Educators are invited to participate in the various education partnerships or utilize self-guided environmental education content. Contact Minnesota Valley NWR staff to schedule a field trip. We also offer a suite of outdoor learning resources to be used on school campuses, at home or at a local nature area.
Self-led groups, such as schools not in the two partnership programs described below, community summer camps, or Scouts are welcome to visit and explore the Refuge lands and visitor centers 7 days a week! All visits to the wildlife refuge are free.
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 shown in advance to prepare for your self-led visit. English video. Vídeo en Español.
We encourage group leaders to call at least two weeks ahead to help us avoid conflicts with existing scheduled groups. To notify us about your self-led visit date and time email us at MinnesotaValley@fws.gov
Partner Schools Program
The three-to-five-year 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 Minnesota Valley Refuge Friends.
The Partner School program is currently full, we will be accepting applications for new partner schools in summer 2022.
Partner Teacher Program
This education program provides local teachers with an orientation to refuge curriculum and facilities, 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 Lunch program and 50% bus reimbursement if their school has below 50% of students in the Free and Reduced Lunch program.
Partner teachers may also borrow recreation equipment such as snowshoes and binoculars for use on their school campus.
Commitment required by Partner Teachers is:
- Attend two-hour orientation at preferred refuge visitor center
- Schedule at least one field trip visit for your class each year
- Submit bus invoices by seasonal deadlines
For schoolyear 2021-2022 all field trips to Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge will be held outdoors while our visitor centers are closed. Visitor Centers will remain closed while the Twin Cities is in high or substantial spread of Covid-19. Once community spread is at a moderate level as assessed by the CDC we will re-evaluate our field trip protocol. In the meantime, we offer great opportunities for outdoor learning at easy to access locations.
Old Cedar Avenue Trailhead
- Features: Nature Play Area, wetlands, forest, trails, bird watching
- Amenities: drinking water and flushing toilets May-October, portable restrooms November-April, trash receptacles, parking
- Features: wetlands, forest, trails, bird watching, fishing, macro-invertebrate study platforms, accessible docks
- Amenities: vault toilets, trash receptacles, personal vehicle and bus parking
Bloomington Visitor Center Trails and Grounds
- Features: Visitor Center exhibits (closed during construction), wetlands, forest, trails, bird watching, macro-invertebrate study, accessible parking
- Amenities: indoor restrooms and drinking water (when visitor center is open), trash receptacles, personal vehicle and bus parking
Rapids Lake Visitor Center Trails and Grounds
- Features: Visitor Center, exhibits, views of Minnesota River, wetlands, forest, trails, bird watching
- Amenities: indoor restrooms, drinking water (when visitor center is open), trash receptacles, personal vehicle and bus parking
To prepare for outdoor field trips, it is important to remind students to dress appropriately for the weather (see list below) and come with an adventurous and respectful mindset.
What to bring:
- First aid kit
- Trash bags, all group must trash be taken back to the school
- Bus driver contact info
- Water bottle
- Name tag
- Lunch or snacks
How to dress:
- Winter: Boots, snow pants, jacket, mittens/gloves, hat, scarf
- Spring/Fall: closed toed shoes, long pants, top layer such as a sweatshirt or light jacket, hat (optional)
- Summer: closed toed shoes, hat. Note: long pants and long sleeves are preferred by some to prevent bug bites and sun burn.