Ballard Nature Center offers educational field trips for all grade levels. While visiting the center, students are encouraged to be “scientists," to make observations, to ask questions, and to assist in deducing an answer. Subject matter covered during a field trip is developed for the grade level. First graders often learn about animal sounds while third grade activities might revolve around food chains.
Students are given the opportunity to explore nature through multidisciplinary activities. Outdoor learning includes naturalist-led trail walks. The naturalist encourages the students to use all their senses as they explore the center's woodlands, wetlands and prairie habitats. Along the walk, students might participate in a scavenger hunt or a colors-of-nature hunt, or they might conduct a spring woodland survey. Indoor nature studies include exhibit room exploration and learning activities such as habitat stamping, insect sorting, or leaf printing.
Naturalist in the Classroom
During the winter months, schools (within a 15 mile radius) can arrange to have a naturalist visit the classroom and give a presentation on a large variety of topics. This is a great option for schools whose budget does not allow them to travel to the nature center. Some popular topics include, "Batty for Bats," "Whoo Knows Owls," and "Terrific Trees". These programs engage students with games and activities and include lots of visual aids, like mammal pelts, taxidermy mounts, skeletons, posters, etc.
Ballard Nature Center's Naturalists Plot and Plan During the Winter (PDF, 70 KB)
Ballard Nature Center Homeschooling 2016-2017 Curriculum (PDF, 207 KB)
Education Loan Kits
Ballard Nature Center is a distribution site for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' loan kits. The nature center also maintains some loan kits of its own. Topics of the kits available for loan to teachers, both formal and non-formal, are Illinois Trees, Illinois Birds, State Symbols of Illinois, Aquatic Illinois, People & Animals from Illinois’ Past, and Illinois Prairies. Filled with books, videos, CD's, models, activity instructions and more, these kits are an excellent resource for teachers who wish to augment their science lessons. Kits must be picked-up and returned at the center.