between weather, wildlife migration, and plant life cycles.

Snowshoeing | Grades 3+

Strap on snowshoes, and head for the trails! This outdoor snowshoeing experience includes discussion of the history of snowshoes, winter ecology, and seasonal change. The group will also discuss the value of snowshoeing as recreation and exercise. Students will explore the trails looking for signs of wildlife. Snowshoes are provided.

Geology | Grades 4 -6

Students participate in hands-on experiments exploring geologic concepts, including forces that shape the landscape, geologic timeline, rock cycles, mineral testing, fossil formation and a fossil dig. Students model layers of the earth and demonstrate plate tectonics, and examine rock specimens and fossils from the Nature Center’s collection.

Prairie and Woodland Field Study | Grades 4-8

Students become scientists for a day as they use thermometers, wind gauges and other tools to complete a field survey. Collect environmental data, record data, make comparisons and use an identification key. Explore habitats including floodplain forest, oak savanna, conifer and prairie, and examine adaptations and food chains. The group will discuss the history of each habitat, how to care for and restore those habitats, and the role of native plants in the health of soils and watersheds.

Water Quality Study | Grades 4-8

Students measure the water quality at our wetland pond by testing the pH, turbidity, smell, color and temperature of the pond water. Data is recorded and used to predict which aquatic life forms would grow and reproduce in the conditions measured and observed. Students use nets to complete a macroinvertebrate collection, identify collected species, and use data collected to determine water quality. The group will examine adaptations of various aquatic insects and nymphs, as well as plant life and its role in the wetland.

Watersheds: Exploring Our Actions | Grades 4-8

Students will explore the Indian Creek Watershed and the problems it faces as a result of human activity. Using Enviroscapes, students will model urban and rural pollution sources, erosion, flooding, climate change, and modern urban and rural conservation techniques, and then discuss. Tour a rain garden and parking lot bioswale, see an example of permeable paving, and learn about the benefits of using rain barrels. The focus is on what each of us can do individually to improve watershed health.

Outdoor Skills | Grades 4-8

An outdoor skills experience is very hands-on and crafted to meet the requirements of each teacher’s curriculum. Available activities include, but are not limited to: fire building, use of flint and steel to start fires, knot tying, pocketknife use and care, basic first aid, shelter building, edible plant identification, plants to avoid, and more. Many teachers choose activities to fit the themes in the following books that their students may be reading: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, Hatchet by Gary Paulson, or Cabin on Trouble Creek by Jean Van Leeuwen. If students are reading one of these novels, naturalists integrate themes and characters from the various books into the activities in which the students participate. Please talk directly with a naturalist prior to your field trip to determine activities for your students.

Invasive Species | Grades 6-8

Students examine ICNC’s wetland, prairie and woodlands to find examples of invasive plant and animal species in Iowa, including garlic mustard, Asian bittersweet, black locusts, emerald ash borers and more. Learn about the history of each species, where it is native to, how it came to Iowa, ways that invasive plants spread and how to prevent spreading them, the threats these species pose to native habitats, control measures, and the nation-wide prevalence of some species. Learn what other species could become a problem here. Students may collect plant samples to take back to school for further study. We will discuss the role of climate change, habitat management and restoration techniques. See Service Learning Experiences for an opportunity to participate in an invasive species removal project.

Service Learning Experiences | Grades 6+

Projects vary by season. Project examples include prairie seed collection and removing invasive species. Arrangements are made with the Nature Center’s land stewardship staff.

If you are studying specific concepts in the classroom and would like us to include them in your Nature Center field experience, please contact us.