School Programs
Day Programs at Shaw Nature Reserve for Schools

Kids at wetlands Our programs are designed to immerse students in inquiry, exploration, and problem solving while out in the exciting Missouri landscape.

Just 45 minutes from St. Louis, but a world away for young minds…

Guaranteed with each trip:

  1. High quality programs: See descriptions of our classes below.

  2. Engaging science: Join us for the hands-on, outdoor, real world, inquiry-based science you have been working on in your classroom.

  3. Field discoveries: Discoveries in the field can stimulate more questions and new investigations to be pursued back in the classroom.

  4. Skilled staff and volunteer Teacher Naturalists: Our knowledgeable personnel will be your guide for these classes (each two hours long unless otherwise noted). We encourage you to schedule two classes with a lunch in between to make the most out of your Shaw Nature Reserve experience.

Book now!

Read our scheduling and cancellation policies.

Required Chaperones:
Required chaperones attend free of charge.

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

Jump to:

Day Programs for Grades PK–3
Day Programs for Grades 4–8
Self-guided Trails

 

Day Programs for Grades PK-3

Bug Buddies
Grade PK
Offered on Tuesdays in May & September
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 PK
Offered on Tuesdays in March, April, September & October
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. 

SNR Critters
Grade PK
Offered on Tuesdays in 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 PK–8
(class will be grade appropriate)

Offered March–May, September–November
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: 40 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: 40 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.


Compass
Grades 3–5
Offered year round
Length of class: 2½ hours
Limit: 20 students
Fee: $5 (includes DBOC facilities use)

 Schedule a class!


Student using a compassAfter a lesson on true north vs. magnetic north, the different parts of a magnetic compass, and after learning the ever important rhyme: “Put red in the shed and follow Fred,” students will have their own compass and set of bearings to follow a course around Shaw Nature Reserve in order to find specific destinations.

Students will be divided into two groups of ten, with one adult from the school with each group. This class takes place at the Dana Brown Overnight Center. Groups will have use of the Assembly Building for lunch and restrooms.


 

Day Programs for Grades 4-8

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

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

Schedule a class!


Exploring 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.

Compass
Grades 3–5
Offered year round
Length of class: 2½ hours
Limit: 20 students
Fee: $5 (includes DBOC facilities use)

Schedule a class!


Student using a compassAfter a lesson on true north vs. magnetic north, the different parts of a magnetic compass, and after learning the ever important rhyme: “Put red in the shed and follow Fred,” students will have their own compass and set of bearings to follow a course around Shaw Nature Reserve in order to find specific destinations.

Students will be divided into two groups of ten, with one adult from the school with each group. This class takes place at the Dana Brown Overnight Center. Groups will have use of the Assembly Building for lunch and restrooms.


Living Off the Land
Grades 4–8
Offered year round
Length of class: 2½ hours
Limit: 25 students
Fee: $5 (includes DBOC facilities use)

Schedule a class!


Student trying a crosscut sawStudents will discover how the early pioneers of westward expansion used their natural resources in order to survive. Some of the activities may include: making their own hand dipped candle, natural dyeing, and medicinal plants. Students may also have the opportunity to use period tools such as: cross cut saw, draw knife and shaving mule, a froe and mallet and an auger to do actual wood chores. Students will gain an understanding of the past, be able to appreciate the present, and look forward to the discoveries of the future!

Students will be divided into two groups with one adult from the school with each group. This class takes place at the Dana Brown Overnight Center. Groups will have use of the Assembly Building for lunch and restrooms.


Bugs, Beaks & Beasties: Animal Adaptations
Grades 4–8
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: 50 students
Fee: $2

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
Fee DBOC: $5 (includes DBOC facilities use)

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.


Wet & Wild
Grades 4–8
Offered September
Length of class: 2 hours
Limit: 60 students
Fee: $2
Fee DBOC: $5 (includes DBOC facilities use)

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
Fee DBOC: $5 (includes DBOC facilities use)

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
Fee DBOC: $5 (includes DBOC facilities use)

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.


Global Positioning System (GPS)
Grades 5–8
Offered year round
Length of class: 2½ hours
Limit: 45 students
Fee: $5 (includes DBOC facilities use)

Schedule a class!


Student using GPS unitThis class offers students the chance to learn how to use a GPS unit. Students will then be divided into small groups of four or five students with one adult from the school going with each group. Each group will complete a GPS course around Shaw Nature Reserve. Each group will have a key with waypoints they need to follow to reach a specific destination.

This class takes place at the Dana Brown Overnight Center. Groups will have use of the Assembly Building for lunch and restrooms.


NEW! Ecology of Wolves
Grades 3 and up
Length of class: 6 hours
Limit: 30 students
Fee: $10

Schedule a class!


Wolf howlingStart your journey at the Shaw Nature Reserve Dana
Brown Overnight Center for a 2-hour Forest Ecology
class that will focus on the
habitat of the Missouri-native red wolf, then head over to the Endangered Wolf Center to see and hopefully hear wolves and other wild canids. Learn about the canids' value
to the ecosystems of the world and the challenges these animals still face today.

 

Self-guided Trails

Little Acorn Trail
Grades PK–1
Offered year round
Time required: 30 minutes– 1 hour
Limit: 20 (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!

Scholarships Available

Need-based scholarships are offered so that every student has the opportunity to experience, explore, discover and learn. Both schools/organizations and individual students may apply.
Learn more