School and Outreach Programs
Earthplace offers innovative, curriculum-based natural history programs for students in pre-K through 8th grade. These programs are appropriate as an introduction or review of a topic and are designed to meet Connecticut science curriculum standards. Programs may be tailored to meet the needs of the teacher and audience and can be adapted for scout, adult, or other groups. Many of our programs may be held either at Earthplace or your site; those that are only offered at Earthplace are marked with an *.
The following programs feature animals from our Animal Hall and take place indoors. Critter Encounter, Eat and be Eaten, and Crafty Navigators are presentation-style and involve interaction with live animals. Mammal Matters, Slither and Swim, and To Bee or not to Bee involve both interaction with live animals and additional activities.
Meet some of the Earthplace “species ambassadors” during this exciting hands-on live animal program. Depending on the length of your program your group will meet and touch up to five animals from our Animal Hall. This program is designed to offer students of any age the unique opportunity to meet and interact with our animals while learning about a topic of your choosing.
Eat and be Eaten - Food Webs Explained
This program focuses on one of the most important aspects of the natural world: balance. By studying the relationships between life forms and how each species plays a specific role in maintaining balance in its own ecosystem, we learn why every living and non-living thing is so important. Live animals of all kinds will help us trace the path of energy from the sun all the way to our own bodies.
Crafty Navigators - Animals and their Senses
Every animal needs a way to navigate its surroundings. In this program we’ll learn all about the amazing ways animals use their senses to get around, find food, and stay away from predators. With the help of our animal ambassadors we will discover how a spider can catch its dinner without ever seeing it, how mammals can sniff their way to a treat, why snakes are deaf, and much more!
What makes an animal a mammal? When students meet a live mammal they will discover what distinguishes these animals from other vertebrates. Students will also visit stations for focused observation of mounted specimens and natural objects to familiarize themselves with common Connecticut mammals and their adaptations.
Slither & Swim - Reptiles & Amphibians
What are the key differences between amphibians and reptiles? How do they compare to us? Through observation and interaction students will explore what distinguishes these animals including physical characteristics, habitat, and life cycle.
To Bee or not to Bee - Insects
During this program we’ll use hands-on activities to learn and demonstrate the physical structure of insects, explore adaptations and life cycles, and learn how insects interact with people. Students will meet and interact with live insects and other invertebrates.
Many owl species make their home in Connecticut but their shy nature and excellent camouflage mean that many of us never get to see them. During this program you will meet three common owl species and see their beautiful feathers, talons, and eyes up close. We’ll also learn about the physical and behavioral adaptations that make them top predators in the nocturnal world.
Introductions and wrap-ups may be held indoors but the bulk of the following programs takes place outdoors on the trails at Earthplace. These programs may be extended.
Explore the trails at Earthplace with one of our Naturalists. See the sights of the season and keep a lookout for wildlife! This program is supplemented with natural artifacts and fosters curiosity and ecological awareness. Concepts such as food webs, habitat and conservation will be discussed as requested and as appropriate to a group's grade level.
Note: This program is not just for groups travelling to Earthplace! We strive to help students discover the wild side of any outdoor space and understand that travel costs may prevent groups from scheduling programs on-site. Call to discuss using your school property as the setting for this program.
Land and Water *
During an indoor introduction followed by a guided hike we will investigate the terrestrial and aquatic habitats of Earthplace. Students will compare and contrast the adaptations of plants and animals that live in wetlands with those that live on land. To understand the water cycle, we will follow the path of a raindrop through Earthplace and examine soil samples in various parts of the watershed.
Pond Project *
Discover the wide variety of animals that make the pond their home. We will conduct a field study at our pond using nets, hand lenses and other tools to gain insight into life below the water’s surface. After collection we’ll observe, sort, identify and count animals from pond water samples and discuss their adaptations. As a way to gauge the pond’s health we will also collect data on pH level, water temperature, and air temperature.
Habitats and Homes *
Where do box turtles live? Where does a raccoon sleep during the day? During this program we’ll answer these questions and more while hiking through the different habitats at Earthplace. Students will learn about Connecticut’s wildlife and what all animals need to survive through exploration, scavenger hunts, and games. We’ll also distinguish between a habitat and a home and discuss the adaptations animals use to creatively construct their homes.
Forest Ecology *
From the soil beneath our feet to the top of the canopy students will get to know each structural layer of the forest and the animals who live there. We’ll take an investigative hike through the forests of Earthplace and discuss how all the living and non-living things in the forest interact to make it a healthy ecosystem. Along the way we’ll take time to roll over logs to find decomposers, look for birds’ nests in the trees, and search for other signs of the many animals who call the forest home.
The following programs are designed to provide small group experiences for groups in 5th grade or older. Each program can accommodate up to 12 participants. As with the Animal Hall and Trail Programs there is the option of running two staffed programs simultaneously.
