Environment Education Center Curriculum

Students at Foley’s Environmental Education Center take home with them new knowledge of their environment and themselves – valuable knowledge that can help shape their lives and complement any school program.

The Center has planned activities that provide the best in environmental understanding, education and fun.

A Message From Monica Notch, Teacher

Our goal is to have kids OUTSIDE as much as possible. From the moment they wake up until past dark, they are engaged in outdoor, electronic-free activities.


What Students Say


Teamwork: it took two or three people to row a canoe, 12 girls in my cabin to start a fire, two people to go geocaching. These are all examples of things you could do alone but are easier and more fun with other people.

– Yeukai Z., 6th Grade


Last turn. As I slowly step up to the line, I feel like I’m moving in slow motion. In my head I think, ‘arm back, step, bring forward, release.’ Of course, I miss … I stick the next two axes. Even though I am not amazing at throwing axes, it was still an amazing experience. 

– Finn O., 6th Grade


It was so small, but the microscope showed us so many tiny details. As I was peering through the lens, I noticed that there was not one microorganism, but four! I had been so focused on the one Cyclops that I hadn’t noticed the other three creatures. I spent a long time looking through the scope at all of them.

– Grace H., 6th Grade


This rugged environment is canoeing heaven, but the adventures do not end at canoeing. The breathtaking part is the view, which compares to nothing else. Towering green trees stand in the sky, yet the premier part is on land. Beavers, raccoon, rabbits, fish, turtles, ducks, geese, and gulls habitat themselves and their families on the land.

– Jake M., 6th Grade


For myself, Camp Foley was about creating new experiences and doing things I never thought I could do. One of these proudest moments was when I climbed to the top of the climbing tower on the “harder” side. What made this so special was just the idea that in my mind I thought that maybe I could just make it halfway, but no, I was going to the top. — Clare P., 6th Grade


Suggested Academic Classes for Each Age Group


Note: The following classes are done in either one or two-hour increments and most can be adjusted to fit any age group.


Middle Level & High School (5-12)

Three-day or five-day programs offer the best experience and allow our program to shine.

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Middle-Level & High School Core Classes (5-12)

Note: Each class is usually 1-2 hours in length.

Core Classes

Marine Biology – Get a crash course in marine biology with topics covering some popular myths, cool animals, and what we can do here in Minnesota to help our world’s oceans.

Critters – Observation, combined with hands-on experiences will help you gain a better understanding of misunderstood creatures. Various snakes and turtles will be available for you and your classmates to observe as you learn about the important characteristics and differences of this unique group of animals – the reptiles.

Wildlife Viewing – Using binoculars, sit quietly or hike to view bald eagles nesting in a tree, turtles on a log, and other wildlife.

Fish Survival – After being assigned a fish, figure out if your fish can survive in the lake. Using chemicals and charts, you will figure this out. You will also learn basic information about oxygenation, pollutants, and run-off.

Solos – Spend 35 to 40 minutes in the woods drawing, journaling, or just experiencing nature. Each student is assigned an area to sit and enjoy nature. After the activity, the group will share their experiences.

Blind Hike – Take away your vision, walk blindfolded, and discover a tree.

Micros – Explore microscopic organisms with a microscope, and draw what you see! Can you find a Cyclops or a Paramecium?

Aquatics – Explore a pond in a canoe. Will you and your classmates see some of the numerous Painted Turtles or a Great Blue Heron? Lots of wildlife has been spotted in this hidden pond including fox, muskrat, beaver, Bald Eagles, and more.

Climbing/Team Games – Challenge yourself on our 38-foot climbing wall. Decked out in helmets and harnesses, you and your classmates will learn specific belaying techniques to safely climb the wall. When you’re not climbing, participate in group team-building games!

Acclimatization – Spend time in the woods using senses other than sight. Feel, smell, taste, and listen to every aspect of our natural world. Learn a little about how other animal species use their senses to survive in their sometimes harsh natural surroundings.

Woodskills – Learn a little about the skills of the Voyageurs, Pioneers, Native Americans and Lumberjacks while starting fires with flint and steel, throwing axes, using slingshots, whittling, peeling logs, and learning basic survival skills.

