Monroe County Parks and Recreation
Nature studies in the classroom and beyond
Download a PDF brochure containing this information here!
We can provide environmental education opportunities in your classroom, on your school grounds, or in the field. Our trained interpretive staff present programs that will enhance your teaching and integrate into all areas of the curriculum. Hands-on activities teach about topics in science, nature, cultural history, and environmental problems, with a focus on local species and issues. State standards can be tied to each program. In addition to the topics below, programs can be developed to supplement instruction of many themes for a personalized program. Each program format is different to accommodate group size, age, and the program site. Suggested grade levels are listed, but programs can be adapted to other ages. Programs will last 45 minutes to 1 hour. To encourage interaction, group size for most programs is limited to two classes. We are glad to repeat the program for additional classes. Program fees are $15 per session.
In The Classroom
No Bones about It: Spineless Wonders grades 3–6
From the depths of the oceans to the tops of mountains, the second largest group of animals on earth, the Gastropods, live all around us, yet we pay little attention to them. In this program, students will learn about the lives of slugs and snails and other spineless wonders and the role they play in the environment. Included are live snails, shells, movement, stories, and “listening to the ocean.”
Bats: Friend or Foe? grades K–4
Do you like bananas? Then you have to like the bats that pollinate them. Bats are the most unique and misunderstood of mammals. They are also a vital part of rainforest ecology and major predators of insect pests. Program options include a “bat buffet,” bat and moth game, story, and more.
Bird is the Word grades 4–Adult
The descendants of the dinosaurs have adapted to living in all parts of the world, eat many unusual kinds of food, and display wonderful shapes and colors. Bird song brightens our world, the migration of birds is inspiring, and the power of flight has always fascinated us. Games, feathers, nests, and other items add interest to this talk and we can also go outside to look for birds.
Animal Adaptations grades 2–6
Why are there so many different kinds of animals? Each kind of animal has its own solution to the problems of finding food and shelter, and avoiding predators. Many endangered species are very specialized and require very specific conditions in their environment. Lots of skins, skulls, and other “real” items are used along with active predator-prey simulations.
Signs Left Behind grades K–4
Animals are all around us. A bit of detective work is involved in identifying the tracks and other clues left behind. Examine real animal signs, including chew marks, feathers, etc., and print tracks on paper before going outside to look for animal signs. Tracks and signs are also used to discuss classification.
Bugs! grades K–6
There are more insects, and more kinds of insects, than any other form of animals on earth, yet we seldom notice them unless they bite. To get a closer look, students may participate in active games or go on safari to find bugs where they live. When scheduling this program, note that fall is better than spring for finding insects outside. The World of the Monarch Butterfly grades 4–Adult See the life cycle of the Monarch through our own PowerPoint show. Learn what they eat, how they live, and where they go in winter. Find out why the winter roosts are considered an endangered phenomenon. If possible, we will catch and tag Monarchs.
Forests around the World grades 4–6
An exploration of what makes up our Indiana forests and how they differ from tropical rainforests to the south and coniferous forests further north. Students will learn about the structure of forests, their location in the world, and their plant, animal, and human inhabitants.
Pond and Creek Life grades K–6
Discover what lives in creeks and ponds by using nets to capture and examine their inhabitants. We will also study the plants that support these inhabitants. Although some simulations and demonstrations can be done indoors, this program is best for schools with onsite ponds or creeks that can be studied during the program.
Bees, Butterflies, and Blooming Plants grades 4–6
We know honeybees pollinate flowers, but so do butterflies, hummingbirds, and even bats. Learn about the value of native bees and other pollinators and how plants reproduce. Find out why pollinators are declining and how you can help them survive.
Seeds, Nuts, and Berries, Oh my! grades K–6
Fall is all about seeds and plants preparing for winter. We will look at different types of seeds. We will also discuss the tactics plants adopt for dispersing their seeds, such as the use of wind, water, and animals. This program includes a craft—students will be able to try their hands at creating their own seed and its mode of transportation.
Meet a Tree grades K–4
Plants are vital in all ecosystems and trees are the most visible of plants. Students will learn tree parts by creating a human tree, examine (and maybe taste) tree products, and identify trees in the schoolyard.
