For Educators

Education Intern Teaching

Please contact Conservation Educator Sara Hallas (239) 472-1100 ext 236 to schedule your class.

Refuge Environmental Education Field Trips
IMG_2905Attention School teachers, Homeschoolers, and Scout leaders: 
Come out to the Wildlife Refuge for a FREE field trip! Our Conservation Educator can tailor your trip to fit what you are studying in the classroom OR pick from one of the programs below. Each lesson incorporates a variety of hands-on activities into every program. Through multi-sensory experiences, audience interaction, fun animal bio facts and meaningful contact with Refuge Staff, all participants may experience a new awareness and appreciation for the natural world. 

  • Free
  • September - May (Monday - Friday) 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Wildlife DRIVE is CLOSED on Fridays but Indigo Trail hikes to the Wildlife Education Boardwalk are available.
  • Educator led experience inside our educational center and outside in the estuary.
  • Multiple Classes.
  • Classroom pre-visit by refuge staff can be arranged.
  • Call Conservation Educator at (239) 472-1100 x236 for reservations.


School Outreach Opportunities
Intern teaching at the WEBDon’t have enough money for a field trip? Don’t worry. Visit the Refuge without ever leaving your classroom! A J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge Staff member will bring the Estuary to you! Schedule a visit from a Refuge education staff to supplement your classroom curriculum. See topic ideas below.

  • FREE
  • September - May (Monday - Friday) 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Friday’s preferred
  • Program length varies by grade level
  • Multiple Classes & grades preferred from each school
  • ALL programs can be adapted to serve each classes needs.
  • Call Conservation Educator at (239) 472-1100 x236 for reservations.


Grades K-12 Topics

The following programs can be adapted for any grade level & ability. Florida Sunshine State Standards are listed below the programs.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge & Refuge System
Never been to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island? What is a Wildlife Refuge? Let a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Refuge Ranger bring the refuge to your site in this interactive program.

  • K-2    SC.2.N.1.1
  • 3-5    SC.3.N.1.1; SC.4.L.17.4
  • 6-8    SC.7.E.6.6
  • 9-12  SC.912.L.17.8; SC.912.L.17.12; SC.912.L.17.20 

Importance of the Estuary
EstuaryExplore the Mangrove Estuary, sometimes referred to as the “nursery of the sea”. Learn about the animals that live there and the importance of this critical habitat. Discuss the various animals that call this unique habitat home. 


Sunshine State Standards

  • 3-5    SC.4.L.17.1; SC.4.L.17.2; SC.4.L.17.4
  • 6-8    SC.7.E.6.6; SC.7.L.17.1; SC.7.L.17.3; SC.912.L.17.3 

Reading in the Refuge  

A Refuge Ranger will bring an educational book to read to your class, followed by a short program about an animal found in the estuary. Designed for younger students- K-3rd. Topics include:

  • Florida Manatees
  • Florida Sea Turtles
  • Alligators and Crocodiles
  • All About Owls
  • Butterflies
  • Horseshoe Crabs
  • Ospreys
  • Pelicans
  • Mollusks
  • ..and much more!

Sunshine State Standards

  • K-2   SC.K.L.14.2; SC.K.L.14.3; SC.K.N.1.4; SC.1.L.14.1; SC.1.L.17.1; SC.2.L.16.1; SC.2.L.17.1; SC.2.L.17.2

Birds, Bills and Beaks… How do they Eat?

BBB SpoonbillsBirds of the Estuary: What makes a bird a bird? Learn to identify interesting facts about the different birds of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Staff use everyday items to demonstrate how birds use their specialized beaks to find food. Learn who are the most common birds found in Southwest Florida.

