University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences

3rd and 4th Grade Programs

Take your students’ curiosity and love of nature to a new level! Our 3rd and 4th grade programs aim to connect young students with their environment and the scientific inquiry process while tying into state science standards. They get students outdoors, observing and investigating the world around them and becoming familiar with scientific tools, while also providing ample opportunities for games, reading and FUN. Half-day (2 hour) and full-day (4 hour) programs are available.


"Cedar Creek staff are great! They have always worked well with our students (even when our students have been resistant to outdoor experiences!)." - anonymous teacher, 2018


Schedule your visit

Click here to submit an application form and schedule your field trip! A staff member will contact you within 3 business days.


Full-day field trips are $300 for a "classroom" of approximately 30 students and at least one teacher/adult chaperone. Half-day programs are $210 per “classroom”. These fees cover the cost of a trained naturalist to guide and teach your group throughout the day, and provide access for your group to areas of the property not open to the public. If this cost is prohibitive for your school, please get in touch with Caitlin ( - we are happy to work with you to subsidize the cost of your visit! 

Teacher Planning Guide

Resources to help you and your students prepare for a successful visit.



Biomes of Minnesota

Time: 2 hours

Season: year-round

The Cedar Bog Lake trail is a unique experience that lets students walk through representations of all three biomes present in Minnesota before emerging at the shores of Cedar Bog Lake. Deciduous forest, tallgrass prairie and boreal coniferous forest, as well as swamps and a lake – they all contribute to make this a “Walk Across Minnesota!” Younger students do this hike as a “color walk”, finding natural items that match paint chips as they traverse the trail, or as a purely observational walk with hand lenses and basic field guides. Older students discuss the natural and scientific history of Minnesota and Cedar Creek. There are lots of opportunities along the way to stop and ask questions about the different types of nature the students are exploring. Total distance is ~1 mile.

Sort like a Scientist: The Importance and Power of Classification

Time: 2 hours

Season: year-round

Students observe and/or collect a variety of items from around Cedar Creek and use their observational skills to sort them and come up with a basic classification scheme (dichotomous key). They then test out their key with a handful of surprise items or a visit to a novel area. Older groups can refine existing keys or create their own key, and learn why and how to identify specific groups of plants like trees or grasses in our experimental plots.

Animal Adaptations

Time: 2 hours

Season: November - March

How do local wildlife make it through Minnesota’s winters? Through a game, a hands-on investigation and lots of items to touch and explore, students will learn survival strategies that animals use to make it through to spring. Most of the program will be indoors, but we will be going outside as part of our investigation - dress for the weather!

Visit to Biodiversity Experiment (bus required)

Time: 2 hours

Season: April – November

Dr. Dave Tilman’s Big Biodiversity experiment is known worldwide for its insights into the way plant communities function and its role in helping scientists, policy makers, and the general public understand and appreciate biodiversity. Explore this enormous experiment using a guided scavenger hunt that encourages students to figure out Dr. Tilman’s main results on their own. They’ll leave with an appreciation for biodiversity and science that’s hard to replicate anywhere else!



(half-day options can also be combined with the Biomes of Minnesota hike to make a full-day trip)

Water Water Everywhere

Time: 4 hours

Season: year-round

Learn about the importance of water to people through a game, an observational hike and a hands-on demo. Students will experience the water cycle through stories and a game of water cycle tag. They will then visit either a wetland or a swamp, and spend some time observing and drawing what they see. They will also get to get their hands wet using our stream table, where a naturalist will demonstrate the way water shapes landscapes through processes like erosion and deposition. Students will be tasked with building houses along the watershed and making real-world engineering decisions related to flood control, development and landscaping.

One Small Square

Time: 4 hours

Season: April – October

Learn to collect data and observe in a focused way in this kid-friendly exploration of ecosystems! Students will go on a hike through a variety of ecosystems and talk about the living and non-living things they see, and then work with a partner to conduct an investigation of their own “small square” of the landscape. Armed with a PVC quadrat (their personal square) and a backpack of tools, they will collect, measure, document and observe what’s going on above and below the soil. Round out the day with an art project to capture some of the nature each pair observed!

Forest Ecology

Time: 4 hours

Season: April – October

Students explore and investigate two of Minnesota’s three biomes – the coniferous and deciduous forests. Go on a hike that passes through several forest types, learn how to identify trees, and discuss the importance of trees and forests for humans. Collect a leaf of your own, and then learn how the shape a leaf tells you something about its function as well as the type of tree it came from. Visit our brand-new Forests and Biodiversity experiment and test out your tree identification skills with a dichotomous key.

Focus on Food Webs

Time: 4 hours

Season: April – October

Did you know that the first scientist to study how energy moved through food webs worked here at Cedar Creek? Expose your students to Lindeman’s legacy through food web tag, a hike out to his research site (~1 mile total), and an investigation of adaptations in either animal skulls or pinned insects.



Our capacity to do in-school visits is limited, particularly in September, October and May. However, if you would like one of our scientists or naturalists to speak to your students at a career panel or event, assist with judging at a science fair, or provide input in a similar capacity, please let us know. Contact Dr. Caitlin Barale Potter (; 612-301-2602) and we'll see what we can arrange!



Phenology (K-16), Weather and Climate (K-8), Prairie Ecology (K-8), Soil Biology (4-16) and more! Have a suggestion for a topic that your school would like to see? Tell Caitlin ( and we'll add it to our list of future programs!



Minimum/Maximum Students: Minimum 5 students/program. Maximum is ~30 students per group and 4 groups (~120 students) per day for all programs. Your field trip fee covers the cost of a naturalist to lead your group through your visit – thus, program fees are assessed on a per group basis rather than a per student basis and you will be charged the full group amount even if you bring fewer than 30 students.

Chaperones: At least one chaperone (preferably teacher, though non-teacher adult/parent is acceptable) is required for each group of up to ~30 students. Paras and nurses accompanying specific students do not count towards this minimum. We rely on chaperones to assist with group management and behavior issues as they arise so that our naturalists can focus on delivering your program!

Scholarships: Scholarships are available to schools that cannot afford field trip fees. Contact Caitlin (caitlin@umn.eduor 612-301-2602) for information.

Billing Policy: An invoice will be issued from the University of Minnesota for your trip at the beginning of the season (April for spring field trips, June for summer field trips, September for fall field trips and December for winter field trips). It can be paid by check or credit card within 30 days. We do not accept cash or other payments onsite on your field trip day unless prior arrangements have been made.

Cancellation Policy: Programs are held rain or shine. If there is rain in the forecast, make sure your students are prepared to be outside in it! In extreme weather conditions, we reserve the right to cancel programs for your safety and will work with you to reschedule. You will not be charged a cancellation fee under these circumstances. However, you will be charged for the full amount of your program if you cancel less than 14 days in advance or if you do not show up or contact us within 30 mins of your scheduled arrival time.)

Accessibility: The majority of the programs offered at Cedar Creek can be modified to accommodate participants with special needs. We ask that you share pertinent information with a minimum of two weeks notice about any students that have any special needs (particular educational requirements resulting from learning difficulties, physical disability, or emotional and behavioral difficulties). This information enables us to make the necessary modifications needed to meet the needs of your group and to arrange your schedule so that all your students have a straightforward and positive experience.

Resources and Partners