For Educators

school groups



Environmental Education



Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of fun and unique environmental education programs designed to be experiential in nature and geared toward Illinois State science learning standards. Environmental education gives students an opportunity to get outside and learn about nature, in nature. All programs are free of charge and available throughout the school year.



On-Site Environmental Education Programs



Forest Fun
Season: Fall, Spring
Grades: 2nd-3rd
In this program, students will learn the parts of a tree and their functions. Students will also learn the differences between an evergreen and deciduous tree. As part of the program, students will receive field journals that help them identify trees based on their leaf characteristics. Students will use their journals to document the types of trees they encounter along the trail. Students will understand the importance of trees in the ecosystem, what trees do for us, and what we can do to conserve the forest.
Program duration approximately: 2 hours


Amazing Owl Adaptations
Season: Winter
Grade: 2nd-5th
Owls have adapted to be very successful hunters. Students will also get an opportunity to see and feel an owl mount and dissect a real owl pellet to observe the remains of what these birds of prey eat. Southern Illinois provides excellent habitat for many species of owls and students will gain an appreciation for these mysterious birds.
Program duration approximately: 2 hours


Butterfly Round-Up
Season: Fall
Grades: 3rd-5th
The annual southern migration of the monarch butterfly passes through Crab Orchard. Students will be instructed on how to safely collect these delicate insects and will go out into the field with their own nets. Once collected, each monarch will be tagged, recorded in a journal, and released to help track the butterflies as they migrate to and from Mexico. The importance of butterflies in the ecosystem will be discussed as well.
Program duration approximately: 2 hours


Wildflower Hikes
Season: Spring
Grades: 2nd-5th
Southern Illinois and Crab Orchard have an incredible diversity of wildflowers; some seen nowhere else in the state. Flowers play an important role in the ecosystem and are connected in many ways to other plant and animal species encountered on the trail. Students will observe flower characteristics and understand how they are grouped into families. They will also be surprised to know how many wildflower species are related to common foods they eat every day.
Program duration approximately: 2 hours


Earth Day Celebration
Season: April
Grades: 4th & 5th
This annual all-day event is an excellent opportunity for students to engage with nature conservation and understand the reason why we celebrate Earth Day. Speakers present such topics as recycling, energy conservation, endangered species/habitat conservation, law enforcement, and wildlife management.
This event is held outdoors.