- Birds - View birds from our birding porch. We have many feeders offering different types of food in one central location so students get the opportunity to view native birds up close. Participate in activities that explore bird characteristics, adaptations, and behaviors.
- Forest Ecology - Lorado Taft Campus is adjacent to Lowden State Park. Taft Campus and State Park trails take students through diverse habitats, including pine and hardwood forests, meadow, prairie, and gully. Learn about the trees, soils, wildlife and water that interact to make the forest community.
- Geology - The gully at Taft is one of the most unique natural features on campus. The deep gully was formed when glaciers melted in Illinois. Evidence of ancient inland seas, such as fossils of sea creatures and ancient corals, are often found. Students get the opportunity to learn about the rock cycle through hands on activities and games, look at different types of rocks, hunt for fossils, and investigate the forces of weathering and erosion still at work today.
- Water Ecology - Explore the banks of the Rock River while learning about water quality, species diversity, river current, water cycle, and macroinvertebrates. The class includes using nets (weather permitting) to explore the aquatic habitat.
- Osteology Lab - In something of a CSI fashion, students participate in a comparison of different animal bones and skulls to discover what can be learned about the animals. Can be a part of a forest ecology class or a separate activity.
- Fire Science - Students learn about the history and chemistry of fire while using different methods to try to start fires in small groups.
- Endeavors in Engineering - Students creatively design, build, manage, and market a product while working in a small group and competing against the rest of the school. The students need to “buy” supplies from our store, engineer a vehicle that can transport a “heavy object,” and advertise their product to the school. The students work in small teams, and every student has a job in order to contribute to the group’s overall success.
- Garbology - Students think like anthropologists and consider how future cultures might perceive us based on our waste. This class includes tilling our compost to look for the "FBI," comparing chemical test results of water cleaned in our waste water treatment facility with drinking water, and hunting for decomposers on a hike. Fun, active, and thought provoking, this class helps to make the connections between our earth's rescources and our own behaviors involving consumption and waste.
- Winter Ecology - (Seasonal) Focuses on animal adaptations to survive the winter, using games to explore some of the different adaptations. Students can have the opportunity to look for animal tracks and signs while hiking the trails.
- Native Americans - Start a fire with a bow drill, test agility and accuracy with skill games, identify artifacts; these are just some of the activities used to learn about Native American culture. Get a taste of what life was like for the the Fox and Sac Indians who once inhabited the valley.
- Pioneering - Explore the life of a pioneer child. Using an authentic 1830's pioneer cabin as a focal point, do daily chores such as dipping candles, making rope, cooking, spinning wool, and using authentic woodworking tools.
- Orienteering/GPS - Use a compass to navigate our orienteering course at Taft. Traveling through the woods and fields, students work in teams to find their next location. We also have GPS units that can be incorporated into the Orienteering class or used for a separate activity.
- Survival - Imagine you have just been stranded in the middle of the wilderness. Students discuss strategies and learn skills such as constructing a shelter and building a fire to meet basic human needs for survival.
- Snowshoeing/Cross-country skiing - (Seasonal) Student use snowshoes and/or cross-country skis to move about the campus and park.
Large Group Games & Simulations
- Instincts for Survival - Take on the role of Carnivore, Omnivore, or Herbivore as you try to find the elements of your environment needed for survival. Students experience the food chain first hand as they look for food and water while trying to avoid capture by predators. This active simulation is played in a large grass and forest area.
- Group Games - Students enjoy a variety of games. They can be more or less active. Examples include tag game variations, get-out-of-the-middle games, or problem solving games.
- Capture the Flag - The classic camp game, played in our south field.
- Team Building Initiatives- Learn the importance of working in a group and using skills such as trust, communication, cooperation, and problem solving. Students go through activities and games designed to facilitate teamwork.
- Teams Course - Has the same focus as team building initiatives, but uses the elements on our team building course. Due to the distance to the course from main campus, requires at least a 2.5 hour time block.
- Mission...Possible - In this simulation, students work together in small groups, simulating the leaders of a fictional country, to trade resources with other countries to try to solve a world health epidemic. They countries are also dealing with an internal crisis that must be overcome before they can effectively work with the other nations on the epidemic. The students learn about cultural differences while working on communication, team work, and problem solving skills.
- Crafts - Make unique craft items for students to take home. Our craft shop has basic materials such as yarn, paper, paint, seeds, and many more items. Use them to create projects from nature.
- Screenprinting/Tie Dye - Students can bring a t-shirt to tie dye or screen print our logo onto it.
- Service Projects - Students have the opportunity to "give back" to Taft by performing manual labor tasks around campus. This most often includes invasive species removal, but other projects are sometimes needed. May not be suitable for all groups at all times of the year.
- Taft Instructor Choice - The Taft staff come from a variety of backgrounds - science, history, art, education, etc. - and bring with them many interests and talents. During an instructor choice class, the Taft staff have the opportunity to teach whatever interests them. Some of the Taft Choice classes have gone on to be regular offerings. Some examples of classes that have been done in the past: osteology lab, fire science, animal anatomy, tree identification, spring wildflower identification, Native American games, wild edibles, service projects, nature writing, and ephemeral art in nature.
- Land Use Group Discussion Activity - Playing rolls of different stakeholders, student discuss and try to decide the fate of Lorado Taft Field Campus. This activity works best for older students (middle school and up).
Have some other ideas?
We're open to ideas you have for your students to explore the outdoor environment.