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The Earth Discovery Center offers environmental education programming for all ages on a variety of topics. Our programs emphasize putting children in touch with the amazing diversity of plants and animals native to Indiana and fostering a sense of wonder, enthusiasm, and stewardship for the natural world. Programs can include both indoor and outdoor experiences and also fulfill multiple academic standards. See below for topics.
Schools are welcome to visit and walk through and explore the Earth Discovery Center on their own, although please be aware that if there is a special event or large group already using the facility, some exhibits and rooms may not be available to see, there may be limited parking, and naturalist staff may not be available to answer questions. A walk-through visit is free with regular park admission ($5/car, $15/bus).
Scheduling for spring/summer field trips
When you call, please have the following information handy:
Program cost is $4/student for a group of 40 students or less and one or two program topics lasting no more than an hour. There is no charge for teachers or adult helpers (we ask for at least one adult per 10 students). Groups of over 40 students at a time may need to be subdivided into two or more sessions, with a fee of $5/student. Discounted rates are available to schools with 40% or more of students on free or reduced lunch.
Payment may be made on the day of the program by cash, check made out to Indy Parks, or Mastercard or VISA, or schools may also pay by purchase order. Program fee includes admission into Eagle Creek Park and use of Mt. Pleasant Picnic area and playground (please schedule picnic area at time of registration).
The Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society (INPAWS) has a fund available to provide financial assistance to student and youth groups for field trips to nature sites. The money is intended to help with transportation costs and/or naturalist fees where no funds exist, as well as promote youth initiated projects/activities that connect kids with nature. The fund is available for any Indiana school/youth group, application is online and can be done at anytime, and response is generally within two weeks. INPAWS is especially interested in providing youth with the least access to the natural world this opportunity. To find out more or to apply, please visit the INPAWS website at http://www.inpaws.org/Letha's_Youth_Outdoors_Fund.html
Please notify us as soon as possible if you need to cancel your program or would like to try to reschedule for a different date. Programs cancelled with less than one week notice for reasons other than inclement weather, or no-show groups (groups that do not call or otherwise notify us of the cancellation) may be charged up to one half their estimated program fee.
Indiana weather can be extremely unpredictable - we've had warm, gorgeous, sunny days in November and near-freezing windy days in May, so be sure to check the forecast before your field trip! We generally only cancel programs if the weather is dangerous: thunder and lightening, tornado watches and warnings, extremely high winds, icy or dangerous driving conditions, etc. We can still go outside even if it is raining or cold, and we strongly encourage school groups to make sure their students are dressed for the weather. For students who are used to rushing from the bus to the school and home again without spending any significant time out of doors, learning to watch the weather forecast and dress appropriately can be an important part of the field trip experience. Remember, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!
Some things we've learned over the years:
Above all, we want students to have a positive field trip experience, which is difficult to do if they are cold, wet, and uncomfortable. If students are not appropriately dressed, we can often provide alternative indoor programming depending on the size and age of the group, or we can do our best to find an alternative open day to reschedule (be aware that this may be difficult to do in spring or fall).
The Earth Discovery Center classrooms can handle a maximum of 40 students each. We can run 3 program topics simultaneously, allowing us to comfortably accommodate groups of up to 120 students at a time. Larger groups may be possible if an outdoor hike is included as one of the sessions and staff is available, or if teachers from your school are able to lead additional outdoor sessions on their own. Program sessions range from 30-40 minutes, depending on topic and the age and number of students.
Small groups of approximately 40 students or less may sign up for one program topic ($4/student) or two program topics ($5/student). Most program topics last 30-40 minutes, depending on the age and size of the group. If your small group would like to experience several topics, please call 317-327-7148 and ask to talk to a park naturalist, and we can discuss options and pricing for your field trip.
During our busy months (mid April - May, mid September - October) weekdays from 10am-2pm are generally filled by large groups of approximately 50 students or more in order to make most efficient use of our staff and resources. Smaller groups may still schedule programs in the afternoons or weekends during busy season, depending on space and staff availability.
Please bring at least one adult for every 10 students. If you are unable to provide enough adults, please let us know ahead of time as this may affect the organization of your program (i.e. larger hiking groups).
