Forest Park Forever's educational programs have reached more than 300 regional teachers — and in turn more than 70,000 of their students.
An Outdoor Learning Lab For All
Nature is important to children’s development in every major way — intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually and physically. The many benefits of spending time outdoors, immersed in nature, continue through adulthood. With very few other “wild” spaces in metropolitan St. Louis, Forest Park Forever’s education and community outreach programs uniquely connect city residents of all ages and backgrounds with nature and foster an appreciation and understanding of the many natural and cultural wonders found within Forest Park.
Forest Park provides wonderful opportunities for educators, community groups and parents to implement formal and informal learning experiences that help children build a foundation of awareness, engagement and stewardship. Our educational programs are place-based, experiential and student focused.
Walking Tours & Classes
Throughout the year, Forest Park Forever offers engaging walking tours and classes for the general public — about wildflowers, birds, Forest Park history and more — led by experienced naturalists.
The Forest Park Forever team and our partners offer ongoing classes on a variety of subjects, from seed collection to tree identification. Learn More »
The Heart of The Park Walking Tours
Enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour that explores the "Heart of the Park" from the grasses to the canopy. Led by Forest Park Forever staff. Learn More »
On the fourth Tuesday of every Month, from April–October, enjoy these informal, fun and educational plant walks that will explore the native wildflowers found within Forest Park’s Nature Reserves. Learn More »
Birding Basics & Bird Watching Tours
Throughout the year, Forest Park Forever offers engaging and fun birding programs, led by experience guides, including indoor educational gatherings for beginning birders of all ages. Learn More »
Self-Guided iPod Walking Tours
Self-guided audio tours of Forest Park are available for checkout from the Dennis & Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center, 5595 Grand Drive. Learn More »
Guided Tours with Forest Park Forever Volunteers
Forest Park Forever volunteers can lead small groups on walking tours of the Park, or offer hop-on tour guide services to groups and organizations with their own transportation. Learn More »
Voyage of Learning Teachers' Academy
Now in its 15th year, Voyage of Learning Teachers' Academy is a summer program for teachers working in the St. Louis area that builds meaningful connections between students, teachers, the Voyager institutions and cultural institutions in Forest Park. Throughout the eight days of intensive professional development programming, the instructional team emphasizes knowledge, skills and resources essential to effective experiential education, with the ultimate goal of encouraging teachers to utilize Forest Park as a natural extension of the classroom.
To date, the program has trained 365 teachers to incorporate outdoor learning into their classes, impacting 70,000 students throughout the region. Voyage of Learning:
- Builds teachers’ skills
- Promotes interdisciplinary approaches
- Aligns with “Show Me” Standards
- Creates a pool of resources
For teachers, the program offers:
- 5 PDU credits
- 3 Graduate Credits available through UMSL
- Transportation/Bus Funds for class trips
Please click here to learn more and apply for the program.
Forest Park Forever’s Nature Works is a ‘green workforce' development program aimed at reaching St. Louis high school students — especially traditionally underserved students in Saint Louis Public Schools — and introducing them to environmental job opportunities by linking classroom curriculum with outdoor education and work activities in the nearby green space of Forest Park.
Students will benefit the most by gaining unique environmental learning opportunities while also gaining hands-on work experience, building a network with environmental professionals and obtaining a greater understanding for and comfort with working in the outdoors.
Teachers will experience another way to enrich classroom curricula with interactive presentations, field trips and hands-on training that will help them show students how classroom lessons can be applied to meaningful activities that reach beyond school walls. Teachers will connect with a network of professional educators and environmental professionals who can offer additional personal and classroom benefits.
Forest Park will benefit through increased stewardship from youth who not only use the Park but who now understand what it takes to care for its grounds — today and for decades to come.
Click here to learn more about Nature Works, including how to apply.
Summer Youth Experience
Nature is important to children’s development in every major way — intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually and physically. The Forest Park Summer Youth Experience connects urban youth with nature.
Sixty youth from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis connect with their natural world and enjoy the many benefits of outdoor, inquiry-based experiential education. Children use their five senses to learn about fish, forest, plant and wildlife. These exciting explorations increased the children’s competence and confidence in the outdoors and open their eyes to the many natural wonders found within Forest Park.
The benefits of such a program to children remain profound. A growing body of research reveals the significance of early experiences with being outdoors in nature as an important factor in developing environmental awareness and stewardship. Studies also show that experiences children have outdoors can provide benefits such as increased fitness and decreased obesity, improved distance vision, reduced ADHD, decreased stress, anxiety and depression, higher test scores and higher developed critical thinking skills. While baby boomers and older generations spent most of their time enjoying natural play outdoors, today’s children often stay indoors and focus more on the digital world — resulting in lost contact with nature.
Programs such as the Forest Park Summer Youth Experience offer children an opportunity to think, touch and play, encouraging them to wonder about and make real connections with the natural world. The program incorporates valuable life lessons of collaboration and cooperation, encourages future engagement with nature and introduces the participants to different natural areas within the St. Louis area that are open to the public for further exploration.