Environmental Problem Solving *
During this program students will learn all about the ways humans interact with the planet. While we hike along the trails at Earthplace we’ll stop to discuss water usage, forestry, food production and other resource and energy concerns. We’ll use critical thinking skills and debates as we come up with creative solutions to complex issues. Topics are presented as challenges to overcome, not disasters to fear, and students focus on positive changes they can make in their own lives.
Students work cooperatively to solve puzzles and physical challenges while exploring the trails at Earthplace. We’ll focus on communication, inclusiveness, trust, and planning. Students will get to know each other better and practice the skills they need to be an effective member of a team. Earthplace staff act as guides and moderators, assisting the students in coming up with solutions as a group.
Outdoor Skills *
During this fun hands-on program we’ll learn about the skills and knowledge you need to plan and run a successful hiking or camping trip. Topics can include planning and packing, shelter-building, leave-no-trace, and map and compass reading.
Build You Own!
Don’t see the program you would like to attend offered here? Give us a call and we’ll do our best to tailor a program to meet your group’s unique needs.
Booking Information & Guidelines
About our Programs
Earthplace offers innovative, curriculum-based natural history programs designed to supplement your science unit. This is achieved through:
- Hands-on presentations designed to enable and encourage students to actively experience the wonder and importance of the natural world around them
- Use of scientific tools, scientific method of investigation, and cooperative activities
- Live animals, where appropriate
- Observation of mounted specimens, skins, skeletons and models
- Use of Earthplace sanctuary and trails.
- Programs are appropriate as an introduction or review of the topic and may be tailored to meet the needs of the audience
Groups are also welcome to visit Earthplace for self-guided hikes and museum exploration. Please contact the Program Coordinator so we may accommodate your group’s arrival and use of the building.
Number of Participants
Animal Hall and Trail Programs are suitable for a maximum of 25 participants. Adventure Programs can accommodate a maximum of 12 participants. We are capable of running two staffed programs concurrently so your group may bring up to 50 participants (if choosing and Animal Hall or Trail program) or 24 (if choosing an Adventure program) if signing up for two programs. You may bring additional participants if you choose to do a third or fourth self-guided program. Please call with any questions regarding the size of your group.
Programs can be altered to meet the time constraints of the group but generally programs for pre-K – 1st grade students run 30-40 minutes and those for older groups run one hour. Programs involving a hike may also be extended to two hours for an additional fee (see below). We encourage those groups travelling to Earthplace to choose several programs. Groups are welcome to bring their lunches and eat at our picnic tables or in the auditorium.
- $125 per on-site program
- $200 per on-site extended hike program
- $150 per off-site program
- $250 per on-site / $300 per off-site Owl Encounter
- There is no fee for on-site programs for Westport public schools.
- An additional travel fee may be charged for off-site programs more than 25 miles from Earthplace.
About your Visit
- Collection of anything, living or non-living, is not permitted on the sanctuary unless it is part of a program with one of our educators.
- Chaperones are asked to participate in monitoring student behavior when groups are visiting Earthplace. This includes modeling appropriate behavior such as staying on the trail, staying with the group, and not using personal cell phones during a program.
Our building is not peanut or tree nut free. Peanut and tree nut products may be found in the diets of some Animal Hall residents. Though students will not come in contact with animal diets they may touch animals who have nuts in their diets. Those suffering fur, feather or dander allergies should also exercise caution. Please contact the Program Coordinator with any questions and discuss any students in your group with severe allergies prior to the visit.
We encourage groups to take advantage of the additional features Earthplace has to offer including
- Natureplace, a hands-on nature museum with wildlife dioramas, artifacts, activities, mounts and information about local animals, plants and the environment. Suggested 5 to 1 children to adult supervision ratio.
- The Animal Hall, featuring a collection of live wildlife, exotic, and domesticated species including birds, reptiles and mammals. There is also an outdoor Birds of Prey display area featuring many of the raptor species found in Connecticut including bald eagles!
- 74-acre Sanctuary with trail system through habitats such as deciduous woodlands, streams, and open fields
- Picnic areas
- The Earthplace museum building is wheelchair accessible. There is also a wheelchair accessible 1/4 mile trail (Wheels in the Woods IV).
Monday – Friday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Saturday 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Sunday 1:00 – 4:00 PM
Contact the Program Coordinator at (203) 557-4400 x107 Tuesday through Friday, 9 AM – 5 PM. Be prepared to discuss program choice, available dates, location, number of students, and any specific content areas you would like the program to focus on.
- In case of inclement weather, call Earthplace at (203) 557-4400 to confirm that the facility is open and your program will run as scheduled. An announcement on our voicemail system will detail closings or delayed openings.
- Please notify us well in advance if your group is unable to keep a scheduled program date. Schools will be charged a cancellation fee for last minute cancellations (for reasons other than weather conditions).
Cancelled programs may be re-scheduled depending on the availability of dates.