"The objective is to teach the student to see the land, to understand what he sees, and enjoy what he understands." -- Aldo Leopold
We invite you to participate in educational lessons for schools at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center with a minimum of 10 children and a maximum of 30 children in attendance per class:
Half-Day Visits -- one lesson in the morning or in the afternoon
Preschool through 5th grade -- Seasonal Field Investigations. Lesson time is 1 hour for preschool and kindergarten; 1-1/2 hours for 1st through 5th grades. These lessons are aligned with Minnesota Academic Standards in science and language arts. Please scroll down for listings by grade level and season.
6th-8th grade -- Seasonal Field Studies. Lesson time is 1-1/2 to 2 hours long. Please scroll down to the bottom of this page for more information.
9th-12th grade -- Prairie or Wetland Ecosystem Bio Blitz in any season. Please scroll down to the bottom of this page for more information.
Home school families -- Nature Journaling. Very adaptable for a variety of ages and any season. Please scroll down past the seasonal curriculum for more information.
Full Day Visits -- two lessons, one in the morning and one in the afternoon with lunch in between
Preschool through 8th grade classes -- add our Nature Journaling lesson to your 1/2 day visit to create a full day experience.
9th-12th grade classes -- Prairie and Wetland Ecosystem Bio Blitz -- explore both prairie and wetland ecosystems for a full day visit. Or add our Nature Journaling lesson.
Home schools -- participate in a second Nature Journaling field activity to create a full day visit.
Multi-day and overnight visits for 5th graders and older
Residential visits for school groups are currently not available.
We continue to experience reduced staffing levels in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nationally and locally. In order to sustain quality services to our core education partnership with remaining staff capacity, we must regretfully reduce the quantity of services traditionally provided to all classes visiting for field trips.
For the 2023-2024 school year, you are welcome to visit with your students for self-guided experiences. We continue to provide relevant curriculum (see below), safe and clean indoor and outdoor spaces, as well as materials and equipment to use on your own. Unfortunately, we cannot provide staff to teach lessons and lead classes.
Scheduling Your Class
To lead your class when visiting the PWLC in the 2023-2024 school year, we ask that you call our office to reserve your date(s) at 218-998-4480 now through August 31, 2023. We are scheduling over the phone instead of on-line. Please have the following information on-hand so we can complete your booking in one phone call (no tentative bookings, no holds):
- Names, phone numbers, and email addresses for scheduling contact and visiting teachers
- Whether or not you would like use PWLC materials and equipment or bring your own
- Preferred dates -- Mondays through Fridays are available if you are using your own equipment and materials. To borrow ours, please plan to visit on a Thursday or Friday.
- Arrival time at the PWLC from home and departure time from the PWLC to return home, building your schedule from the time blocks listed below
- grade level and corresponding lesson timeframes (preschool and kindergarten lessons are 1 hour long; all others are 1-1/2 hours long)
- number of bathroom breaks (15 minutes each) or none
- lunch break (30 minutes) or none
- exhibit and store time (15 minutes each) or none
- Expected number of children and adults
- Nature Journaling field activity choice for full day visits -- see our Nature Journaling lesson plan for a list of options on page 4.
Our calendar will close to bookings for the 2023-2024 school year on September 1, 2023. We are open to re-evaluating the services we can offer should our future staffing circumstances change. In the meantime, if you have questions, please email email@example.com or call the PWLC at 218-998-4480. Thank you!
Half-Day Visits for Preschool - 5th Grades: Seasonal Field Investigations
The PWLC offers nature education lessons specifically designed preschool through 5th grades and which help support Minnesota Academic Standards in Science and Language Arts. We strongly encourage classes to participate in each field investigation in the grade level series developed for fall, winter, and spring. Students gain a better understanding of the Prairie Pothole Region when they experience the seasonal changes and framework development by participating in each field investigation of the grade level series. (For a full day experience, classes can also stay for an afternoon Nature Journaling lesson after completing the seasonal field investigation for their grade level.) Many of our lesson plans are organized using the KWHL format.
