Field Trip Information

At the River’s Edge Outdoor Environmental Education Program

ATRE provides students with interactive, outdoor science and history education opportunities. Our goal is to give teachers and students a safe, fun, hands-on experience that will inspire respect and stewardship for the Rappahannock and its watershed. Our curriculum is aligned with the VA Standards of Learning and National Science Standards and includes programs suitable for preschool through high school and beyond. Descriptions of our programs and registration information follow. Please contact Taylor McConnell, Field Trip Coordinator, at for more information. 


Program A (1.5 hrs): Walking the Path of the American Indian – Discover how American Indians used nature to provide all their food, shelter, and water. Make pottery and experience the American Indian oral tradition with a story that still applies today.

Program B (1.5 hrs): Walk Like the Animals - Use your senses to discover how the forest and river provide a good place for animals to live.

Program C (1.5 hrs): Water Properties – Why does the river look different at different times? Little scientists will love to experiment with this question while learning about our beloved Rappahannock River.

Kindergarten and 1st Grade

Program A (3 hrs): VA Science SOL’s: K.1, K.2, K.4, K.6, K.7, K.9, 1.1, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8 

  • River Investigation Hike – Investigate the river habitat with your senses – observing, describing, and charting. Discover how animals use their senses for survival.
  • Trees – Gain a better understanding of tree parts, trees as a resource, and why trees are so important to our river.
  • Life in the River Habitat – Explore many different plants and animals along the river and discover why they live next to the river. 

Program B (3 hrs): VA Science SOL’s: K.1, K.5, K.6, K.7, K.9, 1.1, 1.3, 1.5, 1.7, 1.8

  • Aquatic Arthropods in Action– These tiny creatures are extremely important to the river ecosystem. Discover the secret lives of our little friends living in the river through a series of investigative dry-land activities.
  • Water Properties –What can the river tell us about the properties of water? Conduct an experiment to find out!

2nd and 3rd Grades

Program A (3.5 hrs): VA Science SOL’s: 2.1, 2.4, 2.5, 2.7, 2.8, 3.1, 3.5, 3.6, 3.8, 3.9, 3.10

  • Wetlands: Snowden and Beyond – Hike to a wetland ecosystem, learning about plants and animals along the way. Deduce how wetlands help wildlife and the river. 
  • Just Around the River Bend – Explore the diversity of plant and animal life, their inter-dependency, and their relationship with the river.
  • Water Cycle Game or Food Web Game (choose 1) – Both of these activities cover important topical vocabulary disguised as a fun game!

Program B (3.5 hrs.): VA Science SOL’s: 2.1, 2.4, 2.5, 2.7, 2.8, 3.1, 3.4, 3.6, 3.8, 3.9, 3.10; History and Social Science SOL’s: 2.2, 2.4, 2.6 ·

  • Signs of Seasonal Change – Why do the leaves change colors and drop from some trees? How do animals survive during winter? Collect and analyze evidence of seasonal change to answer these and other questions.
  • Rappahannock Connections - Discover how the Rappahannocks, an American Indian Tribe of the Eastern Woodlands, used their natural resources to meet life needs. Investigate their respect for nature through pottery, artifacts, and oral tradition.

4th and 5th Grades

Program A (3.5 hrs): 2010 Science SOL’s: 4.1, 4.5, 4.9, 5.1, 5.7

  • We All Live Downstream - Deduce the benefits of riparian buffer zones along our river, discuss erosion and pollution’s impact, and propose solutions.
  • What Is A Watershed? – Where does the water go? Manipulate a model of a watershed to better understand human impacts on ecosystems.
  • Commit to Conserve – Find out how you can protect our waterways and commit to an action that will help.