Fossil Facts grades 4–Adult
Fossils unlock the secrets of the prehistoric world. Fossil formation is discussed and dozens of samples are examined and placed in position on a geologic time scale. When possible, we end with an outdoor fossil hunt—even limestone walls have fossils. Four large tables are needed to display the fossils.
Who Cares About Karst? grades 3–Adult
Southern Indiana has unique caves and sinkholes that are home to interesting creatures. How do they find food in total darkness? Water moves quickly from the surface to these underground passages and carries pollutants that can travel for miles. Find out how caves form, what lives in them, and how they can be protected.
Watershed Wonders grades 4–Adult
We all live in a watershed and land uses affect the quality of the water that runs into our lakes and streams. A model will be used to graphically show how we can keep our water clean. We will also show how maps can be used to locate watershed features.
Hoosier Home Remedies grades 3–Adult
Learn about the home remedies used by settlers before the advent of modern medicines and hospitals. Most of these cures, like many medicines today, were derived from plants, but they didn’t always work and could even be harmful. Smell and sample some of the tastier—but safe—remedies and see the plants from which they came.
Maps and Orienteering grades 5–adult
Use math and geography in a fun way. Now used in a modern sport, orienteering skills once were a matter of life and death. Several fun and challenging games are used to teach this useful skill.
In The Field
Come learn from us in one of our parks! We will present an itinerary of enjoyable and educational outdoor activities tailored to your grade level and teaching goals. We will also provide any needed equipment, but you must arrange transportation. We can also assist you in planning field trips to nearby State parks and forests. Note that State parks now require admission fees of $2 per person. You are responsible for transportation and any permission slips. Field trip fees are $30 for a half day or $50 for a full day. The following are suggested:
Old Field Succession and Wetlands
At Karst Farm Park or Flatwoods Park, we will walk through different stages of forest regrowth, beginning with the mowed fields. Look for insects, birds, seeds, and other signs of life. Compare different plants growing in each habitat. We will also see life in a marsh area and discuss the importance of wetlands. Seasonal changes will be noted. Program includes use of picnic shelter and playground areas.
Visit a forest and choose activities such as: fall color, wildlife and tracks, measuring trees, transect sampling, using a map and compass, mapping, learning tree identification, looking at soils, life in the litter, or wildflowers.
See the Mount Carmel Fault and Lake Monroe dam, collect fossils and geodes, and visit a cemetery to see many types of rocks and how they weather.
From Flatwoods Park to McCormick’s Creek State Park follow the creek through a watershed. Do simple chemical and physical tests to compare temperature, hardness, turbidity, and acidity at different sites. Students will net aquatic insects to learn about biological indicators of water quality. Prepare to get wet and muddy on this one!
Many of our programs can be adapted for younger children. Fast paced and handson activities include puppets, finger plays, music, stories, and movement to keep their interest. Preschool programs will be 30-45 minutes and the program fee is $10.
If travel is not possible due to time or budget constraints, let us come to you. Many of the field trip topics can be adapted to your school site or we can create a field day of activities with stations for small group experiments, writing experiences, and observations.
After School–Youth Groups–Scouts–Adult Classes–Speakers–Tours
We are glad to arrange programs for your club or meeting on any aspect of local natural or cultural history. There is a $15 charge to help cover expenses. Invite us to your Math and Science Night or after-school nature club!
Project WILD, Project WET, Project Learning Tree, and Hoosier RiverWatch are supplementary environmental education curricula designed to teach children how to think, not what to think. All kinds of activities to integrate into every subject area are included. By attending a 6 hour workshop with our facilitators, you will be prepared to use the materials with your class or youth group. Workshops can be arranged for your school or adult group of 10 or more. Some have a small fee. NEW: Early Childhood activity guides from Project WILD and Project Learning Tree!
We have assembled a collection of videos, laminated posters, CDs, and equipment for you to use in the classroom. There is no charge for borrowing these materials, we only ask that they be returned promptly for others to use. We also have many books and files of activities and background information. Please let us know if you need information to prepare for lessons.
