Join us for a morning to explore the wild world of plants, animals, and water!
At the Claytor Nature Center, we take pride in our hands-on approach to engaging students in the appreciation, exploration, and understanding of the world! Our programs are hand-picked and custom-designed to take a multidisciplinary and active approach to the Virginia Standards of Learning.
Please see below for more information about our current offerings, including our more traditional field investigations, and two new opportunities designed specifically for homeschoolers and small groups, International Outdoor Classroom Day and an Animals and Habitats Backpack Program.
Field Investigations for preK – 12
At the Claytor Nature Center, we take pride in our hands-on approach to engaging students in the appreciation, exploration, and understanding of the world.
Our environmental education programs are outdoor classroom days. As such, we seek to reinforce and provide real-world applications to the concepts you are learning or will learn in the classroom. We want you to be our partners in these endeavors! So, we also appreciate when you, the teachers, work with us on-site by connecting what we are doing to things you have already done or learned in the classroom. Please prepare yourself and your students to come for a day of questions and learning!
For Belk Observatory programs for high school and college, visit our visit our Belk education program page.
A la carte programs for preK – 5th grade:
10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – includes three half hour activities led by staff, a half hour of unstructured nature exploration in Otter Space, and BYO lunch in the pavilion. We can accommodate three classes simultaneously. See short descriptions of our current a la carte activities, or this document should be attached in an email if you have requested information.
Themed programs for 3rd grade and above:
10:00a – 12:30p includes two hours of staff instruction and BYO-lunch in the pavilion at noon. We can accommodate two classes simultaneously. Unstructured nature exploration in Otter Space is an optional free add-on but must be arranged ahead of time. See descriptions of our current themed programs, or a document should be emailed to you if you requested information.
Students travel through the activities with their classroom teachers and teacher-assigned chaperones. Teachers are expected to manage student behavior and participate in activities with their students. We recommend one adult chaperone for every 4-5 students. Chaperones will be asked to help guide students through activities when the students are divided into smaller groups.
We currently charge a minimum of $125 per class for all of our programs. This is inclusive of a program for up to 17 students. Beyond 17 students, there is an additional charge of $7/student. Mixed age groups, please limit your group to three consecutive grade levels, so that we can better provide quality instruction to all participants.
Refunds and Cancellation Policy: Refunds less a $35 cancellation fee can be issued up to three weeks before your scheduled program. If you cancel your program(s) three weeks or fewer before your scheduled date, you will be charged the minimum program fee for each program scheduled. For example, a cancellation fee for one class of first grade students would be $125. A cancellation fee for three classes of first grade students would be $375.
Programs run, rain or shine, except in severe weather. Claytor Nature Center staff will determine whether a program must be cancelled. If your program is cancelled for severe weather and cannot be rescheduled, you will not be charged any fees and will receive a full refund, less $0.05
How to Prepare
We will make all possible effort to give your students a complete outdoor experience. There may be sun, rain, ticks, mosquitos, reptiles, or poisonous plants. Please remind your students to dress for a day outdoors, also keeping in mind that the weather at the Claytor Nature Center may be different from the weather they experience upon waking. All schedules and locations of activities are tentative and subject to change according to on-site conditions the day of your program.
We recommend telling children and parents to eat a big breakfast the morning of your program, or to have a small snack on the bus.
- Close-toed shoes or boots. Sandals are not appropriate footwear for our programs.
- Extra pair of shoes and socks
- Water bottle
- Directions to 1844 Woods Rd, Bedford, VA (please pre-check the amount of time it will take you to arrive, as we may not be able to push back your program time if you are late)
- Payment (if not prepaid)
- Liability waivers for all participants
- Pencils for students
*Please arrive a few minutes before your scheduled program to use the bathroom and to apply bugspray and sunscreen.
NEW! Self-led Backpack Program for PreK – 1st Grade
Reinforce letters, observation skills, classification, character association, memory, comprehension and motor skills, all with three short activities where kids explore, touch, and move around outside. Our new backpack program for ages 3-6 contains teacher instructions and materials for three activities designed to engage children in exploring animal characteristics and habitats. The full program takes your kids around the alphabet trail, up to the campground, and down to Otter Trail. Each activity could be shortened or stretched from 20 to 45 minutes, but if you decide to do all three activities, we think it’s best to plan for two full hours to accommodate travel and distraction (exploration!) time. Further customize your day by substituting or adding one of your own activities. When you’re ready to take a brain break, take some unstructured free time in Otter Space, our fenced natural play area, and have lunch in our pavilion!
Capacity: There are four backpacks, and each is built for teaching up to six students at a time. The entire program can accommodate up to 24 kids. We recommend one leading adult per backpack and group of children.
Cost: $10/backpack or $30 for all four backpacks. Otter Space time is dependent on other ongoing programs. Availability of Otter Space and the pavilion for lunch should be checked in advance of your intended program date.
Rental time: To guarantee your rental request, we need a notice of at least three business days. Your backpack rental is for the entire day and can be picked up as early as 9:00am and returned as late as 4:30pm.
It is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure that all materials are returned by the end of the day. Please do not remove backpacks from the property.
Get in on the action! To book a backpack program, email Danielle Racke, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let your children range through the wet and wild of the outdoors during our nature day camps! During the summer, the Center hosts children for week-long adventures where they explore a variety of habitats, animals, and plants using the Center’s maze of trails. We’ll let your children get wet and muddy along the way, so that they will be ready to stay clean and dry by the time they get back to you!
We purposefully keep our camper to counselor ratio low to ensure your children stay safe and have fun! We also offer transportation from Lynchburg for some camps. Check out our nature camp page for this year’s offerings and information.
Our outreach programs have been supported through the years by grants from the Jessie Ball du Pont Fund, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Virginia Office of Environmental Education, and the Virginia Resource Use Education Council.