Polk County Conservation

Field Trip Opportunities

Polk County Conservation is putting more emphasis on getting students outdoors. Field trips may have two or more naturalists or volunteers leading the programs. Don’t forget winter is a great time to explore the outdoors so consider a winter field trip. Our goal is to provide students with memorable experiences and to help them make stronger connections to the natural world.

Watch this short video to see what happens on our field trips.  

All field trips are FREE except for any field trip involving canoes and/or kayaks. The $50 fee helps cover the cost of transportation and equipment replacement. To schedule a field trip, please open and download the Program Request Form, complete and email it to Patrice Petersen-Keys at Patrice.Petersen-Keys@polkcountyiowa.gov or call 515-323-5359. Our schedule fills up quickly in the fall and spring, so schedule early.

Bus Scholarships Available! The Great Outdoors Foundation (GOF) has committed to sponsoring a limited number of  buses each school year. GOF will reimburse the cost of one bus per field trip up to $200 per school. For example: two buses are needed for a field trip, GOF will reimburse the cost of one bus. Schools must be within Polk County. Interested? Fill out this short Field Trip Bus Scholarship form and send to Patrice Petersen-Keys at Patrice.Petersen-Keys@polkcountyiowa.gov.

Habitat Discovery

Grades - 3rd - 5th
Length - 4 hours
Months - September, October, May
Locations - Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt, Jester, or Thomas Mitchell Park

Through hands-on discovery, students will explore Iowa’s habitats including a woodland, prairie, and pond. They will contrast the features of the habitats, find the essential components of habitat, and examine how animals adapt to their habitats.

Geology Rocks

Grades - 3rd – 5th
Length - 3 - 4 hours
Season - Spring or Fall
Location - Jester Park, Thomas Mitchell Park

Through hands-on discovery, students will learn about Iowa's geology. They will learn how rocks are made, the three categories of rocks, and understand the rock cycle. 

Insect Safari

Grades - Kindergarten - 2nd
Length - 3 - 4 hours
Months - September, October, May
Locations - Jester Park, Thomas Mitchell Park.

Through hands-on discovery, students will explore a variety of insects in the woodland, prairie, or pond. They will identify different types of insects, identify the life cycle stage of the insect and examine how insects adapt to their habitats.

Trees and Plants

Grades - Kindergarten - 2nd
Length - 3 hours
Month - fall or spring
Location - Jester Park, Thomas Mitchell Park

Through hands-on activities students will explore an Iowa woodland. They will contrast trees, plants and seeds, and observe the life cycle of trees and plants.

Life on the Prairie

Grades - 3rd - 6th
Length - 3.5 hours (10 am - 1:30 pm)
Month - September 23, 24, 26, 27, 2019
Location - Red Feather Prairie (Saylorville Lake)

Tall grass prairie once covered 85% of Iowa's landscape. Most of this unique habitat has long since vanished; however, life on the prairie still lives today. Join Polk County naturalists and get a glimpse of what life was like on the prairie. Students will learn about Native American cultures and Iowa's natural history through games and hands-on activities.

Marsh Madness

Grades - 6th - 12th
Length - 3 - 5 hours
Months - September, October, May
Location - Engeldinger Marsh only

Get down and dirty as naturalists lead students into one of the last remaining wetlands in Polk County. Geological formation, wetland history, ecology and hydrology will all be explored through adventurous hands-on activities that will leave the students muddy, wet, and wild about wetlands. Students must wear old shoes and clothes that can get wet and muddy.

Outdoor Skills

Grades - 6th - 12th
Length - 3 - 4 hours
Season - All but some activities are seasonally dependent
Locations - Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt and Jester Park

This field trip is full of fun and excitement. Year round outdoor skills include: archery, air rifle target shooting, geocaching, orienteering, fire building, and survival skills.  Winter activities include: ice fishing, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing. Spring through fall activities include: fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.

Life in the Cold

Grades - Kindergarten - 12th
Length - 3 - 4 hours
Season - Winter
Locations - Jester Park Nature Center

Plants and animals have developed a wide variety of strategies for dealing with the low sun, cold, snow and ice of an Iowa winter. Learn these strategies, and then hike the woods, prairies, and frozen ponds at the Jester Park Nature Center to observe some of those strategies in action.

Winter Adventure

Grades - 3rd – 12th grade
Length - 2 - 4 hours
Season - Winter
Location - Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt and Jester Park Nature Center

Come explore the great outdoors in the winter. This field trip can include snowshoeing, ice fishing, and a winter hike. Warm up indoors around a wood stove.


Grades - Kindergarten-8th
Length - 4 hours
Season - Any
Most Polk County Parks

Students will learn about wildlife in Iowa and the clues they leave behind. Hands-on activities may include hiking, bird watching, and catching critters in a pond or prairie.

Optional Activities:

In addition to the above listed field trip themes, service projects and hikes can be added to any field trip.

Contact Us

Administration Office
12130 NW 128th St
Granger, IA 50109

P: (515) 323-5300
F: (515) 323-5354

Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

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