Muck Adventure – Roll up your pant legs, take off your socks and shoes and head off to explore the muck. To get there, you will take a beautiful hike through the woods with plenty of opportunities for wildlife sightings.

Geocaching – Using Garmin handheld GPS units, you and your classmates will learn the basics of electronic orienteering and geocaching. Follow specific preset courses, look for hidden “treasure” in the woods and pace your steps. Find out why many are calling this the “next great outdoor sport!”

Team Games are led by a facilitator where the group or team needs to work together towards a share goal to win.  For example, one challenge is a giant trolley, where 6 or so students maneuver together to the other end of the field or court.  The goal is for the team to accomplish the goal and not an individual winner.  Other examples are the Human Knot, Turn Over a Leaf, Ships and Sharks, etc.

Nature Games are active games where one is learning about animals, plants, or the forces of nature by participating in a game followed by a debrief.  For example, Bat & Moth, like playing Marco Polo is a way to talk about echolocation in bats.

Maps is where students learn the basics of reading maps and then by using a thematic map will navigate throughout the facility finding signs about various Minnesota plants and animals.

Birds is where students use binoculars, hand held bird calls, and bird songs try to identify a variety of birds using identification keys.  Students can sit by feeding stations or check out surrounding areas. 

Slingshots – Try your hand at the Foley Slingshot Range. Using taconite (a small rock) pellets, you can take aim at some specially designed targets. Will you knock over the Camp Foley sign or ring the bell? Creative games can be different every time you come!


Middle Level & High School Mini Topics

Mini Topics

Many of these are added in to the 3-day or 5-day program before or after meals or by request.

Weather – On arrival day at the center, students learn the basics of reading both digital and analog weather equipment (thermometers, barometers, wind indicators, etc.) and the basics of cloud identification.  Every morning before breakfast and every evening before dinner, students take readings and, using a scientific formula, predict the weather for the upcoming day.

Greenfoot – We are all members of the “Greenfoot Family” – As cousins of Bigfoot, the master of “leave no trace”, our goal as a Greenfoot is always making sure we eat all of our food, turn off lights and stay on the walking paths.  This Mini-Topic includes contests and games!

Bats – Using skeletons, drawings, games and models, we will discuss the two types of Minnesota bats (the Big Brown Bat and the Little Brown Bat) as well as the benefits of having them around!

Ticks – Since these insects are a part of our Northern Minnesota wilderness, we take time to discuss prevention (students will learn what it means to “tick up”) and the identification of the different species of ticks.

Invasive Species – Presentation and discussion of Minnesota’s invasive aquatic species including Zebra Mussels, Asian Carp, Eurasian Watermilfoil, and more.  See pictures, learn about their biology, and learn ways to prevent or slow down the advancement of these creatures.

Wildlife Sightings – Foley core staff help kids to identify all the animals they see throughout their stay, share stories, and show pictures of all of the wildlife around camp.

Character Development – Although not specifically an environmental focus, Foley spends time discussing the Six Pillars of Character – Respect, Responsibility, Trustworthiness, Citizenship, Caring, and Fairness.  Evening “Chapel Talks” (for the Christian schools) or “Character Discussions” (for non-religious schools) allow students to reflect on the new things they learned/tried and to reflect on the character trait we focused on that day.  Each character trait has a color assigned that the staff and students wear as a reminder to practice that trait throughout the day. For Catholic schools, Mass can also be said in our camp chapel.


Midlevel & High School Evening Adventures

After dinner, our program and learning continue with special event options planned for dusk.

Twilight Canoeing – The name sort of says it all!  Weather permitting, you will be given the opportunity to head off to Hidden Lake, a small lake near camp, to silent canoe.  Deer, beaver, turtles, birds, and other wildlife are often seen.  There is always the possibility of seeing a fox or bear!

Frog/Toad/Salamander Hunts – If we have a particularly wet week, the frogs are out in large numbers.  Search for Wood Frogs, Leopard Frogs, and Spring Peepers.  We often see tadpoles and American Toads too.

