First grade students enjoying a guided walk on the boardwalk at Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Each year approximately 10,000 students, teachers, and group leaders visit Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge for a field trip. Field trips are designed to support the learning goals of each visiting group.   

The Refuge offers opportunities for students to explore local habitats, experience local wildlife, and learn about the natural world. The Refuge is a popular place and reservations for educational groups are required. The Environmental Education Program has something for all school age groups. 

All groups that reserve a field trip through the Refuge’s Environmental Education Program receive an entrance fee waiver. 

Requests may be made for any combination of the following:

Independent trips - teacher led field trips. Refuge Educators provide pre-trip planning assistance. 

Orientation talks - Refuge educators meet with your group to provide a welcome and orientation

Guided trail explorations - Refuge educators lead small groups on guided trail explorations 

Indoor activities - Refuge educatorsleadindoor programming in our Environmental Education Center


Before You Begin you will need the following information:

  • Number of students, teachers, and chaperones
  • Learning goals and objectives
  • Identify pre-trip activities to prepare your students for their field trip and post-trip activities to serve as a follow-up

Step 1. Review Our Criteria

The following criteria must be met to participate in a Refuge field trip:

  • Visit is for educational purposes.
  • Field trip supplements a unit of study that focuses on the natural environment.
  • Pre-K to College, including home schools. Multi-age student groups are acceptable.
  •  A minimum of 10 students, and a maximum of 100. Groups larger than 100 may split across multiple dates. 

Step 2. Pick Two Dates

Select a first and second choice date for your field trip.

From September through June, the Refuge offers a wide range of field trip types. All field trip types listed in the Field Trip Reservation Form may be requested.

In July and August, education groups are welcome to reserve independent field trips. Refuge educators are not available to conduct programming during July and August.

Requests for field trip dates between March through the end of the school year are accepted starting on the second Monday in January. Field trips outside this time frame may be booked at any time.

If you are planning a field trip between May 15th through the End of the School Year, all participating educators are required to have attended a Field Trip Orientation Workshop. For more information, please refer to the Field Trip Orientation Workshop information below.

Step 3. Request the Field Trip Reservation Form

To receive a Field Trip Reservation Form, contact the Refuge’s Education Coordinator at or (360) 753-9467.

Step 4. Complete Form and Return

Provide information on your group to the best of your ability. Field Trip Reservation Forms must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the field trip date. Once completed, please e-mail, fax, or mail your field trip reservation form to us:

Education Coordinator
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
100 Brown Farm Road
Olympia, WA 98516
Phone: (360) 753-9467
Fax: (360) 534-9302

Step 5. Allow Time for your Form to be Processed

Please allow the Education Coordinator one week to process and respond to your form. During this time, we may contact you to clarify and request additional information. If you are requesting a field trip that includes access to the Environmental Education Center and Refuge educators, we will work with you to create a schedule of activities.

Step 6. Receive a Confirmation Form

Once your form has been processed, you will receive a Confirmation Form that serves as your entrance fee waiver. This waiver covers all students, teachers, and chaperones.

**PLEASE NOTE: Your Field Trip is NOT Reserved until you receive a Confirmation Form.**

Step 7. Prepare for your Trip!

Once you’ve received a confirmation form, you are all set! Be sure to prepare students for their visit. Here are some ideas for preparing your students:

  • Discuss how to dress for the weather with your students. Dressing for the weather can make all the difference! We go outside even if it rains or snows, unless there are unsafe conditions.
  • Assign students to chaperone groups prior to arriving at the Refuge.
  • Brief your students on trail etiquette and about learning outdoors. At National Wildlife Refuges we are all guests in wild animals’ homes!
  • Garbage from lunch will need to be taken back with you after your visit. Discuss “pack-it-in and pack-it-out” with your students. You may choose to have each student pack their own garbage or bring along garbage bags that can be stowed on the bus.
  • Prepare students to find common wildlife species for the season of your visit. Some common species at the Refuge are included in the Species page.
  • Preview the Refuge website to learn about the various activities and trails at Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

Still have questions?

Please read our FAQs below or reach out to our Education Coordinator:

Education Coordinator
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Phone: (360) 753-9467;  Fax: (360) 534-9302


Attend one of our free field trip orientation workshops to receive all the tools you need to confidently guide your students on a meaningful outdoor learning experience. You will be introduced to our hands-on indoor activities in our Environmental Education Center, hike the Twin Barns Loop Trail, and learn about one of the largest restoration projects in the Puget Sound!  Refreshments are provided. For upcoming workshop dates and a Registration Form, please contact the Education Coordinator.


Bus Transportation Grant provided by Friends of Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Friends of Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Friends) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that helps fund environmental education, interpretation, and outreach programs at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Friends recognizes that transportation costs can be a major barrier to providing students quality field trip opportunities. The Rides to the Refuge Grant is designed to cover transportation costs when those costs prohibit a group from visiting the refuge. Friends operates this program on the good-faith that schools able to cover their own transportation costs will do so to ensure that this resource is leveraged where most needed.

The Rides to the Refuge Grant operates on a first-come, first-served basis. The number of approved groups each year will depend on the amount of funding available and the size of each group approved. We cannot guarantee that all groups that meet the three criteria below will be approved.

To qualify, the following criteria must be met:

  • All requirements outlined in the Refuge’s Field Trip Reservation Form
  • Your group size is between 20-100 participating students

To apply, complete and submit the Rides to the Refuge Grant Application.

Both your Field Trip Reservation Form and your Rides to the Refuge Grant Application must be submitted at least two weeks prior to your field trip date.

For more information and to request a Grant Application, contact the Education Coordinator:, (360) 753-9467.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is A Reservation Required?

Reservations are required for all school-aged groups visiting Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is a popular place with limited facilities. With reservations we can:

  • Schedule classes to avoid overcrowding and conflicting use of Refuge facilities, minimize wildlife disturbance, and ensure a quality opportunity for wildlife observation.
  • Coordinate with refuge volunteers to assist educational groups.
  • Adapt interpretive and educational programs to best fit your needs.
  • Document the number of people participating in Refuge activities. These data are included in the Refuge’s annual accomplishment reports and is beneficial for defining refuge needs and future growth.

How Much Does a Field Trip Cost?

Field trips scheduled with the Refuge are exempt from the entrance fee.  Friends of Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Complex provides Rides to the Refuge grants to cover transportation costs for qualifying groups.

How Many Groups May Come Each Day?

The number of groups visiting may vary; however, no more than 100 students will be using Refuge trails at any given time. This ensures a better field trip experience for students and minimizes impacts on wildlife. If you have over 100 students, consider splitting your field trip across two or more days.

What Supplies and Materials Does the Refuge Provide?

For fully assisted groups, the Refuge provides access to the Environmental Education Center and Refuge educators. Our team of staff and volunteers lead indoor hands-on programming that brings science to life. Our unique resources include feathers, furs, nests, taxidermy bird mounts, and other natural artifacts as well as classroom tools such as microscopes, clipboards, etc.  Additionally, our educators can lead small groups of students on guided trail explorations. Binoculars may also be loaned to any students 2nd grade and older.

If your question isn't listed, please contact the Education Coordinator.