Nature Centers

inside the exhibit area of Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center's visitors center
The exhibit area of the visitors center at Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center.

The Forest Preserves’ Nature Centers provide a gateway for discovery of the natural diversity of Cook County. Each Nature Center offers programs and displays about the plants, animals and natural communities of the region.

On this page:


Locations

Crabtree Nature Center building in Barrington Hills

Crabtree Nature Center Barrington Hills, IL

The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center Willow Springs, IL

River Trail Nature Center Building in Northbrook

River Trail Nature Center Northbrook, IL

Sagawau Environmental Learning Center building in Lemont

Sagawau Environmental Learning Center Lemont, IL

exterior of the Sand Ridge Nature Center building

Sand Ridge Nature Center South Holland, IL

Trailside Museum building in River Forest

Trailside Museum of Natural History River Forest, IL


children dipping nets in a pond at Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center

Field Trips & Classroom Visits

Field trips and classroom programs may be scheduled throughout the year at no cost. Contact any of our six educational centers for more information about field trips or classroom programs. All programs are subject to limits of available staff and space.


Field Trips: Experiences in the Field

Pre-K – Adult Learning

Five unique nature centers and an environmental learning center each represent the geographic and habitat diversity of Cook County. All are inviting places to explore and discover.

All centers feature indoor exhibits that highlight the local natural history of the area. Nature trails at each site vary in length and offer many options to connect learners to diverse habitats. Nature centers also include live, native wildlife exhibits as well as special places designed for nature play.

Field trip experiences at each nature center and the environmental learning center are unique in format. This allows programming to be individualized to best meet the needs of your students. Programs can be arranged for one hour or more depending on your curriculum goals and objectives.

Service learning projects, ecological stewardship service projects with education outcomes, can be developed to accommodate your student’s needs. 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 individual locations for more information:


Education Access Permit

An Education Access Permit is required for all school/educational activities, such as class field trips, practices or other group education visits to a Preserve or Nature Center, for all groups of 25 or more, and/or when requesting assistance from Forest Preserve staff. The Permit is granted for the day(s) of the field trip or activity. There is no fee for the Education Access Permit.


Classroom Visits: Educational Adventures

Pre-K – 12th Grade

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 Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) 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.