Group Games – Playtime in the great outdoors!  Large group games of Capture the Flag, 3-Goal Soccer, Quidditch, or Ultimate Frisbee are organized as well as smaller tag games or relays.

Campfires – Sit around the campfire and learn great camp songs while listening to stories and hearing the sounds of nature!

Lakeshore Exploration – Roll up your pants, grab a bucket and net and head out along the shores of Whitefish Lake in search of Dragonfly larva, Crayfish, Minnows and anything else you can find.  If you catch smaller fish or bugs, feed them to one of our Camp Foley turtles!

100 Inch Hunt – Measure out a 100-inch square on the ground, kneel down and see what you can find!  Bugs, worms, plants, whatever!  If you catch bugs or worms, feed them to one of the turtles!

Team Hotdog – Enjoy a hotdog meal outside at one of our campfire sites.  We throw some twists at you too!

Middle Level & High School Additional Classes

Additional Classes Available

We’ve offered several other specialty classes in the past that can be added upon request:

Raptors – You will learn about various raptors’ habits, distinguishing their physical characteristics, and discussing their importance in the food chain. By dissecting owl pellets, you will discover for yourself what an owl’s diet consists of. See and feel a stuffed Great Horned Owl and Red-Tailed Hawk

Wolves – Learn about the Minnesota Timber Wolf through an interactive class. See skulls, bones, feces, pelts, and a stuffed wolf firsthand. Learn about diet, range, pack behavior, and how to tell the difference between wolves, coyotes, and dogs.

Native American Studies – As you gather in a rustic campsite, learn about the Sioux or Dakota Native Americans. Listen to the story of the dream catcher and make a dream catcher to take home with you.

Enviro Crafts – Several crafts projects, both individual and group, are available that use a variety of recycled products (old T-shirts, CDs, etc).


Primary (K-4)

The K-4 program is designed to get kids out and investigate nature in small increments. Most of our K-4th graders come for one day and do four or five classes while they are here. Each one is changed to the specific ages of the kids and can be adapted to include Minnesota State Standards of Education.

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Primary (K-4) Program Classes

Many of the Middle-Level activities can be modified for Primary kids, but below are classes specific to this age group.

Archery Try your skill in shooting a bow and arrow!

Animal Habitat – Learn what is important for animal habitats, discover some habitats in the area and play some interactive games.

Detective Hike – While hiking along a trail, discover the hidden “creatures” and find all of the items for mysterious soup.

Campfires – Join your classmates around the campfire to sing songs and play interactive games! Be prepared to be a little silly, and bring a big smile!

Whitefish Lake Adventure – Weather permitting, this adventure will take your group out on a pontoon boat ride on beautiful Whitefish Lake. Look for Bald Eagles, find fox dens, and sneak up on the Minnesota State Bird – the Loon.

Tracking – Make your very own animal-tracking book. Learn to identify some different animal tracks and where you might find those tracks. Information about the individual animals is also included in the lesson.

Bats – Become batty about bats! Our bat adventure begins with a story, followed by a discovery of real bats. We look at a bat skeleton, a bat house, and play a game that teaches us how bats find their food.

Rocks – Go on a rock hunt and draft your findings. After learning about the minerals in granite, you get to “make” your own piece of granite.

Magnificent Mammals – Details of the animal’s skull will be investigated to determine its place in the food chain. The importance and relevance of teeth will also be discussed. We have interactive games to play to help you and your classmates understand specific concepts!

Sensational Senses – Explore the natural world with your senses – taste a wild edible, put your hand in a “feely” box, smell to connect a “mom” with her “baby,” wiggle your toes in mud and more!

 Program Length & Cost


The Foley Environmental Education Center is open the month of May as well as Mid-September through the end of September.

One-day, three-day and five-day programs are offered for Environmental Education. The cost per program varies but is kept at a minimum due to utilizing parent volunteers and teachers from the participating schools for supervision of students.

During the weeks Foley’s Environmental Center is open, there are between one and five different schools here at a time involved in the same program. There are generally between 60 and 120 students here each week.

To learn more about the program options and the costs to bring your students, complete this form and we’ll get back to you within a few days.