The Institute is delighted to resume educational “field trip” experiences for school students in grades K through 7. 

Our professional staff of educators has created a roster of curriculum-based programming set in a variety of natural and historic locations throughout the South Mountain region! These include Pine Hill Recreation Area, Battle of Monterey Pass Museum and Monterey Peak, Happel’s Meadow Wetland, Michaux Forest.

Life in the natural world

The Institute’s environmental education programs raise awareness and encourage stewardship of our natural heritage.

Unless otherwise noted, all programs are two hours long and the cost is $6/student. Groups may have between 15 and 30 children. There is no charge for accompanying adults.

Wonderwalks (75 minutes; $5/student)

Preschool (Ages 3 & 4)

Preschool children explore the natural world using their senses and special tools provided by the instructor. Dance, storytelling, poetry and music are included. The instructor uses a finger puppet to add humor and interest. Two seasonal versions of this program are available, Fall and Spring.


Kindergarten [Year-long program with an annual fee of $14 per student (covers teacher materials and 3 sessions for students). Minimum 15 students, maximum 30. Contact us by phone at (717) 762-0373 or by email at for more information.]

The Institute, school, and home are tied together in this full-year curriculum, creating a comprehensive environmental learning experience for kindergarten children. Students visit The Institute three times during the year (Fall, Winter and Spring). They meet the zany puppet character, Mother Nature, and her marvelous Wonder Trunk. Through seasonal activities using the five senses, the students train to become “certified EarthSeekers” learning to find nature’s wonders at local parks, in the school yard and at home. Special tools, letters from Mother Nature and a Wonder Box at school build anticipation for each classroom session. Parents play an important role too, as they complete home-based outdoor activities with their child.

Hello Earth, it’s Spring! [or Fall]


Kindergarteners hike into the woods to discover signs of Spring or Fall. Along the way they make whiff sundaes, create nature kaleidoscopes, and enjoy several more sensory activities to learn about seasonal changes.

Marvin Visits Planet Earth


A puppet from outer space needs help. Kindergarteners follow the stars to find the four “needs of life” which the puppet, Marvin, must learn. Through hands-on activities children explore living and non-living things and learn the importance of soil, water, air and sunlight. They earn four colored stars which are added to individual student necklaces. Each star represents one of the “needs of life.” The necklaces go home with the students to help them recall the details of their learning adventure.

Sydney’s Wonder Web

Grade 1

A spider puppet named Sydney has a problem. She has built a web and in order to make it complete she must find out how the nine parts of nature are interrelated. Students help Sydney by visiting four activity stations where they learn that plants and animals depend upon each other and upon non-living elements of nature for food, shelter, hiding places. Students earn a special necklace which they assemble at the end of the program (and take home) to help them remember the nine parts of nature.

Discover Dairy: From Field to Fridge

Grade 1

In this hands-on program, students learn about dairy foods, modern dairy farms and how dairy products travel from farms to their homes. Students churn cream into butter and make samples to take home. They also discover how butter was made long ago and contrast that process with today’s technology.

Forest Treasures

Grade 2

Students seek out the treasures of the forest through exploration, art, and hands-on activities. They learn about the parts of plants, seed dispersal, simplified photosynthesis, tree ID and why leaves change color. Learners hunt for insects, and look and listen for animals and birds. The interrelationships between plants and animals is a focus concept.

Plants: From Harvest to Home

Grade 2

Students learn about pollinators and their connection to plants and food production. This program uses hands-on activities to demonstrate basic methods of food preservation such as drying, pickling, and candying. The concept of self-sufficiency is explained as students compare and contrast the technology of the past to that of today. Students gain awareness of their reliance on modern agricultural industry and practices to provide for nutritional needs, and learn of its economic importance in the region.

Wonders of Wool: From Sheep to Clothes

Grade 3

Students explore, through hands-on participation, how wool is made it into cloth. Students wash and card the wool, spin it into yarn and weave the yarn into cloth. They see first-hand how much work is involved in “raising and creating” their own clothes. The instructors help students compare and contrast the technological changes in the making of cloth over time.

Pine Hill Park Ranger Training

Grade 4

Third grade students embark on an adventure which immerses them in the natural environment of the park. The students are invited to become “park rangers” and pursue their training mission, which includes learning about safety in the outdoors and using their senses to study the world around them. Themes include weather, geology, trees, animals and Leave No Trace principals. The training culminates when the students set up their own “micro parks” to discover nature’s tiniest wonders.

Fantastic Flax: From Fiber to Fabric

Grade 4

This program is designed around the growing and processing of flax and its historic importance to the farm families of this region. Students process the flax from drying and breaking to scutching, hatcheling, spinning and weaving. By working with flax on a first-hand basis, children are exposed to the concept that the people of the past and present meet the demands of daily life by using natural resources, and that changes in manufacturing technology have changed the way people live, too.


Grade 4

Energy flow, food chains and food webs, animal adaptations, and habitats are the key concepts emphasized in this highly interactive program. The forest habitat will provide the backdrop for these hands-on, minds-on activities. Students will actively learn about the interconnected world around them.

Monterey Peak Adventures

Grade 5

Fifth grade students will hike to the Monterey Peak observation deck and learn about forest ecology and the geologic features surrounding them.

Civil War: Battle at Monterey Pass

Grade 4

This program will give students an overview of the Civil War as well as the battle that took place at midnight along the Mason-Dixon Line in July 1863. Students will also tour the museum, visit a Civil War-era garden, and experience hands on activities to learn about the everyday lives of the Civil War soldiers.

Exploring Wetlands: Plants, Animals and People

Grade 6

Students visit six stations during this all-day program at Happel’s Meadow in Blue Ridge Summit. Hands-on activities include: soil, plant, and animal studies, nature journaling, EnviroScape investigation, and the history of Happel’s Meadow.

Michaux Forest Discoveries: Land, Stream & Industry

Grade 7

Students visit six hands-on stations during this all-day program at the Old Forge area in the Michaux Forest. Topics include: macroinvertebrate investigation, hydrologic activities, watershed mapping, forest ecology hike on the Appalachian Trail, nature journaling, and discovering the history of the iron industry in the region.

For more detailed information and a complete description of school programs and fees, contact The Institute by phone at (717) 762-0373 or by email at

Earth Encounters students search for clues in the woods.
Kindergarteners use Fresnel lenses to magnify snow crystals during the Earthseekers program.
Sixth-graders study macroinvertebrates during the Discovering Wetlands program.
Learning about leaves changing colors in Fall Walk.