School Programs
Shaw Nature Reserve Day Programs for Schools

Kids at wetlandsOur programs are designed to immerse students in inquiry, exploration, and problem solving while experiencing the Missouri landscape. Just 45 minutes from St. Louis, but a world away for young minds…

Shaw Nature Reserve classes vary in duration from 1 to 2 hours, but all include hands-on learning and active discovery of nature and the great outdoors. We encourage you to schedule two classes with a lunch in between to make the most out of your Shaw Nature Reserve experience.

Read our scheduling and cancellation policies.

Required Chaperones:
Required chaperones attend free of charge.

  • Grades PreK–3: 1 adult per 8 students
  • Grades 4 & up: 1 adult per 10 students

Jump to:

Classes for Grades PreK–3
Classes for Grades 4–8
Self-guided Trails

 

Classes for Grades PreK–3

Bug Buddies
Grade PreK–K
Offered September & May
Length of class: 1 hour
Limit: 24 students
Fee: $2

 Schedule a class!


A young learner studies a bugCome discover what creepy, crawly critters call Shaw Nature Reserve home. We will explore what helps these creatures to survive. Students will have a chance to explore the world of bugs up-close.

Trees & Me
Grade PreK–K
Offered September, October, March, April
Length of class: 1 hour
Limit: 24 students
Fee: $2

 Schedule a class!


Kids exploring the forestIn this fun, hands-on class students will learn about the different parts of a tree. Participants will use a combination of observation, discovery and exploration to expand their knowledge. This class will be held in the forests of the Shaw Nature Reserve, where something interesting is always happening. 

Nature's Buddies
Grades PreK–K
Offered May
Length of class: 2½ hours
Limit: 24 students
Fee: $2

 Schedule a class!


Female mallard with ducklingsJoin us as we investigate different habitats and discover what animal babies make Shaw Nature Reserve their home. We’ll learn about their life cycles and see if these young resemble their parents.

Earthworms: Nature's Recyclers
Grades PreK–K 
Offered April
Length of class: 2 hours
Limit: 24 students
Fee: $2

 Schedule a class!


Hand holding earthwormsHave you ever had an earthworm wiggle in your hand? Have you ever wondered how they work their way through the soil? Join us as we investigate these wiggly creatures and learn why they are so important.

SNR Critters
Grade PreK–K
Offered October
Length of class: 1 hour
Limit: 24 students
Fee: $2

 Schedule a class!


A gray tree frogWhat kind of animals can be found at the Shaw Nature Reserve? Do they stick around for the winter, migrate south or just hibernate? Join us to find out what the critters of the Shaw Nature Reserve will be doing to get ready for cold weather.

Earthwalks
Grades PreK–8
(class will be grade appropriate)

Offered September–November and March–May
Length of class: 2 hours
Limit: 60 students
Fee: $2

 Schedule a class!


Examining a rotting logAn introductory exploration into the wonders of the natural world. Instructors will lead your students through special activities using the five senses. Depending on the season, your students might use their sense of touch to identify a natural object or make a scented “teabag” to take home or use a mirror to simulate how different animals see. The five senses will be awakened during this light and comfortable approach to nature.

Our Forest Neighbors
Grades 1–3
Offered April
Length of class: 2 hours
Limit: 60 students
Fee: $2

 Schedule a class!


LeafWho lives in the forest in Missouri? Come explore the forest ecosystem and learn about some of the residents and how their unique adaptations help them to survive in this special community.

Concepts covered: five basic needs; identify Missouri animals, adaptations, forest layers, food chains, predator/prey relationships.

Little Houses on the Prairie
Grades 1–3
Offered October
Length of class: 2 hours
Limit: 60 students
Fee: $2

 Schedule a class!


Sod house and tipiThis class is based on the book Little House on the Prairie written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Excerpts from the book are matched with hands-on activities. Students will have a chance to see what it was like for people settling out on the prairie. They will compare the benefits and disadvantages of living in a tipi to those of living in a sod house.

Concepts covered: plant and animal adaptations; plant usage, pioneer prairie life, Missouri prairie animals.


In Plain Sight
Grades 1–3
Offered November & March
Length of class: 2 hours
Limit: 60 students
Fee: $2

 Schedule a class!


Cricket FrogThis class teaches young learners all about camouflage. Through a series of fun games and activities, students will learn about a wide variety of animals and how camouflage helps them to survive. This class also covers predator/prey relationships, with an emphasis on how camouflage is used by both predators and prey in their daily struggle to survive. In addition, the class will explain mimicry and how some animals use this adaptation to fool potential predators.

Concepts covered: animal adaptations, camouflage, predator/prey relationships.

On the Water’s Edge
Grades 1–3
Offered September & May
Length of class: 2 hours
Limit: 60 students
Fee: $2

 Schedule a class!


Students and chaperones at the water's edgeOn The Water’s Edge is based on the book Around the Pond: Who’s Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George. Hands-on activities are used as students compare the terrestrial community to the aquatic community. Students will be exploring the Wolf Run Lake area.

Concepts covered: comparing of terrestrial versus aquatic communities, adaptations, predator-prey relationships.


 

Classes for Grades 4–8

Earthwalks
Grades PreK–8
(class will be grade appropriate)

Offered September–November
& March–May, 
Length of class: 2 hours
Limit: 60 students
Fee: $2

Schedule a class!


