Forest Preserve District of Cook County naturalists work hand in hand with teachers to bring environmental education into the classroom, and classes into the vast natural classroom and living library of our preserves. Our educational programs have been professionally developed to be flexible, to meet the needs of any curriculum, and align with Illinois Learning Standards. Programs may feature almost any aspect of biodiversity or ecology in the region, with an emphasis on the role of people in ecosystems, and the health of the natural world and all who live in and depend on it.



Six unique nature centers represent the geographic and habitat diversity of Cook County. All feature exhibits, most display live native animals and include nature trails of varying lengths. Free field trips may be scheduled throughout the year, and may be in several formats. Possibilities include:


  • Self-guided trips with an introduction by a naturalist. You plan your own agenda, a naturalist will give a 15 minute introduction to the center and seasonal highlights.
  • Subject specific programs with a naturalist may be arranged to suit your class needs and each center’s unique features. Programs typically last from 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Service learning combines an education component with an ecological service project.
  • Sagawau ELC offers intensive programs in specialized subjects, including local geology, aquatic environments, and avian ecology.
  • Little Red Schoolhouse (LRSH) offers a one hour guided experience with a naturalist. Students will explore the habitats of the LRSH on a 30 minute walk and encounter an animal up close with a 30 minute presentation inside the nature center. Afterwards, groups can self-guide the trails and nature center.


Please inquire about scheduling at least three weeks in advance, as calendars fill quickly. All programs are subject to limits of available staff and space.

Contact any of our nature centers for more information

Contact any of our nature centers for more information



Let us come to you! Free science and nature programs for individual classrooms feature hands-on activities, and may include real animal and plant specimens and pre- and post-visit classroom handouts. Programs meet Illinois Learning Standards for specific grade levels and can be tailored to your needs. Naturalists are available for science and career fairs and other special requests, pending staff availability.

Contact any of our nature centers for more information

Contact any of our nature centers for more information



Mighty Acorns connects students in grades 4 to 6 with nature in our forest preserves, through hands-on experience in stewardship and exploration. The program works by a “rule of threes.” Each class visits a forest preserve site three times a year, with activities in three important components: education, nature exploration and ecosystem stewardship. Participation requires a long term commitment and intense involvement of well-prepared teachers, with corresponding great rewards of student understanding and caring.

Visit two of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County