More adults are welcome to come, although if there are large numbers of adults they may need to wait outside some of the smaller classrooms. Please make sure parents and other adults are aware of good behavior during the field trip (set a good example to the students by paying attention, no talking on cell phones during the program, etc.) and are prepared to dress for the weather and hike on the trails if outdoor experiences are included in your program.
We recommend scheduling your program so that your students eat lunch near their regular time. Field trips can work up an appetite, and hungry students can have difficulty focusing on their program topic!
The Mount Pleasant Picnic Area is reserved for groups with registered programs at the EDC, and has a covered picnic shelter and tables, a playground, and a Port-O-Let type restroom facility. Please indicate when signing up for your program if you would like to reserve this area for your group. Mount Pleasant is not within practical hiking distance for most groups, so you will need to have bus or car transportation for your group to and from the picnic site. We recommend allowing 60 minutes for lunch at a shelter to allow for travel time.
Shelter H is reserved for groups that have registered programs at the Ornithology Center, but may also be available for EDC groups. Availability may not be known until shortly before your program; please call to check a day or so before your program if you would prefer to use Shelter H. Shelter H has a covered picnic shelter and tables, a playground within short walking distance, and flush toilets and sinks (you may wish to bring your own soap for handwashing).
Groups are also welcome to eat outside of the Earth Discovery Center. This is a convenient option for groups where transportation to a picnic shelter would be impractical, or groups that need to save time for their program (30-40min for lunch recommended). We have approximately 10 picnic tables available, or you may also wish to bring tarps for a picnic on the grass.
At the discretion of Earth Discovery Center staff, we may make exceptions and allow groups to eat indoors in the exhibit hall of the Earth Discovery Center during inclement weather, under the following conditions:
All Ages - these programs are a hit with every age group, providing up-close and hands-on encounters with plants, live animals, furs, bones, bugs, and more!
Seasonal Nature Hike - explore the beautiful woodland trails of Eagle Creek Park with one of our talented volunteer naturalists! The goal of the Nature Hike is not how far we go, but how much we see, so keep your eyes open and your senses on high alert, and dress for being outdoors. We try to subdivide Nature Hike programs into approximately 10-15 students per volunteer naturalist, so be sure you bring enough adults so that at least one can go with each group. We have one trail that is fairly level and gravelled, and is accessible to some wheelchairs - please let us know if you have questions about accessibility.
Indiana Wildlife - often students are more familiar with sharks, alligators, and elephants than they are with the wildlife living in their own backyards! From white-tailed deer to tiger salamanders, bald eagles to box turtles, students will learn about Indiana's fascinating array of wild animal residents. Program may include furs, taxidermy mounts, bones and skulls, and other animal parts and props as well as a few live reptiles, amphibians, or insects depending on the time of year.
Reptiles and Amphibians - students will get the opportunity to meet some of Indiana's native reptiles and amphibians up close and learn about what makes these two groups of animals so unique. Are snakes really slimy? Can turtles leave their shells? Come and find out!
Insect Study - insects are the most diverse and abundant group of animals on earth. A few cause problems for humans, but most of them are beneficial, and without them life as we know it could not exist. Students will learn/review the basics of insect anatomy and life cycles, and then head out to the field to try their hand at catching insects with sweep nets. Please note that the best time for this program as far as insect abundance is late spring through early fall, before the first frost (roughly May-October), and we will not be able to sweep during rain or wet conditions. We can provide an alternative indoor insect program that includes live and preserved insect specimens.
Birds of Prey - for an additional $100 flat fee, we can add a Bird of Prey program to your field trip rotation at the Earth Discovery Center. Students will meet several of our educational hawks and owls from the Ornithology Center and learn about their individual behaviors, eating habits, conservation, and more. Bird of Prey and other bird-related programs can also be scheduled at the Ornithology Center building - please call 327-BIRD for more information, or click here to visit the Ornithology Center field trip page.
Pre-K to 1st Grade - programs geared especially for younger students
Sensory Adventure - students will review the five senses and use four of them as they explore the natural world. Sniff, look, listen, and touch (except for the poison ivy), but please don't taste the bugs! Program may be done indoors using live animals, seeds, bones, furs, feathers, taxidermy mounts, and other natural items, or as a themed nature walk outdoors. Sensory Adventure indoors lasts about 30 minutes, outdoors includes a 10-15 minute introduction inside and a 30-min hike outside.
