Outdoor and Environmental EducationInstructional Programs → Day Programs

Day Programs

For FY23, all Day Programs have been scheduled.

Yearly, over 10,000 K-5 MCPS students participate in outdoor environmental investigations and explorations at either the Lathrop E. Smith Environmental Education Center or at the Kingsley Environmental Center. Each program is directly linked to the school curriculum at each grade level with a focus on STEM relationships. MCPS schools apply for programs in May for the upcoming school year, and are selected using a lottery system. Schools receive notification in June of their dates and programs for the following school year. Schools may also request an in-school visit from an environmental educator to provide assistance and guidance in the integration of environmental education a the local school site.


 Kindergarten - Exploring Plants and Animals Where They Live 

 In this lesson, students explore a variety of environments to observe Maryland plants and animals.  Observations are used for students to see that animals and plants have similar needs that are found where they live.

  Grade 1 - Investigating Plants and Animals Where They Live

In this lesson, students investigate three habitats to search for plants and animal,s and identify body parts (observable, external features) that help plants and animals survive in the environment.  Students build a list of basic needs of plants and animals, and compare features that help living things obtain those needs. Using the senses as tools for observation is emphasized.

Drawing Assessment


 Grade 2 - Investigating Earth Systems in the Local Neighborhood

In this lesson, students will explore natural land formations and use tools and techniques of the scientist to observe the effects of water and time.  There will be three interactive stations with one station led by an Outdoor Education teacher and the other two stations led by teachers from the participating school.  Students will explore the effects of erosion at a stream, model how water and wind can erode different types of soil, and observe examples of erosion along a trail. Students will also discuss, observe and model ways to slow down erosion.  


 Grade 2 - Diversity of Life  -Visit from a Scientist

In this lesson, students engage in an age appropriate citizen scientist project that involves them as scientists in making predictions about and observing of two habitats over time. Students continue this lesson by collecting and reporting data over the next few months as their habitat changes from winter to the end of spring. 

 Grade 3 -  Survival in our Local Ecosystems

In this lesson, students explore three different ecosystems to identify plants and animals and identify the internal and external structures that support their survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction. In continuation of their study of life cycles, students will discover organisms which spend parts of their life cycles in different ecosystems.

 Grade 4 - Ecosystems of the Chesapeake Bay  

 Students explore the interdependence of organisms and their relationships to the non-living environment through field investigations in the local watershed. Students use tools of a scientist to make observations in different habitats, identify food webs within those habitats, compare the habitats in terms of living and non-living components, and describe how organisms are suited to their particular habitat. The discussion of human impact on the local ecosystem is integrated. 

 Grade 4 - Colonial Settlers

 Using the indoors and outdoors for lessons, students simulate the experience of arriving in a new land, working as an apprentice to a tinsmith and a master scribe, visiting a colonial homestead, and participating in chores and period games. Types of economic systems in colonial America are experienced and discussed. 

 Grade 4 Our Neighborhood, Our Watershed Extended 

Students are introduced to the local school watershed as a subset of the larger Chesapeake Bay watershed, and examine the effectiveness of several storm water control features at the Smith Center to discover how they work.

Grade 4 - Interactions in Earth Systems: Water in the Spheres


In this lesson, students will develop a model to describe Earth's four major systems. They will learn that there are four major systems on Earth: the biosphere (living organisms), hydrosphere (water), geosphere (earth materials), and atmosphere (air). Students will learn how each of the systems are connected on Earth and interact with each other.  They will review the impact of erosion on the land and water.

 Grade 5 - Daytime Astronomy 

In this lesson, students explore the patterns that emerge by observing the changes in movement and appearance of the sun, Earth, and moon. Tools of astronomy are introduced. (The planetarium is an additional teaching tool at the Lathrop E. Smith Center.) 

 Grades K–5 - Outreach Programs:  Action Project Assistance

 An outdoor environmental educator is available to advise you in implementing your class’s environmental action project, inquiry project, or field investigation. To schedule a time to speak with an educator, call the Outdoor Environmental Education Programs’ office at 240-740-1404. 

 To learn about becoming a Maryland Green School, please contact Mr. Mark Granger, Outdoor Environmental Educator, at 240-740-1404 or via e-mail. 


Day Program Information for Parents