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Refuge staff have designed a curriculum that supports classroom study topics, the science FOSS Kits, and state curriculum standards for Science (as well as Math, Social Studies, and Language Arts, where possible). Please check back often for updates. Activities are in the state of development and will be added to this website as they are field-tested and incorporated into the curriculum.

To see which season and grade applies to your needs, please click on our Curriculum by Grade and Topic Index.


  • Depending on site availability, literature connections and pre-activity materials are available for loan through your Partner Teacher or Partner School contact.
  • Only one of our winter curriculum activities are snow-dependent. Snowshoes are only a method for exploring the refuge with almost ALL winter field trip activities. Snowshoes are available for student and chaperone use when 6 inches or more of snow is present. Check with your refuge field trip scheduler for updated trail conditions if you are unsure. 


 A Peek at Plants (K-1st Grade)
Students will review the plant life cycle focusing on naming and explaining the functions of roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and seeds. Students will discover that all life depends on plants during a refuge exploration hike and scavenger hunt.

Birding Basics (3rd-6th Grade)
Studentswill learn about birds and some techniques for bird watching and identification. Students will learn the proper way to use binoculars and will practice their birding skills on a hike at the Refuge.


Birds, Beaks, and Adaptations (2nd-6th Grade)
Students will investigate bird adaptations first-hand by rotating through a series of feeding stations. Using a tool that simulates one style of bird beak, they will learn how adaptations connect birds to certain habitats and behaviors. Students will then take binoculars on a hike to observe other bird adaptations.

Compass Crusade (5th-6th Grade)
As students learn how to follow a designated course using a map and compass, they discover how biologists use orienteering in the process of studying plants and animals.

Forests are More than Trees (Kindergarten-1st Grade)
Students will discover, through a role playing activity, why trees need water, sunlight and nutrients to survive. A hike through the forest will encourage students to look for examples of ways wildlife use the forest. While exploring, students will assemble a tree field guide to refer back to throughout the school year.

Habitat: Who Needs It? (Kindergarten – 6th Grade)
Students will consider the differences between wild and domestic animals. Understanding these differences will help students to better understand the unique qualities of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Students will then investigate and compare three refuge habitats looking for sources of food, water, shelter, and space in each.

How Animals Communicate (2nd-3rd Grade)
Students learn how and why wildlife use sound, scent, and body language to communicate. Students will discover how biologists use this knowledge of wildlife communication to help identify wildlife species they may not be able to see.

Introduction to Snowshoeing (Kindergarten-6th Grade)
Students will discover the history and physics of snowshoes and experience, firsthand, how they work. With one of five snowshoe hike themes, students will explore the refuge winter landscape. There must be at least 6 inches of snow in order to use snowshoes.

Bloomington Education and Visitor Center 

Rapids Lake Education and Visitor Center


Landforms (4th-6th Grade) *Rapids Lake only*
Exploring the Lower Minnesota River Valley, students will gain an understanding of how various land formations, moving water and human activities affect the watershed.

  • Curriculum  
  • Journal page (not yet available)
  • Group Leader Guidelines (not yet available)

Migration Matters (4th – 5th Grade)

Students will learn how and why scientists collect data about individual bird species and bird migration patterns by participating in a bird migration game, a bird banding demonstration, and a bird hike with binoculars.

Minnesota Biomes (4th - 5th Grade)
Students will learn about the study of Natural History and discover threats invasive species pose to Minnesota's native plant communities. Students will conduct a plant survey and explore the concept of diversity within one native plant community (prairie or woodland). Students will also discover invasive plant "control" methods used on the National Wildlife Refuge.

Monarch Tales (1st - 3rd Grade)
Students act out the life cycle of the monarch butterfly to understand the importance of milkweed to the survival of this insect. Students then participate in a milkweed mapping project on the refuge.

Nature Through the Seasons (Kindergarten – 1st Grade)

Students discover the science of phenology: the observation of nature's patterns and rhythms. Students record phenological events they observe during a hike on the refuge. They discover how scientists use phenology to track the impact of even small weather changes on the behavior of plants and animals.

Pond Insect Investigation (2nd-3rd Grade) *Bloomington only*
Students will use dip nets to capture, and microscopes and aquatic insect keys to identify a variety of insects that make up the pond community. Students will discover many of the insects they find flying around the pond actually begin their lives in the water.

Prairie Insect Survey (2nd – 3rd Grade)
Students will be introduced to common insects and insect orders. Students will use their knowledge of insect orders to survey prairie insects found in the prairies on the Refuge.

Seeds on the Go! (2nd – 3rd Grade)
By collecting, sorting and examining seeds, students will discover the variety of ways seeds travel and how these methods of seed dispersal benefit plants and wildlife.

Survivor: Minnesota Winter (Kindergarten-1st Grade)
Students will discover the history and physics of snowshoes and experience, firsthand, how they work. With one of five snowshoe hike themes, students will explore the refuge winter landscape. There must be at least 6 inches of snow in order to use snowshoes.

Water Canaries (3rd-5th Grade) *Bloomington only*
Through a field observation study of aquatic invertebrates, students will discover that life underwater provides scientists with clues to the health of a wetland.

Watershed Walk (4th-5th Grade)
Students explore the movement of water through the earth’s systems, explore the Minnesota River watershed, and participate in an interactive story to uncover how their actions may affect the local watershed. They discover how refuge managers lessen the negative impacts to people and wildlife by controlling water movement and maintaining wetlands.

  • Curriculum 
  • Journal page (not yet available)
  • Group Leader Guidelines (not yet available) 

Wetland Safari (3rd-5th Grade) *Bloomington only*

Students will use binoculars and insect nets to discover plants and animals that make wetlands their home. During their investigations, students will uncover unique characteristics that make wetlands important to wildlife and people.

White-tailed Deer: How Many Are There? (5th – 6th Grade) *Bloomington only*
Students will learn methods wildlife biologists use to estimate wildlife population size. Conducting a simulated white-tailed deer population survey and playing a wildlife survival game will help students to better understand the relationship between habitat and wildlife population size.

Wildlife Scene Investigation (WSI) (2nd-3rd grade)

Students will learn techniques biologists use to better understand the wildlife found in the refuge. Using wildlife tracks, students will gather and interpret wildlife data through observation and measuring.

Wildlife Telemetry (5th-6th Grade)
Students will investigate the often complex field of wildlife management using role-play scenarios, wildlife survey techniques and wildlife monitoring equipment.

Wildlife Walkers (Kindergarten)
Students learn and then practice walking the 4 most common wildlife walking patterns. They discover how an animal’s body shape relates to its walking pattern. A trail hike will challenge students to locate and follow animals tracks an learn to recognize other common wildlife signs.

Winter Tree Math (2nd-3rd Grade)
Students will use a variety of methods to measure the size of trees. The activities will help them to understand why scientists have established standardized measuring techniques for data collection. Through a hands-on activity, students will use forestry equipment and techniques used to collect tree data.

Winter Under a Microscope (4th-6th Grade)
Students will become field biologists using microscopes to examine microscopic characteristics of diverse winter macroscopic organisms.

Last Updated: Apr 14, 2016
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