Homeschool Group Field Trips

The Nature Institute (TNI) offers field trip programs to groups of students in preschool through twelfth grade. Field trip programs are offered in 1.5 hour blocks, Tuesday-Friday throughout the school year. Programs must be booked 2 weeks in advance minimum.

Program Length: 1.5 Hours
  • Educational programs are facilitated by our staff and are 1.5 hours in length.
  • We provide one field trip leader per group of 15 students.
  • You are invited to use our picnic tables and play area for self-guided lunch and free play time, before or after the program.
Program Size: 15-45 students
  • There should be no more than a 4 year age gap for the students coming on a field trip. We would be happy to set up a separate trip for students outside of that age gap. This allows our educators to create an age/developmentally appropriate program for all students involved.
  • Please break your students into groups of no more than 15 students each.
  • We are unable to accommodate more than 45 students at once. If you have more than 50 students, back to back or multi-day programs can be booked in order to schedule everyone in your group.
Program Cost: $7/student
  • Minimum of $105 per program (15 students)
  • Groups that have less than 15 students are welcome to book a field trip, but will still be required to pay the minimum booking fee of $105.
  • 1 parent/guardian per family can attend at no cost. Additional adults will be charged at the student rate.
  • Full Day Field Adventure: For $10.50/student, you can double your learning and fun at The Nature Institute. Option to book from 9 – 1, 9:30 – 1:30, or 10 – 2! Full Day Field Adventures include 2 programs of your choice, 1 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon, with an hour long break between for lunch and playground time. Limited to 45 students or less per day.

Program Options

Available year round.

Why do different birds have different beaks? Why do some animals play dead? Learn how physical and behavioral traits help animals to survive out in nature! This field trip includes a hike, a game, and an art challenge.

NGSS Standards: LS1, LS3, LS4

Available year round. 

Did you know that the creation of Velcro was inspired by a plant? Engineers and biologists often look to nature to inspire new creations. Learn about inventions based off of animal and plant traits, then create your own prototype of a bioinspired invention. This 2 hour field trip includes an introduction to biomimicry, followed by prototype construction. Limited to 30 students or less.

Available April through November.

Trees and plants provide homes for animals, products for humans, and the air we breathe! Learn all about the structure of plants, as well as their important uses. This field trip includes a plant identification hike, a craft, and a plant activity.

NGSS Standards: LS1, LS2, LS3, LS4, ESS2

Available year round.
How do scientists classify animals, and why do we do it? Students are invited to explore the scientific world of classification through hands-on activities. This field trip includes a hike, a challenge, and a visit with our box turtle.

NGSS Standards: LS3, LS4

Available year round.

Fly over to The Nature Institute to learn about our feathered friends. Test out different beaks, play a game, and use binoculars to spot different species in the preserve. This field trip includes a game, an experiment, and a birding hike.

NGSS Standards: LS1, LS2, LS3, LS4, ESS2, ESS3

Available in late March through May.

Examine life cycles through this interactive, outdoor field trip. Play a game, meet an animal up close, and take a look at the life cycles just beginning out in our pond! This field trip includes a visit with our box turtle, pond dipping, a hike, and a game. 

NGSS Standards: LS1, LS3, LS4

Available year round.

Looking for something different? This is the field trip for you! Dissect an owl pellet, play as a vomiting vulture, search for creepy crawlies in the forest, and sculpt the perfect scat. This field trip includes owl pellet dissection, a game, a hike, and a craft.

NGSS Standards: LS1, LS2, LS3, LS4

Available April through October.

Teeny, tiny creatures are all around us — you just need to get a closer look! Insects take care of many different jobs, from pollinating to decomposing. Conduct field science through exploration and use of scientific tools like magnifying glasses! Discover the importance of these tiny helpers in our ecosystem. This field trip includes an insect search, a game, and a craft to take home. 

NGSS Standards: LS1, LS3, LS4

Available April through September.

Conduct citizen science through the use of scientific tools and experiments out in our creeks. Spend time searching for macroinvertebrates with nets and conducting tests to determine water quality! This field trip includes a hike, creek dipping, and water quality testing. 