1st - 5th Grade
Pond Study - leeches and backswimmers, tadpoles and snails, these are just a few of the weird and wonderful creatures that inhabit the pond. Depending on water levels at the pond and group size, we may head out to the pond to scoop with nets or we can also do an alternative indoor pond program where we investigate some pre-caught pond creatures up close and personal. Ecosystems, aquatic food chains, adaptations, and water quality just a few of the lessons that pond inhabitants can teach us. We recommend having several adults along for younger students, especially if we will be scooping outside, and be prepared to get a little muddy.
Nature's Adaptations - adaptations are the tools that allow plants and animals to survive, and they are all around us if you know what to look for. From bushy tails to webbed feet, from pretending to be a stick to playing dead, the countless adaptations of living things are sure to delight and amaze.
Build Your Own Habitat - what makes a good habitat? There's no better way to learn than by building one yourself! Students will create a small terrarium with a pill bug, millipede or other small, harmless creature to take home.
Nocturnal Animals - spooky and mysterious, or merely strange and curious, find out how the creatures of the night go about their business and survive in a world of darkness.
Animals in Winter - they don't have grocery stores and heated houses, but wild animals still manage to survive in the cold and snow. Learn about some of their amazing adaptations and see what lessons humans can learn about staying warm during the coldest time of year.
Pioneers and Plants - for pioneer children, knowing the names and uses of the plants around them was essential to their survival. Rather than running to the nearest shopping center, food, medicine, clothing, and other basic needs were obtained directly from the land around them. Students will become pioneers as they learn to look at the forest with an eye for survival. (Since this topic is an outdoor hike, we recommend choosing topics other than "seasonal hike" if you will be doing more than one topic).
Aquatic Animal Adaptations - snorkels and goggles, flippers and fins, explore the many fascinating ways animals have adapted to survive in underwater environments.
3rd - 5th Grade
Tree Identification - this class will separate the opposite from the alternate, and the simple from the compound as we learn the basics of tree identification. Mainly indoors with a short walk outside. Recommended for May - October.
Water Olympics - students will put water through its paces as they attempt to make paper clips float and see just how much water will stick to a penny. Learn how the weirdness of water makes life as we know it possible.
Incredible Journey - students will become water molecules and create a bracelet representing their travels as they journey through the water cycle.
Most programs can be adapted for older students, and specialized program topics may be available - please call for more information!
Program session lengths are generally 40 minutes for most topics (30 minute sessions recommended for Kindergarten and younger) and programs can be arranged to fit a variety of schedules.
Please note, these are only examples - topics, program length, and group size and arrangement may vary depending on the particular needs of your group, time of year, and staff and volunteer availability on the day of your program. Call 317-327-7148 and ask to talk to a naturalist to discuss the best options for your field trip.
One 40 minute session ($4/student) *morning time slots may not be available during spring and fall season
Two 30 minute sessions ($5/student) Shorter sessions recommended for Kindergarten & Preschool age groups. *morning time slots may not be available during spring and fall season
Two 40 minute sessions ($5/student)
Three 40-minute sessions ($5/student)
Three 40-minute sessions with lunch break ($5/student)
Four 40-minute sessions with lunch break ($5/student)
Five 40-minute sessions with lunch break ($5/student)
For groups of between 100-120 students we are able to offer a special discounted joint package to allow students to experience programming at both the Earth Discovery Center and the Ornithology Center. Fees for a joint program are only $5/student, and require that bus transportation remain available throughout the duration of the program. Click here for a listing of Ornithology Center programs.
Groups of fewer than 100 students may also sign up for programs at both facilities, but will need to make separate arrangements and pay separately at both facilities.
Please note - topics, program length, and group size and arrangement may vary depending on the particular needs of your group, time of year, and staff and volunteer availability on the day of your program. Call 317-327-7148 and ask to talk to a naturalist to discuss the best options for your field trip.
Joint EDC/OC program with four 40-minute sessions ($5/student)