Listed by GRADE LEVEL
To view a listing by season, please scroll down to the bottom of this page.
Click on the title of the lesson to access the full lesson plan.
PRE-SCHOOL - EXPLORATION SERIES
Title: Prairie Wetlands Explorers
Description: Students walk and look for three special places on a simple map (prairie, wetlands, and oak savanna). When they find these places, they use their senses to explore what they find (such as water, plants, soil, wind, sun). Students discuss why maps are important at the PWLC and take home a PWLC trail map and habitat stickers.
Title: Nature Detectives
Description: Students listen to a short story about animal tracks, and then go outside for a field investigation. They become detectives, look for evidence left behind, use their curiosity and make discoveries about animals that live at the PWLC using first-hand evidence.
Description: Starting indoors, students begin with a dress-up activity demonstrating the characteristics of birds. They predict how many different kinds of birds they will see outside. On the trail, they use binoculars to observe birds and describe their physical characteristics and make comparisons between the birds they observed. An adult tally marks each different kind observed. Back inside, students compare their results to their predictions and share other discoveries.
KINDERGARTEN - OBSERVATION SERIES
Title: Prairie Sensory Walk
Description: Students use their senses of touch, sight, hearing, and smell to explore, observe and make discoveries about the prairie. They ask and answer questions about the prairie based upon what they already know and what they experience while walking in the prairie.
Title: Wetland Wonders
Description: Students go on a discovery hike at Mallard Marsh and use their senses of touch, smell, hearing, and sight to explore and observe. They may measure snow depth on their leg, handle snow, crust, feel the texture of cattail seeds, search for and walk on pond ice, find tracks/vents, listen to sounds, smell bergamot if accessible and sit quiet and still to play a game called Fox and Rabbits.
Title: Wetland Awareness
Description: Students use their senses of touch, sight, hearing, and smell to explore, observe and make discoveries about a wetland. They ask and answer questions about the wetland based upon what they already know and what they experience while investigating.
1ST GRADE – ANIMALS AND HABITATS SERIES
Title: Habitat Basics
Description: Students ask and answer their own questions about prairie and wetland plants and animals. Students then search for plants and animals in the prairie and a wetland. Using movements, they vote on the level of food, water, shelter, light, and air each plant and animal needs. Lastly, they review which animals and plants were found in which habitats and why.
Title: Animal Habitats
Description: Students investigate winter animals of the prairie and how resisting animals use their habitat to obtain their basic needs in our coldest season. They discover, identify, record, and use evidence of winter animals in the field to support their conclusions.
Title: Animal Families
Description: Students make predictions as well as ask and answer their own questions about animal families. They search for animals in the prairie and a wetland to observe parents and offspring. Using a checklist, they track which parents and which offspring they find. Back inside, students compare their results to their predictions and share other discoveries.
2ND GRADE – ANIMAL LIFE SERIES
Title: Monarch Tagging
Description: Students brainstorm questions about tagging monarchs. They search for, observe, and hopefully capture, tag, and release migrating monarchs in the prairie. They record their observations on a data sheet and share their results. Lastly, they discuss the results of their investigation.
Title: Wildlife Mysteries
Description: Students design and conduct a field investigation about active winter animals and the clues they leave behind. They use those clues to try and solve animal mysteries (or answer their investigation questions). They practice “reading the land.”
Title: Amazing Animals
Description: Students conduct a field investigation about animal characteristics based upon their own questions. Through observing, collecting, and recording field data, they investigate prairie and wetland birds, invertebrates, mammals, and possibly other wildlife and their physical traits and behaviors. They use their observations and data to answer their questions and build their knowledge about how science works and about our amazing local animal life.
3RD GRADE – PLANT AND ANIMAL BEHAVIOR SERIES
Title: Prairie Seed Harvesting
Description: Students participate in a scientific investigation with prairie seeds that is driven by their own inquiry. They collect seeds outdoors from several plant species and examine them during an indoor lab. They discover the parts as well as adaptations of prairie seeds.
