Explore, play, and learn this summer at Rice Creek! Exploring Nature is an educational program designed to encourage young people's curiosity about their world through science activities, games, and nature walks. We invite children and young adults ages 5 to 16 to experience our state-of-the-art science facility, 350-acre natural area, and 5 miles of trails skirting forests, fields, ponds, and streams.

Exploring Nature is an area tradition, first established in 1983. Our dedicated and passionate instructors have been involved with Exploring Nature for many years, and almost all are certified teachers.

Exploring Nature 2022: in-person

  • EN 2022 is planned for July 11-15 and 18-22
  • Registration will open in March 2022
  • COVID precautions for 2022 are not yet finalized, but may include (1) wearing masks and (2) providing proof of full vaccination or a recent negative COVID test

Below are details from 2021 for reference.

Dates (2021)

Week 1: July 5–9, 2021
Week 2: July 12-16, 2021

Daily Schedule
Monday- Friday, 9 am - 2 pm
Drop-off begins at 8:45 am


Per week
Standard rate: $150
Rice Creek Associates member rate: $130


Registration is open through June 27 or until full
Scholarship registration deadline: June 20

Open to youth ages 5–16

2021 Registration has closed


  • Full and partial scholarships are available based on financial need through generous funding from Rice Creek Associates and private donors.
  • Apply for a scholarship by June 20 using our regular registration form
  • We will notify families of their scholarship decision within 3 business days and payment (if any remaining) will be due by June 27, the registration deadline.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the format of Exploring Nature? And what do participants do?

Exploring Nature runs in two 5-day sessions. Participants can attend one or both weeks.

Each day, participants meet their instructor and their group members at their group's designated outdoor meeting spot. After a brief orientation to the day and group sharing/recap of the previous day's interesting finds (a tradition called "the spot"), each group heads out to a different location on the Rice Creek Field Station property to engage in the morning's activity. Groups return to their spot by the building for lunch, then head out to a new location for the afternoon.

Activities could include exploring the life of a stream, observing and catching insects in a field, visiting a woodland pool and looking for amphibians, learning to identify common tree species, engaging in an interactive ecological learning game like Bat-Moth, testing Rice Creek's water quality, or getting creative with art activities. The oldest grade levels have the opportunity to build environmental education and leadership skills while honing natural history/ecology knowledge.

On Friday of each week, the program ends a half-hour early (1:30 pm) so participants can show their family and friends their favorite spots at Rice Creek.

What COVID-19 safety measures are you implementing?

(2021 Information) Your children's health is our #1 priority. We have developed a rigorous COVID-19 plan that complies with state, local, and SUNY requirements. Highlights of the plan include:

  • Nearly 100% of participants' time is spent outdoors in small groups (12 or fewer) that do not mix
  • Staff and participants will wear face coverings at all times except when eating/drinking or when taking a mask break 6' away from others
  • Participants cannot have traveled out-of-state two weeks prior to their first day (July 5 or 12) 
  • Instructors will give participants a verbal daily health screening upon their arrival each day
  • Participants will receive kits of materials to minimize the need to share equipment
  • Twice daily cleaning and disinfection of bathrooms and high-touch surfaces within the Rice Creek building

For additional information or questions, please contact Kristen Haynes, the program director, at kristen.haynes@oswego.edu or 315.312.6678.

Note: These safety measures still stand despite recent state-level changes as we await further guidance from the SUNY Chancellor.

Who will my child interact with?

Exploring Nature is led by K-12 educators who are passionate about outdoor education. Our youngest age group (K-1st Grade; 5-6 year-olds) has an instructor and an instructor's assistant. All other groups have a single instructor. Participants may also interface with Kristen Haynes, the Exploring Nature Coordinator, or with guest presenters, but will always remain under the custody, care, and supervision of their instructor. The program coordinator and all program staff have been cleared by SUNY Oswego's Child Protection Compliance Administrator and have completed mandatory child protection training.

Is paper registration available?

We have gone paperless. If you experience difficulties with the online registration, please reach out to Kristen Haynes at kristen.haynes@oswego.edu or 315.312.6678.

Are lunch and snacks provided?

Fees do not include lunch or snack, as they are not provided. Participants should bring a packed lunch.

How are groups assigned?

Children will be split into groups according to grade level/age, and groups will be filled on a first-come basis, upon receiving full payment with completed registration materials.

What is the deadline for immunization records and health insurance information?

Immunization records and a copy of health insurance information must be received by the application deadline, June 27, 2021. Registration is not considered complete until these records are received via the registration form upload or by email to kristen.haynes@oswego.edu.

How do I request a refund?

Cancelations made by June 14 will be refunded by check (less $25 per child per week) with no questions asked. After June 14, refunds will not be issued except in the case of extenuating circumstances like illness or a family emergency.

To request a refund, please email rcfs@oswego.edu, including your name and mailing address.

How can I help keep my child safe and stop the spread of COVID-19 at Exploring Nature?

The CDC has a number of important recommendations, summarized in this video:

These include wearing a face covering, maintaining a 6' distance from others, frequent hand washing/sanitizing, and staying home when you are sick.

Additional guidance on protecting your and your kids' health can be found at the CDC's website.

Contact us

Have additional questions? Please contact us at rcfs@oswego.edu or 315-312-6677.