Program B (3.5 hrs): History and Social Science SOL’s: VS.1, VS.2, VS.3, VS.4, VS.6; USI.1, USI.2, USI.3; 2010 Science SOL’s: 4.5, 4.9, 5.7

  • Survivor: John Smith - Visit the northwest extent of John Smith’s exploration of the Rappahannock, comparing Virginia resources now and then. Through tasks and role playing, simulate the Jamestown settlers’ effort to survive and fulfill responsibilities to the Virginia Company and the King.
  • Rappahannock Connections - Discover how the Rappahannocks, an American Indian Tribe of the Eastern Woodlands, adapted to their environment and used their natural resources. Investigate their respect for nature through pottery, artifacts, and oral tradition.

6th through 12th Grades (can be adapted for collegiate/adult participants)

Program A (3.5 hrs): 2010 Science SOL’s: 6.1, 6.5, 6.7, 6.9; LS.1, LS.4, LS.6, LS.8, LS.9, LS.10, LS.11; ES.1, ES.2, ES.6, ES.8, ES.10; Environmental Science; Ecology ·

  • Water Quality and Protection – Students will perform both biological and chemical water quality tests. Biological tests include benthic macro invertebrate sampling; chemical tests include data collection via handheld digital probeware and traditional chemical tests.
  • Riparian Buffer Hike or Wetlands Hike (choose 1) – Students will learn why these ecosystems are important by investigating their impact on our watershed.

Program B (3.5 hrs) 2010 Science SOL’s: 6.7, 6.9; LS.11; ES.6; Civics: CE.1, CE.9; Environmental Science; Ecology

  • Environmental Literacy and Ethics – How do you interact with the environment when no one is looking? How do your environmental ethics compare to those of your peers? Students learn how to advocate for environmental issues they care about.
  • Conserving the Natural Landscape – Students play the role of key stakeholders in a mock public hearing about land rights issued through a conservation easement. Learn how easements work and why they are a valuable.

Additional Programs

  • Nature Journaling (appropriate for 2nd-8th grades) - Discover the value of natural places using science, history, and art. Hone your observation skills and record nature along the scenic Rappahannock River.
  • River Safety (appropriate for 3rd-8th grades) - Learn to evaluate river safety conditions in order to enjoy the river safely. Interactive and hands-on, but all on dry land. Health SOL’s: 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 7.1, 7.2, 8.1
  • Snorkeling (8 yrs. and up) – Investigate how water quality, invasive species, bioaccumulation, and biomagnification affect food chains and webs. Identify fish, aquatic insects, and aquatic vegetation. 2010 Science SOL’s: 3.1, 3.4, 3.5, 3.8, 3.9, 3.10, 4.1, 4.4, 4.5, 4.9, 5.1, 5.5, 6.1, 6.5, 6.7, 6.9; Environmental Science; Ecology; LS.6, LS.8, LS.9, LS.19
  • Water Quality Testing by Canoe/Kayak (12 yrs. and up) –Collect water samples from different tributaries of the Rappahannock by canoe/kayak. Complete chemical water quality tests of the different samples to compare and analyze.

Registration Information

Program Fees: $7 per child/student (snorkeling and boating prices vary, call for details). $70 registration fee (will be applied to the $7/child fee for the program). Payment balance due the day of the program unless prior arrangements have been made. Minimum group visit is $70 (10 students). Adult chaperones are free. Special arrangements may be possible for groups where cost would otherwise prevent participation.

Please Note: You will receive a confirmation letter when scheduled. Please let us know of special needs and we will try to accommodate them. All programs include river and trail safety instruction. Programs may be altered during inclement weather. Adult chaperones are free, please limit chaperones to no more than 1 per 5 children. Exceptions to the maximum chaperone limit are special needs children, home school, small preschool, and scout groups. No siblings, please.

Cancellation Policy: Classes are conducted rain or shine unless weather is a safety issue. We will contact you as soon as possible to notify you of cancellation. If you wish to cancel a program, please do so at least 4 weeks prior to your scheduled program in order to receive a registration fee refund.

Location: River's Edge Nature Preserve is located at 3219 Fall Hill Avenue, Fredericksburg, VA 22401