For Educators

For Educators

"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder...he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."
- Rachel Carson

Have you discovered the joys of teaching in the outdoors? Are you looking for an outdoor classroom that offers standards-based curriculum and diverse habitats to enhance your classroom learning? We offer three field trip options, described below. 

Virtual/Online Lessons 

Invite a naturalist into your virtual classroom or in-person classroom virtually!  

Fall lessons begin October 1. A registration link will be available at the start of the 2021-2022 school year. Once registered, one of our educators will contact you by email to set the specific time and topic for your lesson.

Lesson topics include:

Fall Lessons  


  • K-2: Intro to Insects (30 min): Students will learn the parts of an insect via an “I Draw, You Draw” activity. They will learn the life cycle of the monarch butterfly by acting out a story and the importance of the milkweed plant to the monarch’s life cycle.
  • 3-5: Birding Basics (30 min): Students will learn what distinguishes a bird from other animals. They will learn the key characteristics, as well as anatomy important for observing birds and identifying them. The intent of this lesson is to stimulate students’ curiosity in identifying birds and how to identify them. 


Winter Lessons 


  • K-2: Monarch Adaptations and Cultural Connections (30 min): Students will identify winter adaptations, learn how monarch butterflies adapt to winter, and hear a story based on a Mexican legend and indigenous Purépecha culture about how monarchs make their way to Mexico. 
  • K-2: Insect Adaptations (30 min): Where have the insects gone? We will play an investigative game to help us learn about many insects and the various adaptations they use to survive winter in Minnesota. 
  • 3-5: Bird Beak Adaptations (30 min): Through discussion and a Clue-style investigation game, students learn how birds' beaks differ from one another and how these differences help them adapt and survive in their unique habitats. 
  • 3-5: World of Waterfowl / Jr. Duck Stamp Art Contest (45 min): Discover adaptations that make waterfowl unique and suited for survival in wetlands. Through discussion, games, and drawing activities, students will walk away with the basics to enter the Jr. Duck Stamp Art Contest. 


Spring Lessons 


  • K-2: Pond Insect Life Cycles and Adaptations (30 min): Let's dive deep and discover the insects that live in the pond. Through observation, discussion, and a matching game, students will learn that young pond insects can look very different from adults. We'll also explore the adaptations pond insects have to survive life under water.
  • K-2: Macro-Mayhem (30 min): We will further our study of pond insects by discovering how life under water provides scientists with clues to the health of a wetland. Through a live, interactive demonstration, as well as an active exercise game, we will learn how pollution affects different species of macroinvertebrates.
  • 3-5: Bird Language (30 min): Can you understand what birds are telling each other? In this lesson students will learn the functions of bird calls and discover techniques for recognizing bird calls in the field.
  • 3-5: Migration Mysteries (30 min): Why and how do birds migrate? What are flyways? Students will discuss these questions and play a choose-your-own-adventure game where they work as a class to steer their flock toward a successful migration, avoiding common obstacles along the way.  

Partner Schools Program

The Partner School program is currently full, we will be accepting applications for new partner schools in spring 2021.

The Partner School Program provides teachers and students with multidisciplinary, standard-based curriculum that includes hands-on, real-life experiences with plants and wildlife, as well as recreational opportunities to immerse students in nature throughout the seasons. The program is taught by Refuge staff and reaches a wide audience of students with an emphasis on the communities surrounding the Refuge. Field trip busing expenses are reimbursed through the Blue Goose Bus Fund, administered by the Refuge, Friends Inc.

Partner Teacher Program 

Please read the new bus policy from Refuge Friends Inc. on cost sharing based on Free and Reduced Price Lunch percentages.  This policy was effective September 2016. 

The Partner Teacher Program is a mirror image of the Partner School program and curriculum. This education program places the teaching emphasis on trained teachers to self-lead environmental education experiences on the refuge. Teachers are provided with natural resources and curriculum training, field trip planning support, and priority scheduling. Partner Teachers are eligible for 100% bus reimbursement if their school has 50% and above of students in the Free and Reduced Price Lunch program and 50% bus reimbursement if their school has below 50% of students in the Free and Reduced Price Lunch program.

Self-Led Groups 

Self-led groups, such as schools not in our above partner programs, YMCA, community summer camps, or Scouts are welcome to visit and explore the Refuge lands and visitor centers 7 days a week! Each self-led group has the freedom to develop their own programs to suit individual needs. The visitor center grounds and trails throughout the refuge are available for your visit, but staff programming is not provided. An introductory video about the refuge can be viewed here to prepare for your self-led visit:

We encourage you to call at least two weeks before you plan to visit the Refuge to help us avoid conflicts with existing scheduled partner environmental education programs. To notify us about your self-led visit date and time at the Bloomington Education and Visitor Center or Rapids Lake Education Center email us at

Both of our Refuge Education and Visitor Centers have explorer backpacks available free of charge for use by self-led groups and the general public. Backpacks vary in content at each center to coordinate with the habitat and wildlife found on that particular area of the Refuge.