Season: Late Winter/Early Spring
Title: Restoring the Prairie
Description: Students design an investigation about prairie restoration driven by their own questions. They participate directly in restoring the prairie by planting seeds outside. If available, students tour the greenhouse to observe parts of prairie plants at another stage in their life cycle.
Title: Bird Investigation
Description: Using the KWL model, students discuss what they know about birds, what they wonder or would like to know, and then venture into the field to investigate and answer their questions.
4TH GRADE – ECOLOGY SERIES
Title: Prairie Insects
Description: During an investigation, students examine land insects in the prairie. They generate questions, collect and closely observe prairie insects, and record data about them. They also classify their collected insects and discover their importance in the prairie.
Title: Snowshoeing Investigation
Description: In the morning, students investigate the design and use of snowshoes. They make predictions and compare and contrast walking through snow in boots versus snowshoes. After lunch, students then use snowshoes to explore winter ecology on the prairie. They compare their predictions with what they discovered about snowshoes and share what they observed on the prairie during the discovery hike.
Title: Prairie Wetlands Watersheds
Description: Students design and conduct a field investigation based upon their existing knowledge and questions. They collect and record data and map at least one watershed to help answer their questions.
5TH GRADE – NATURALIST SERIES
Title: Favorites in the Prairie
Description: Students are introduced to naturalists as scientists and to author Byrd Baylor as one example of a naturalist. They listen to a story by Byrd Baylor called Guess Who My Favorite Person Is. Then as naturalists themselves, students search for their favorites in the prairie and record them in their notebooks. Lastly, they share their favorites with each other and consider applications of their field work.
Title: Seton Watch
Description: Students find out about the life of naturalist and author Ernest Thompson Seton and listen to an excerpt of his writing. Outside, students sit singly and quietly to observe snow crystals, snow pack, weather, and/or ice and record their observations along with a word bank. Back inside, they share their discoveries and use their field notes to write a short poem back at school.
Title: The Sense of Wonder
Description: Students are introduced to naturalists as scientists and to author Rachel Carson as one example of a naturalist and listen to an excerpt from her book, The Sense of Wonder. Then, using a data collection sheet set up inside, students go outside to search for wonder. Afterwards, they share their discoveries and draw conclusions.
ALL GRADES – NATURE JOURNALING
Title: Nature Journaling
Description: After a mini-lesson on nature journaling, students participate in a field activity, investigation, or lab, recording their observations, data, and discoveries in their field journals or notebooks. Students share their results and reflect upon their discoveries, then determine how they will use their material in order to share their experience with others. Suitable for novice and experienced journalists alike.
Nature journaling can be added as a second program for the afternoon after completing a morning lesson at the PWLC. When booking your date, select a field activity from a complete list in the lesson plan on page 4.
Some Field Activity Options for Nature Journaling Include:
1. Invertebrates - Collect, examine, describe, measure, sketch, and release prairie OR wetland “bugs” -- choose one habitat
2. Small things - Examine one meter square of prairie; record discoveries with numbers, words, maps, sketches.
3. Plants (May through September) - Closely examine, describe, sketch, measure, identify a prairie and/or a wetland plant – choose one habitat or both.
4. Nature journaling sampler - Use several tools to aid in prairie wetland journaling such as hand lens, cloud chart, view finder, compass, thermometer, and binoculars.