Guidelines for Programs
Please prepare your students by telling them they will be involved in a structured learning situation requiring focused attention and ready response to instructions. We want them to have fun, but not disrupt the participation of others. Students often equate outdoor time with recess, so please make expectations clear prior to the program. Teachers and adult/parent chaperones are expected to actively participate in the program. Field trips may require additional chaperones or parents to help supervise students.
If outdoor experiences are included in the program, students need to wear suitable shoes and clothing for the conditions. Expect to get dirty and do not wear new or “good” clothes. Jackets may be needed on cool days.
If severe weather arises, we may need to cancel a program. We will work with you to find another date. If you need to cancel or reschedule a program due to a change in your plans, please let us know as soon as possible.
In addition to classroom programs, we can also plan field trips to nearby state parks and forests. We will present an itinerary of enjoyable and educational outdoor activities tailored to your grade level and teaching goals. We will provide any needed equipment. You just need to arrange transportation and get the permission slips. Note that Indiana State Parks now require admission fees of $2 per person.
Scheduling a Program
Programs are offered anytime during school hours, or after-school, evenings, and weekends, depending on naturalist availability and other constraints. Programs will last 45 minutes to 1 hour. Preschool programs are 30 minutes. Suggested grade levels are shown in the program descriptions, but most programs can be adapted to other grade levels. Programs can also be modified to reinforce your lesson plans.
Each program format is different to accommodate grade level, group size, the program site, and your teaching goals.
To encourage interaction, group size for most inside programs is limited to two classes. We are glad to repeat the program for additional classes. Single classes are preferable. Please schedule your program at least two weeks in advance.
Program fees are $15 per session. Preschool programs are $10. Field trip fees are $30 for a half day or $50 for a full day.
Field trips to our parks include free use of a picinic shelter for lunch. Let us know at the time of your registration if you would like us to reserve one for you.
When calling or emailing, be prepared to give preferred date and time, alternate dates and times, number of students, grade level, email address and telephone number.
Payment can be made by check the day of the program or we can invoice your school or school corporation.
To schedule a program, or if you have questions, contact us at:
Karst Farm Park
Forest and field habitats, trails, small pond with dock for pond studies, and a larger pond. Picnic shelters, playgrounds, water, and restrooms are available.
Forest and field habitats—with trails—and the upper reaches of McCormick’s Creek combine to make a great location for watershed studies. Also an artesian well and a working windmill. Picnic shelters, water, restrooms, and playground are available.
Will Detmer Park
Our newest park! Field and forest areas for habitat studies, and a spring fed pond with new dock for pond studies. Picnic shelter, playground, water, restrooms, and basketball court are available.
Jackson Creek Park
This small park near Clear Creek is good for creek, field, and forest studies. Picinic shelter and playground are available.
Cathy has been working at Monroe County Parks and Recreation full time for 20 years. She is a facilitator for Project WET, Project Learning Tree, Project WILD, and Hoosier RiverWatch. Cathy is Assistant Director of the Karst Day Camp and advises on resource planning for the parks. She has presented sessions for the Environmental Education Association of Indiana, National Association for Interpretation, Hoosier Recreation Workshop, Black Hills Recreation Lab, Great Lakes Recreation Leadership Lab, and other events. She has been honored with awards from several of these organizations. Cathy earned Masters’ degrees in Biology and Environmental Science from Indiana University and also worked for several divisions of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, including State Parks, Reservoirs, Nature Preserves, and Fish and Wildlife. She has also worked for the US Forest Service in the Hoosier National Forest.
Sandy has worked at MCPR since 1999. She is certified in Project WILD, Project Learning Tree, and Hoosier RiverWatch. Sandy is a member of the Environmental Education Association of Indiana and the National Association for Interpretation (NAI), and has been a presenter at NAI conferences. She has presented many butterfly programs for Sassafras Audubon Society and other groups and organizations. An instructor for the National Wildlife Federation’s Habitat Stewards program, and a Master Gardener, Sandy has a degree in Fine Arts from Indiana University and has extensive background in biological and geological sciences. She has been employed as a naturalist since 1986, including work as a seasonal naturalist at McCormick’s Creek State Park, an outdoor educator at Spencer Elementary School, and a trap tender for the Division of Forestry Gypsy Moth survey.