Kindergarten Programs
ProgramStorylineLength
Beaks, Feet, & FeathersBirds use special adaptations (beaks, feet, and feathers) to survive. NGSS: K-LS1.C, K-ESS2.E, K-ESS3.C, K-ESS3.A30 min
Interesting InsectsInsects, their needs and the jobs they perform in our world. NGSS: K-LS1.C, K-ESS2.E, K-ESS3.A30-45 min
Owls on the Prowl & RaptorsPhysical adaptations that all owls/raptors share and what these birds need in order to survive—food, water, shelter and space. NGSS: K-LS1.C, K-ESS3.C, K-ESS3.A30 min
Tremendous TreesTrees have multiple parts (roots, trunk, branches, leaves, flowers and seeds) that help them to function, survive and grow. NGSS: K-LS1.C, K-ESS2.D, K-ESS2.E, K-ESS3.C, K-ESS3.A30 min
1st Grade Programs
ProgramStorylineLength
Animal CoveringsThe type of covering an animal has (fur, feathers, scales, slimy skin) help that animal live, hunt, hide and move through its environment. NGSS: 1-LS1.A, 1-LS3.A, 1-LS3.B30-45 min
Beaks, Feet, & FeathersBirds, their needs and three of their important structures (beaks, feet, and feathers) and how they are used. NGSS: 1-LS1.A, 1-LS1.B, 1-LS1.D, 1-LS3.A, 1-LS3.B30-45 min
Interesting InsectsWhat makes an insect an insect, their special body parts and interesting life cycles. NGSS: 1-LS1.A, 1-LS1.B, 1-LS1.D30-45 min
Owls on the Prowl & RaptorsPhysical adaptations of owls/raptors and how owls/raptors use these adaptations to survive. NGSS: 1-LS1.A, 1-LS1.B, 1-LS1.D, 1-LS3.A, 1-LS3.B45 min
Tremendous TreesStructures and functions of a tree’s external parts that help them to survive and grow—and how those structures and functions change over time. NGSS: 1-LS1.A, 1-LS1.B, 1-LS1.D, 1-LS3.A, 1-LS3.B30-45 min
2nd Grade Programs
ProgramStorylineLength
Animal HomesWild animals use many different materials and techniques to make shelter for themselves and their young. NGSS: 2-LS2.A, 2-LS4.D, K-2-EST1.C30-45 min
Beaks, Feet, & FeathersBirds use their beak, feet, and feathers to build structures, different types of birds live in different natural habitats, and birds use different natural materials to build their nests. NGSS: 2-LS2.A, 2-LS4.D45 min
Interesting InsectsInsects need and are needed by plants and animals, and live in almost every place around the world. NGSS: 2-LS2.A, 2-LS4.D30-45 min
Owls on the Prowl & RaptorsDifferences among owls/raptors and why owls/raptors live in different habitats. NGSS: 2-LS4.D60 min
Tremendous TreesTrees depend on their environment to function, survive and grow—and that environment in turn depends on trees. Different kinds of trees grow in different environments. NGSS: 2-LS2.A, 2-LS4.D30-45 min
3rd Grade Programs
ProgramStorylineLength
Animal HomesWildlife have adaptations that enable them to use natural materials to create homes for their young and/or shelter for themselves. Some animals work together as a group to protect the home and raise the young. NGSS: 3-LS1.B, 3-LS2.D, 3-LS4.C30-45 min
Beaks, Feet, & FeathersDifferent types of birds have adapted different structures (beaks, feet, and feathers) over a long period of time, and they use these structures for survival. Bird life cycles, the environmental impacts on local native bird species and ways people can help local bird populations. NGSS: 3-LS1.B, 3-LS2.D, 3-LS3.A, 3-LS3.B, 3-LS2.C, 3-LS4.B, 3-LS4.C, 3-LS4.D45-60 min
Interesting InsectsInsects fill important roles as pollinators and as food other insects and animals—and are able to change their surroundings to make what they need. NGSS: 3-LS1.B, 3-LS2.D, 3-LS4.C, 3-LS4.D30-45 min
Owls on the Prowl & RaptorsDifferent nesting seasons of owls/raptors and how changes in owl/raptor habitat may affects these birds. NGSS: 3-LS1.B, 3-LS3.A, 3-LS3.B, 3-LS2.C, 3-LS4.B, 3-LS4.C, 3-LS4.D60 min
Tremendous TreesInternal and external structures and functions of trees and how they adapt to the environmental conditions and changes around them, enabling them to grow and reproduce. NGSS: 3-LS1.B, 3-LS2.C, 3-LS4.C, 3-LS4.D30-45 min
4th Grade Programs
ProgramStorylineLength
Animal HomesWildlife have specialized physical and behavioral (colonial/family groups) adaptations that enable them to use natural materials to create homes for raising their young. These adaptations can allow some animals to dramatically change a landscape (beaver dams, groundhog tunnels, etc.). NGSS: 4-LS1.A, 4-LS1.D, 4-ESS2.E30-45 min
Beaks, Feet, & FeathersBirds use their structures (beak, feet, and feathers) to acquire survival needs from the natural world. How birds use and process their external and internal needs, and how birds communicate. NGSS: 4-LS1.A, 4-LS1.D45-60 min
Owls on the Prowl & RaptorsExternal physical features of owls/raptors and how owls/raptors use these features to survive. NGSS: 4-LS1.A, 4-LS1.D60 min
Tremendous TreesInternal and external structures and functions of trees and how they adapt to the environmental conditions and changes around them, enabling them to grow and reproduce. How vital trees are to the ecosystems and life on earth. NGSS: 4-LS1.A30-45 min
5th Grade Programs
ProgramStorylineLength
Beaks, Feet, & FeathersBirds survive the winter through migration, active overwintering, and the use of their structural adaptations (beaks, feet, and feathers). External cues and stimuli—weather, climate, length of sunlight hours during the day, the sun and the stars—can help indicate and guide bird migration. NGSS: 5-LS1.C, 5-LS2.A45-60 min
Owls on the Prowl & RaptorsEnergy flows through a food web that includes owls/raptors. NGSS: 5-PS3.D, 5-LS1.C, 5-LS2.A, 5-LS2.B, 5-ESS3.C60 min
Tremendous TreesThrough the capture of energy from the sun, trees and other plants are the backbone of the most basic and necessary relationships on earth, and are therefore critical producers and supporters of life on earth. NGSS: 2-LS2, 2-LS2.A, 2-LS4, 2-LS4.D, K-2-ETS1, K-2-EST1.C30-45 min
5th–8th Grade Programs
ProgramStorylineLength
Beaks, Feet, & FeathersBirds survive the winter through migration, active overwintering, and the use of their structural adaptations (beaks, feet, and feathers). External cues and stimuli—weather, climate, length of sunlight hours during the day, the sun and the stars—can help indicate and guide bird migration. NGSS: MS-LS1.A, MS-LS1.B, MS-LS2.A, MS-LS2.C, MS-LS3.A, MS-LS3.B, MS-LS4.B, MS-LS4.C45-60 min
Local GeologyThe geologic time scale, and how the Earth’s rock and mineral materials and ecosystems interact, cycle and change due to plate tectonics, climate, pressure and other factors—through an investigation of local rocks and fossils. NGSS: MS-ESS1.C, MS-ESS2.A, MS-ESS2.B, MS-LS2.B60-90 min
Owls on the Prowl & RaptorsRole owls/raptors have in ecosystems and how changes in the ecosystem affect owl/raptor populations. NGSS: MS-LS2.A, MS-LS2.B, MS-LS2.C, MS-LS4.D60 min
9th–12th Grade Programs
ProgramStorylineLength
Tremendous TreesDependence of humans on trees in regards to resources and other benefits and how human activity can adversely impact tree populations. Developing sustainability standards to protect and preserve tree populations in order to support and enhance life on earth. NGSS: HS-LS2.A, HS-LS2.C, HS-LS4.D30-45 min

Contact individual locations for more information:


Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer at Nature Center events and Ecological Stewardship Workdays.