5. Weather Trek - Practice using a thermometer, ruler or meter stick; record data and sky observations.
6. Patterns in Nature - Look for numbers, letters, and shapes in the prairie and wetlands.
Preschool through 5th Grade Field Investigations Listed by SEASON
Fall Field Investigations
Preschool Prairie Wetlands Explorers
Kindergarten Prairie Sensory Walk
1st Grade Habitat Basics
2nd Grade Monarch Tagging
3rd Grade Prairie Seed Harvesting
4th Grade Prairie Insects
5th Grade Favorites in the Prairie
All Grades Nature Journaling
Winter Field Investigations
Preschool Nature Detectives
Kindergarten Wetland Wonders
1st Grade Animal Habitats
2nd Grade Wildlife Mysteries
3rd Grade Restoring the Prairie
4th Grade Snowshoeing Investigation
5th Grade Seton Watch
All Grades Nature Journaling
Spring Field Investigations
Preschool Birds of the Prairie Wetlands
Kindergarten Wetlands Awareness
1st Grade Animal Families
2nd Grade Amazing Animals
3rd Grade Bird Investigation
4th Grade Prairie Wetlands Watersheds
5th Grade The Sense of Wonder
K-5th Grades Nature Journaling
6th - 8th Grade Field Studies
For 6th-8th grades, the PWLC uses the Lessons in a Land Ethic curriculum developed by the Leopold Education Project through Pheasants Forever. In total, it consists of 21 lesson plans designed to use with the essays found in Aldo Leopold’s conservation classic, A Sand County Almanac. For day use visits, we use only three of those 21 lessons, a different lesson each season for 6th-8th graders, and we have adapted it for our use with field journals. The Lessons in a Land Ethic curriculum guide currently is available for purchase from the Aldo Leopold Foundation. It is not necessary to purchase the curriculum in order to bring 6th-8th graders to the PWLC, however.
Duration: 1-1/2 hours (with option to hike further south – 2 hours)
Essay: If I Were the Wind
Description: Students observe evidence of wind in different habitats. They read the excerpt outside and estimate wind speed using the Beaufort scale. They also measure wind speed and direction using a wind meter and compass. While hiking and exploring, they make a wind map, labeling the windiest places and the least windy places at the PWLC, obstacles to wind, and wind pathways. In reflection, students discuss ways wind helps and hinders wildlife. Tying back to Leopold’s essay, students complete the statement in their journals, If I were the wind…
Duration: 1-1/2 hours
Description: Students observe black-capped chickadees and other winter residents. They sketch chickadees, count visits to a feeder, search for banded ones, describe their vocalizations, map windy and protected places and loud noises, and make a loud noise and record any response. Students record the chickadees’ 3 commandments as described by Leopold. PWLC staff also show students bird banding equipment and discuss chickadees’ adaptations for surviving winter weather. In reflection, they write about what humans have in common with chickadees in winter and their own three commandments for surviving this extreme season.
Duration: 1-1/2 hours (with option to hike further south – 2 hours)
Essay: Bur Oak
Description: Students read the excerpt in the Mallard Oaks. They observe, sketch, and describe a bur oak in their field journals. Then they move to prairie habitat and read another Leopold except about a prairie forb where it is blooming and record similar data about that plant and ecosystem such as measurements, textures, scents, species, and thoughts on growth and survival. In reflection students write about which plant they would rather be, a bur oak or a prairie forb, and why.
9th - 12th Grade Prairie and/or Wetland Ecosystem Bioblitz
Duration: Half day (one ecosystem) or full day visit (two ecosystems). Lesson time is 1-1/2 hours per ecosystem.
Description: Explore prairie and/or wetland ecosystems to search for, identify, and record as many species of plants and animals as possible, providing a snap shot of biodiversity for the place and time. Compare and contrast results between ecosystems for full day visits. Return in other seasons to repeat and compare/contrast between seasons and witness phenological changes over time.
Preparing for Your Visits
The following information will help you, your students, and your chaperons have safe and memorable visits. We strongly recommend that you read and share them with everyone coming with you to the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center each time you plan your trip.
- Guidelines for Successful Class Visits (formerly, the confirmation letter we emailed to you, teachers)
- Weather Information for Visiting Groups (should we stay, or should we go?)
- Closet Scavenger Hunt (to dress safely for cold weather in fall, winter, and spring seasons, yes, even for teenagers)
- Tips for Chaperons (be a guide on the side)
- Rules for the Trail (be a respectful naturalist)