Daytime Classes


  • 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.
  • Entomology- Although they are easy to overlook due to their small size, insects are by far the most abundant and diverse animals on the Taft Campus. Students will learn about a few of the many kinds of insects found at Taft, as well as special adaptations of insects, through participating in hands-on collection and a classification lab featuring specimens from the Taft Campus collection.
  • 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.
  • Garbage Patch Dissection - Students will dissect albatross boluses, run a “recycle relay” and participate in a riverside trash pick up. These activities are designed so students can learn about the connectedness of our planet by exploring how trash ends up converging in the ocean and effects ocean wildlife.
  • 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.
  • Reptile and Amphibian Study- Explore the unique life histories of the reptiles and amphibians that call northern Illinois home, including many species of frogs, turtles and snakes. Students will not only learn about the animals themselves but will also have the chance to experience some methods used by professional scientists who study them in the wild. 
  • 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 wastewater 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 resources 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 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.

Outdoor Skills

  • 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 and 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

  • 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 the 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. The 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, teamwork and problem-solving skills.  

Other Options

  • 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 roles 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).