Sunshine State Standards 

  • K-2      SC.K.L.14.3; SC.K.P.12.1; SC.1.L.17.1; SC.2.L.16.1; SC.2.L.17.2
  • 3-5      SC.4.L.17.1; SC.4.L.17.2
  • 6-8      SC.7.L.17.2; SC.7.L.17.3
  • 9-12     SC.912.L.15.1; SC.912.L.15.4; SC.912.L.15.13; SC.912.L.17.1 

Nocturnal Animals  

While you were sleeping, you missed a lot! When the sun goes down, many animals are just starting their day! Become a night watcher and see how our five senses compare to those of nocturnal animals. Learn about Florida Owls and dissect an owl pellet (optional).

Sunshine State Standards

  • K-2      SC.K.E.5.3; SC.K.L.14.1; SC.K.P.12.1;SC.1.L.14.1
  • 3-5      SC.5.L.17.1; SC.3.L.15.1

Florida ’s Wacky Wildlife  

Join us as we explore Florida’s habitats and discover the plants and animals that live in our own backyard! Learn interesting facts about some of Southwest Florida’s famous wildlife residents. 

Sunshine State Standards  

  • K-2       SC.K.N.1.4; SC.1.L.17.1
  • 3-5       SC.3.L.15.1; SC.3.N.1.1
  • 6-8       SC.7.L.17.1

Magnificent Manatees

ManateeCome with us on a rare underwater adventure as we visit the world of the Florida Manatee. Students will be engaged learning about the unique way of life of this endangered marine animal. 


Sunshine State Standards  

  • K-2      SC.K.L.14.3; SC.K.P.12.1; SC.1.E.6.2; SC.1.L.17.1; SC.2.L.17.2
  • 3-5      SC.3.L.15.1; SC.5.L.15.1; SC.5.L.17.1
  • 6-8      SC.7.E.6.4; SC.7.E.6.6; SC.7.L.17.3 


Amazing Adaptations

Amazing AdaptationsPlants and animals adapt to their environment in many ways. Join us as we visit with a variety of species found in South Florida and discover the special behavioral and physical characteristics which allow these living treasures to survive in their natural habitats. A manatee’s muscular lips, the unique bill of a roseate spoonbill and the horseshoe crab with its many sets of eyes are examples of some amazing animal adaptations.

Sunshine State Standards 

  • K-2      SC.K.L.14.3; SC.1.L.16.1; SC.2.L.17.1
  • 3-5      SC.5.L.15.1; SC.5.L.17.1
  • 6-8      SC.7.E.6.4; SC.7.L.17.2; SC.7.L.17.3
  • 9-12     SC.912.L.15.1; SC.912.L.15.3; SC.912.L.15.13; SC.912.L.17.5; SC.912.L.17.6

Circle of Life

 Circle of LifeStudents will be introduced to food webs as they explore the plants and animals of the estuary. The class will build a food web and learn how our complex environment stays in balance.



Sunshine State Standards

  • 3-5   SC.3.L.17.2; SC.4.L.17.2; SC.4.L.17.3
  • 6-8   SC.7.L.17.1; SC.7.L.17.2              

Endangered Species

The Habitats of animals throughout the world are disappearing. Some species are in critical condition, yet others are on the comeback. Learn about Florida's endangered species. there is hope as we examine this difficult issue and learn what we can do to help.

Sunshine State Standards

  • K-2    SC.1.L.17.1; SC.2.L.17.1
  • 3-5    SC.5.L.15.1
  • 6-8    SC.7.E.6.6
  • 9-12  SC.912.E.6.6; SC.912.L.17.8; SC.912.L.17.20   

Fabulous Flyways

It doesn't have to be International Migratory Bird Day (celebrated May of each year) to celebrate and learn about animal migration. Which bird travels the farthest? Many options are available for students and teachers that focus on the world of migrating birds.

Sunshine State Standards

  • K-2    SC.2.E.7.1; SC.2.L.16.1; SC.2.L.17.2
  • 3-5    SC.4.L.17.1 
Who was "Ding" Darling?