NGSS Standards: LS1, LS2, LS3, LS4, ESS2

Available year round.

Feeling hungry? So is the wildlife! Get to know the producers, consumers, and decomposers that make up our food chains in Illinois. This field trip includes a hike, a hands-on study of our vermicompost bin, and a game.

Available year round.

Experience all 5 senses at The Nature Institute. Through hands-on activities, students will explore nature through smell, touch, hearing, smell, and even taste! This field trip includes a sensory hike, sensory activities, and a game.

Available year round.

Head out to the trails to get a glimpse of Beaver Falls, our largest waterfall on the property! Discuss the essentials of Leave No Trace and gain expert knowledge about the flora and fauna here at TNI. This intermediate loop trail has hilly, moderate terrain, with some steep or rocky areas. Participants may get wet! This 2 hour field trip includes a naturalist led, 2.3 mile round trip hike to Beaver Falls. There is an option to add in a specific outdoor topic to focus on during the hike (tree/plant ID, mammals, habitats, birds, etc).

NGSS Standards: ESS2, ESS3, PS1, LS1, LS2, LS4

Available year round.

Think you have what it takes to survive in the wild? Learn to make and start a fire, build a shelter, and identify edible plants. This field trip includes shelter building, fire building, and an edible plant hike. 

**This field trip also extends to an optional full day. Select ‘Full Day Field Adventure’ at registration to add an afternoon session to join us for archery and compass reading! The full day rate is $10.50 per student.

Deposit/Cancellation Policy

Effective Spring 2020, TNI will require a deposit for all field trips in order to secure a date on our calendar. The deposit may be made through our online registration system or a check, but it must be received no later than 30 days before the program date. You will receive final confirmation from our staff once your program is on the calendar.

The deposit is $105, which is equivalent to the minimum program fee and will be credited towards the cost of the program. This deposit is only refundable in the case of TNI needing to cancel the program due to unforeseen circumstances, such as a hazardous weather event. If a school cancels their field trip within two weeks of their scheduled date, they lose their deposit and a new deposit will be required to reschedule the program. If a school cancels their field trip with at least two weeks notice, the original deposit can be applied towards the rescheduled date.

Field Trip Availability


Green Dates = Available

Yellow Dates = Limited availability

Red Dates = Fully booked

Calendar last updated 04/04/24. For exact availability, please contact Lauren at Yellow dates often indicate afternoon availability or small group availability.

Schedule a Field Trip

Step 1 of 4

School Details

Lead Teacher(Required)
School/ Group Address

Frequently Asked Questions

No, but we do try to book one of your top 3 dates. We do our best to keep our online calendar as up to date as possible, but it is not always 100% accurate. If you’d like to make sure that a specific date is available before booking, please give us a call at (618) 466-9930 or email us at

After we receive your form, one of the members of our Education Team will reach out to you via email to confirm your date and time, as well as clarify any other details that we may need. You will also receive a detailed email regarding your field trip 1 – 2 weeks out from the program date. If you don’t hear from us within 7 – 10 days of submitting your form, please reach out — your form may have not submitted!

Almost all of our programs are entirely outdoors, so be sure to wear weather appropriate clothing, as well as closed toed shoes. We go out in rain, snow, and sun. Water bottles, sunscreen, and bug spray are also encouraged.

In the case of inclement winter weather or thunderstorms, your program will be rescheduled to an agreed upon date or cancelled. We close for winter weather when Alton Public Schools close.

The program activities will vary based on the topic. Plan to spend lots of time outside, go for a hike, discover new things in nature, and participate in fun, age – appropriate activities! Interested in learning more about the specific activities for the program? Drop us a line at (618) 466-9930, or email

Yes. Please contact us for further details.

Absolutely! There are picnic tables all around the outside of Talahi Lodge that are perfect for picnics. We do not have food service on site, so be sure to pack your own lunch!

Visitors are welcome to enjoy roughly 7 miles of trails, as well as Discovery Woods, our certified Nature Explore classroom.