For Educators

Children on the baordwalk at Waubay NWR. Photo by L. Hubers/USFWS

A variety of habitats makes Waubay Refuge an excellent outdoor classroom

Children are spending less time outdoors than ever before.  Much of their time is now spent indoors watching TV, or spending time on computers or video games.  A recent report found the average 8-18 year old American spent 53 hours per week (32%) on “entertainment media”.  Richard Louv believes this contributes to a “nature-deficit” in children that may be associated with problems such as attention deficit disorder, obesity, less creativity, and depression. From staff-led birding and wildflower hikes to pond studies for local elementary students, Waubay NWR tries to raise awareness about the natural world all around us and encourage kids and adults to spend more time outdoors.

Waubay National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to visit with your class. Here are some guidelines and tips to help you plan a successful trip.

Before Your Visit  

  • Call the Refuge to confirm a date and if you would like assistance from Refuge staff.  Determine what topics you would like to address and what materials and/or activities the Refuge may be able to provide. Ask for a list of wildlife and birds found on the Refuge, as well as brochures, and maps. 
  • Have a class meeting to talk about the trip: where you're going, what you can expect to see, how long you'll be there, and so on. Locate the Refuge on a map and and talk about wildlife conservation and habitat preservation.
  • Print a journal page and make copies for your class.

During Your Visit  

  • Bring along, or borrow from the refuge, binoculars, spotting scopes, and field guides.
  • Stop at the Visitors Center to see exhibits and kiosks to orient yourself.
  • When hiking, walk slowly and look carefully. Stop frequently and look around. Listen carefully, too. What do you see and hear?
  • Take a close look at what makes and keeps a wild place wild. Make notes of new things you learn, sights and sounds that are particularly striking, and new questions. Make sketches!

After Your Visit 

  • Give everyone chance to describe their experience at the Refuge with a class discussion. Follow up with writing and art activities. If there are burning questions inspired by the trip, organize research projects. 
  • Share what you saw, learned, and felt with people who couldn't make the trip. Prepare presentations for other classes or parents.
  • Have students write an article for a local or school newspaper about your visit, explaining why the Refuge is important. Plan another visit! Visiting throughout the year and during different seasons will open up new avenues of exploration and learning.

Wildlife Exploration in a Box or a Pack

Can't come to the Refuge? Waubay National Wildlife Refuge has three educational trunks that are available for loan to educators or home schools in our District interested in teaching about migratory birds or wetlands.  These trunks are free to use and will be picked up and delivered at your convenience. 

We also have two "Let's Go Outside!" backpacks that are available for loan and include a number of activities and tools for exploring. These activities are most appropriate for children 6 to 12 years old but can encourage a sense of wonder and fun for people of all ages.

Children are never too young to learn about the wonder of our natural resources.  Kelly Preheim, a kindergarten teacher from Armour, SD, uses birds to bring nature into her classroom and hopefully develop a lifelong interest in the wildlife we share the planet with. Read her story here - Getting Kids Hooked on Birds.