Ding DarlingWhat is a conservationist? How can we all be conservationists in our lives? Learn about Jay Norwood Darling's life and his impact on the Refuge in this interactive PowerPoint Program given by Refuge staff. ("Ding" at work: "Ding" Darling Foundation)


Sunshine State Standards

  • K-2   SS.K.A.2.2; SS.K.A.2.4; SS.1.A.2.4
  • 3-5   SS.4.A.7.1; SS.5.C.2.5
  • 6-8   SS.8.A.1.7; SS.8.A.4.8
  • 9-12 SS.912.A.4.11; SS.912.C.2.8         

Marine Debris: Let's Talk Trash

Marine DebrisHumans impact the earth in many ways. Our marine environment is affected greatly. How long does it take trash to break down? Work together as a class to assemble a marine debris timeline and find out! Learn about recycling and discuss how we can make a change for the better. Let's conserve wildlife and wild places for many years to come.

Sunshine State Standards

  • K-2     SC.D.2.1.1; SC.G.2.1.2
  • 3-5     SC.D.2.2.1
I Want to Work in the Outdoors!

Students will explore the career opportunities that as a US Fish and Wildlife Service Federal Refuge Ranger has to offer, and will participate in activities that will help to prepare them for finding a job in today's world. Students will have the opportunity to engage in a question and answer session with a Refuge Ranger.

*Career Preparation Emphasis Curriculum - students will be introduced to a variety of Park Ranger careers through hands-on activities and will take part in a mock interview process with the Refuge Ranger.

Sunshine State Standards

  •  9-12    SS.912.C.2.2; SS.912.C.2.8; SC.912.N.2.5; SC.912.N.4.2 

Jr. Duck Stamp Program

JDS Program PromoLearn about the importance of wetland habitats, wildlife refuges, through the Jr. Duck Stamp Program. Get children excited about ducks and migratory birds while participating in this unique program that teaches about science through art. For more information go to


Check out the 2013 Florida Junior Duck Stamp Best of Show

JDS Best of show

Sunshine State Standards

  •  K-12      SC.K.N.1.4; SC.4.N.1.6 

Clueless about Climate Change?

Explore the terminology, science and politics that surround climate change. Play Greenhouse Gotcha! Examine your ecological footprint. Younger students will take home a green craft.

Sunshine State Standards

  • 3-5    SC.3.E.5.2; SC.3.P.11.2; SC.4.E.6.3
  • 3-5    SS.4.G.1.4; SS.5.G.3.1
  •  6-8    SC.6.E.7.4; SC.7.E.6.6; SC.7.P.11.1; SC.6.E.7.6
  •  6-8    SS.7.G.2.3; SS.7.G.3.1; SS.8.A.4.5; SS.8.A.4.6; SS.8.A.4.8; SS.8.G.3.2
  •  9-12  SC.912.E.6.6; SC.912.E.7.3; SC.912.E.7.4; SC.912.E.7.7; SC.912.E.7.8; SC.912.L.17.8; SC.912.L.17.11; SC.912.L.17.13; SC.912.L.17.16; SC.912.L.17.18; SC.912.L.20; SC.912.L.18.12
  •  9-12  SS.912.C.2.5; SS.E.2.11

Children's Conservation Cartoon Contest

 As part of the annual J.N. "Ding" Darling Birthday Celebration and Wildlife Refuge Week- middle school students from six area schools had the opportunity to follow the legacy of the renowned editorial cartoonist, Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling.

Doug MacGregor, editorial cartoonist and Becky Larkins, Environmental Education Specialist from the Wildlife Refuge visited area schools: Cypress Lake Middle, Edison Park Expressive and Creative, Pine Island Elementary, Patriot Elementary, Sanibel School, and Three Oaks Elementary. They spoke about conservation, history of the wildlife refuge system, "Ding" Darling, history of cartooning, and how to create an editorial cartoon. Then students went the the task of creating their own cartoons.

Throughout history, editorial cartoons have been drawn to inspire and provoke thought. The following cartoons are created by area school children and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Newspress or the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.