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Guided Lessons at Five Rivers

Hands-on science....

Small-group learning in an outdoor setting....

Data collecting, scientific tools and equipment....

And Fun!

Your students will enjoy the beauty of Five Rivers' forests, wetlands and meadows as they explore nature and use the scientific method to investigate the world around them.

Lesson Format

Lessons are taught Monday through Friday during the school year, any time between 9 AM to 2 PM. The Friends of Five Rivers works with NYSDEC staff to offer these lessons, please e-mail gsp5rivers@outlook.com to schedule your class visit. Spring and fall lessons are taught completely outdoors. Winter lessons begin with an indoor introduction before going afield. All lessons are two hours long, except Exploring the Outdoors, which is 90 minutes.

We can accommodate a wide range of special needs, including students with mobility impairments and/or physical challenges. Please call ahead to let us know how we can best serve you.

Spring and Fall Lessons

Pre-K-1 Exploring the Outdoors

This 90-minute lesson is an introduction to natural science that encourages the youngest students to use their five senses while studying the natural world. Students will listen for birds and frogs, smell flowers and pine needles, and use their eyes, aided by simple magnifying glasses, to make their own observations and discoveries. Many hands-on activities will help young children to feel comfortable in the outdoors, and to appreciate the beauty and fragility of our environment.

Grades 2-4 Insects

Students use tools such as hand lenses, nets, and other field equipment to study these small but fascinating creatures. Identification and basic classification of insects is followed by a discussion of their life cycles and how they meet their life requirements. Students investigate the importance of insects in the food web, and learn how human actions can affect insects - and vice versa!

Grades 2-4 Animal Signs

An introduction to some New York State wildlife and their habitats. Students search for "clues" such as footprints, gnawings, holes, or nests, and use these clues to learn about the life requirements and interrelationships of local wildlife. Seasonal changes in behavior are explored. Hands-on activities and natural objects illustrate wildlife adaptations.

Grades 3-4 Stream Life

Students investigate the stream habitat, including stream flow and erosion patterns as well as aquatic organisms. Students wade in the stream to measure depth and flow, and collect macroinvertebrates. After observing the organisms, and returning them to the stream unharmed, students use their observational skills to draw conclusions about the health of the stream.

Grades 5-7 World of the Pond

Students investigate the biotic and abiotic elements of the pond ecosystem. After students examine the physical characteristics of the pond and record their data, they use hand nets to collect aquatic organisms, observe them closely and release them unharmed back into the pond. Students learn to identify some of the inhabitants of the pond ecosystem, and discuss their adaptations and interrelationships. Students discuss how human actions can affect the pond environment.

Winter Classes

Grades 3-7 Winter Challenges

Students discover how animals survive the challenges of the winter season. An indoor discussion of animal adaptations is followed by an introduction to wildlife habitats. Outdoors, students participate in an exciting search for wildlife homes, tracks, and other signs of animal activity. The outdoor portion of the program lasts approximately one hour and 15 minutes. Snow cover is not necessary for this lesson.

Grades 4-7 Snowshoeing and Winter Ecology

The lesson begins with an indoor introduction to wildlife habitats followed by a show-and-tell discussion of the adaptive value of snowshoes. Students then proceed outdoors where they put on snowshoes and learn how to do basic steps and turns. Then we head afield for a stimulating snowshoe hike to track animals in the snow in a variety of habitats. (In case of insufficient snow cover, the hike will be on foot.)

Learning Standards

Five Rivers' environmental education classes can help your students understand many key ideas from the New York State Learning Standards for Mathematics, Science, and Technology, particularly the Living Environment component of Standard 4: Science, and the Scientific Inquiry component of Standard 1: Analysis, Inquiry, and Design.

We provide hands-on experiences and opportunities for students to be actively engaged in the discovery process. Students will focus on such concepts as adaptations, life cycles, food chains and seasonal change, and will make their own observations of plant and wildlife habitats.

Group Size, Chaperones and Instructors

To provide the most effective outdoor experience, large classes are divided into smaller groups. The maximum field party size allowed is 15 students. There must be at least one adult (chaperone or teacher) provided by the school for each group of 15 students; two adults per field party are recommended.

Adults must be dressed for the trail, and come prepared to participate fully in all activities and to assist the instructor with simple tasks when requested to do so. Teachers and chaperones are responsible for the discipline of the group.

Five Rivers instructors include Center staff and docents who have been trained by Center staff in environmental education content and methods, and in specific learning outcomes associated with the lesson.

Fee Schedule

A fee is charged for these lessons to cover the cost of running the program. This fee is based on the number of field parties needed. Please note that you are responsible for paying for the number of students originally scheduled, even if some are absent.

  • 1 field party (up to 15 students) $40
  • 2 field parties (16-30 students) $80
  • 3 field parties (31-45 students) $120
  • 4 field parties (46-60 students) $160
  • 5 field parties (61-75 students) $200
  • and so on (add $40 for each additional increment of 15 students)

Reimbursement is available through the Capital Region BOCES Arts in Education and Exploratory Enrichment Program.


Please e-mail Friends of Five Rivers at gsp5rivers@outlook.com to make a reservation. You will receive a confirmation and pre-visit materials shortly after your reservation is booked.

Before and After the Lesson

Your group is cordially invited to make use of Five Rivers' other amenities (interpreted nature trails, Visitor Center exhibits, picnic area and rest rooms) before or after your lesson.

Friends of Five Rivers

Friends of Five Rivers, a citizens' organization associated with Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, offers these guided lessons in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Some Comments from Participants:

"The presentation was right on the mark." - St. Catherine's School
"The instructor did a super job; the children loved the program." - Galway Methodist School
"The pace was great, the information enough for the children to handle and the booklets a good follow-up. Thanks!" - Bradt Elementary