Exploring a rotting logIn this introductory exploration into the natural world, your students will be led through special activities focusing on the five senses. Students might use their sense of touch to identify a natural object or use a mirror to simulate how animals see. The five senses will be awakened during this light and comfortable approach to nature.

Animal Adaptations: Bugs, Beaks & Beasties
Grades 4–5
Offered March & November
Length of class: 2 hours
Limit: 60 students
Fee: $2

Schedule a class!


CaterpillarsIn this class students explore, through hands-on activities, some of the fascinating adaptations animals have for surviving in their environment. How are different bird beaks adapted to eating certain foods? What special adaptations do humans have that allow us to do everyday tasks? Students learn about camouflage on the “Un-Nature Trail” and see examples of organisms that depend on this adaptation for protection.

Concepts covered: Animal adaptations, predator/prey relationships.


Maple Syrup Making
Grades 4–8
Offered Late January–early February (dates vary each year)
Length of class: 2 hours
Limit: 60 students
Fee: $3

Schedule a class!


Student collecting maple syrupCelebrate the coming of spring! Learn about maple syrup by exploring the two processes that make it all possible: photosynthesis and the water cycle. Explore the fields and woodlands as your students discover these processes. The annual cycle of sap movement and the importance of sap to trees will be investigated. Help with the collection and cooking down of the sap and enjoy a sample of this delicious syrup.

Concepts covered: photosynthesis, water cycle, tree form and function, tree identification, addition, division.


Forest Ecology
Grades 4–8
Offered April
Length of class: 2 hours
Limit: 60 students
Fee: $2

Schedule a class!


Exploring a rotting logHow are forest trees like apartment buildings? Why do many wildflowers bloom in the spring? Why do some animals live only in the forest? Answers to these and other questions will be discovered as your students explore the upland forest. Through investigations of decomposing logs, comparing and contrasting different areas of the forest using simple equipment such as thermometers, and a variety of other hands-on activities, students develop an understanding that the forest is a diverse and fascinating ecosystem.

Concepts covered: decomposition, microhabitats, animal adaptations, abiotic factors, food chains, predator/prey relationships, basic needs of life, taking measurements using simple tools.


Pond Ecology: Wet & Wild
Grades 4–8
Offered September
Length of class: 2 hours
Limit: 60 students
Fee: $2

Schedule a class!


Students examining lake organismsA whole tiny world lives in the lake community. In small groups, your students will sample the pond for the diversity of organisms living in various zones. They will observe some of the distinguishing characteristics that allow organisms to live underwater and interact with each other. Using various magnification tools and identification guides, students will identify a wide variety of organisms, focusing on structures used for feeding, moving through the water and breathing.

Concepts covered: Food chains, basic needs of life, animal adaptations, predator/prey relationships, animal identification, using identification guides and simple magnification tools.


Wetland Ecology
Grades 4–8
Offered May
Length of class: 2 hours
Limit: 60 students
Fee: $2

Schedule a class!


Waterlily with dragonflyLike any other ecosystem, the wetland is a complex and active place! A wide variety of plants and animals live in this special natural community. Observe some of the inhabitants up close and discover some of the distinguishing characteristics that allow them to survive in this watery environment. Use microscopes to compare the structure of terrestrial plants and aquatic plants. Using a wetland model your students will understand how a wetland functions and why they are so valuable to the inhabitants and to humans alike!

Concepts covered: plant and animal adaptations, wetland function, plant structure, benefits of wetlands, animal identification, predator/prey relationships, food chains, basic needs of life.


Tallgrass Prairie
Grades 4–8
Offered October
Length of class: 2 hours
Limit: 60 students
Fee: $2

Schedule a class!


Students exploring the tallgrass prairieExplore the fascinating ecosystem that once covered 40% of Missouri. Learn the history of this unique grassland community and investigate some of the inhabitants that make up this ecosystem. Discover how these plants and animals are adapted to live on the hot, wind-swept prairie. Find plants that were used by Native Americans and pioneers for medicine. Your students may go back in time and see how pioneers once lived on the prairie in sod houses. Find out how Shaw Nature Reserve and others are using fire to restore Missouri’s prairie.

Concepts covered: Basic needs of life, food chains, plant and animal adaptations, plant usage, pioneer prairie life, fire as a management tool.


 

Self-guided Trails

Little Acorn Trail
Grades PreK–1
Offered year round
Time required: 30 minutes– 1 hour
Limit: 20 students (divided into two groups)
Fee: $0.50

Reservations required

Schedule a self-guided trail


Students in WoodsTake your young learners on an exciting adventure. Pick up a key and backpack at the Visitor Center containing everything you’ll need as you unlock the seven activity boxes along your hike. Each activity box contains two activities which are designed to help children learn about the plants, animals and habitats of Missouri. The boxes are now located inside the Nature Explore Classroom.

Stay Overnight

Cabin

School groups can stay in historic lodges at our Dana Brown Overnight Center.
Learn more
Book now! Call Aileen at (636) 451-3512 x 6081.

Learn at Our Other Sites

Check out school programs at the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House!

For the Whole Family

Tales and Trails logo
This summer, join a family reading program that connects nature-inspired books with the great outdoors!
Download a reading list and log