The Earth Discovery Center and Ornithology Center at Eagle Creek Park both offer environmental education programming for groups of all ages. Our programs emphasize putting children in touch with the amazing diversity of plants and animals native to Indiana and fostering a sense of wonder, enthusiasm, and stewardship for the natural world. Program fees are $4 to $10/student for most programs.
The Earth Discovery Center and Ornithology Center are available for unscheduled walk-through visits for schools, camps, and other groups, free with park admission; however, during our busy field trip season (mornings in spring and fall) there may already be other large groups on the premises. Staff may be busy programming and not available to assist your group or answer questions, and some exhibit areas may be in use for programming and not accessible to your group. Walk-through groups generally spend about 20-30 minutes exploring the Earth Discovery Center and the Ornithology Center. Since the Ornithology Center is not a large facility we recommend calling in advance if you are planning to bring a group of more than 20 students.
You are welcome to bring your group out to the park any time (dawn-dusk) to hike, picnic, and explore. Park admission is $15/bus and $5/$6 per car. Please contact the park office (317-327-7110) if you are interested in reserving a shelter. If you would like to rent a classroom at the Earth Discovery Center (317-327-7148) or Ornithology Center (317-327-2473) please contact those facilities directly.
If you are interested in taking your group swimming at the Beach (June & July, 327-7132) or renting bikes or boats from the Marina (May-October, 327-7130), please call those facilities ahead of time to determine if they can accommodate your group size and ages.
Keep in mind, Eagle Creek is quite large for a city park! If it will be your first visit, we recommend scouting out the area ahead of time, especially if you plan to go hiking on your own or if you will be bringing a large group of students.
Eagle Creek Park Roads and Facilities Map
Eagle Creek Park Trail Map
Earth Discovery Center Local Trail Map
The EDC offers environmental education programs for schools, scouts, daycamps, daycares, homeschool, and other groups on a variety of nature topics. We'll begin scheduling groups for 2017 starting after Labor Day (Sept 5).
When you call to schedule, please have the following information handy:
date you are interested in coming, along with a few alternate dates in case that day is full. Due to the high demand for programs, we are unable to "hold spots" or schedule tentative dates.
start time (we can begin programs as early as 10am) and time you would need to be getting on the bus to leave.
estimated number of students
estimated number of adults (we ask that you bring at least one adult per 10 students)
name and contact information
whether or not you will be needing an outdoor shelter for lunch in the park
The Earth Discovery Center can run 3 program topics simultaneously in our Exhibit Hall, Wet Lab, and Dry Lab Classrooms, allowing us to comfortably accommodate groups of up to 120 students at a time with 40 students rotating through each area. The Exhibit Hall area can seat up to 70 students plus teachers and adults for groups that would like to stay together for a single program topic; however, we recommend breaking into smaller group sizes for a more hands-on experience.
The Ornithology Center classroom can accommodate a maximum of approximately 30 students at a time. Groups of 60 students can be divided into indoor and outdoor sessions, and larger groups may be possible depending on staff availability.
Please bring at least one adult for every 10 students. If you are unable to provide enough adults, please let us know ahead of time as this may affect the organization of your program (i.e. larger hiking groups). There is no charge for teachers or adult helpers.
More adults are welcome to come, although if there are large numbers of adults they may need to wait outside some of the smaller classrooms. Please make sure parents and other adults are aware of good behavior during the field trip (set a good example to the students by paying attention, no talking on cell phones during the program, etc.) and are prepared to dress for the weather and hike on the trails if outdoor experiences are included in your program.
We recommend scheduling your program so that your students eat lunch near their regular time. Field trips can work up an appetite, and hungry students can have difficulty focusing on their program topic! Use of an outdoor shelter for lunch is included with your program fee. Please let us know at the time of registration if you would like to reserve a shelter for your group:
Earth Discovery Center Shelter is located a short walk from the parking lot with picnic tables for up to 100 students (there are several other picnic tables in the area as well, or you can bring tarps and blankets for additional places for students). Restrooms are available nearby at the EDC; however, there is no playground within walking distance.
Mount Pleasant Picnic Area is also available for groups with registered programs at the EDC, and has three large covered shelters and plenty of picnic tables, a playground, and a Port-O-Let type restroom facility. Mount Pleasant is not within practical hiking distance for most groups, so you will need to have bus or car transportation for your group to and from the picnic site. If you are taking a lunch break during your program, we recommend allowing 60 minutes for lunch to allow for travel time to and from the shelter.
Shelter H is available for groups that have registered programs at the Ornithology Center, and has a covered shelter and with tables for up to 100 students, a playground within short walking distance, and flush toilets and sinks (you may wish to bring your own soap for hand washing). The shelter is a short drive or 15-20 minute hike from the Ornithology Center.
$50 minimum program fee for groups of 12 students or fewer.
$4/student for a single topic session, maximum 40 students at the EDC, 30 students at the OC (program time 30 minutes-1 hour)
$5/student for two topic sessions, maximum 80 students EDC, 30 students at the OC (program time 1 - 1.5 hours)
$7/student for three topic sessions, maximum 120 students EDC, 90 students at the OC (program time 1.5-2 hours)
$10/student for four topic sessions, including joint EDC-OC programs with two topic sessions at the Ornithology Center and two topic sessions at the Earth Discovery Center. *Four topic sessions are dependent on staff availability.
There is no charge for teachers or adult helpers (we ask for at least one adult per 10 students).
A discounted rate is available to schools with 40% or more of students on free or reduced lunch.
Payment may be made on the day of the program by cash, check (made out to Indy Parks), or credit card, or schools may also pay by purchase order. Program fee includes admission into Eagle Creek Park and use of a shelter picnic area (please schedule picnic area at time of registration).
$50 Cancellation Fee is charged if you fail to show up for your scheduled program. There is no cancellation fee if we need to cancel due to weather, or if you notify us before the time of your scheduled program.
The Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society (INPAWS) has a fund available to provide financial assistance to student and youth groups for field trips to nature sites. The money is intended to help with transportation costs and/or naturalist fees where no funds exist, as well as promote youth initiated projects/activities that connect kids with nature. The fund is available for any Indiana school/youth group, application is online and can be done at anytime, and response is generally within two weeks. INPAWS is especially interested in providing youth with the least access to the natural world this opportunity. To find out more or to apply, please visit the INPAWS website at Letha's Youth Outdoors Fund
Please notify us as soon as possible if you need to cancel your program or would like to try to reschedule for a different date. Programs cancelled with less than one week notice for reasons other than inclement weather, or no-show groups (groups that do not call or otherwise notify us of the cancellation) may be charged up to one half their estimated program fee.
Indiana weather can be extremely unpredictable - we've had warm, gorgeous, sunny days in November and near-freezing windy days in May, so be sure to check the forecast before your field trip! We generally only cancel programs if the weather is dangerous: thunder and lightening, tornado watches and warnings, extremely high winds, icy or dangerous driving conditions, etc. We can still go outside even if it is raining or cold, and we strongly encourage school groups to make sure their students are dressed for the weather. For students who are used to rushing from the bus to the school and home again without spending any significant time out of doors, learning to watch the weather forecast and dress appropriately can be an important part of the field trip experience. Remember, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!
Above all, we want students to have a positive field trip experience, which is difficult to do if they are cold, wet, and uncomfortable. If students are not appropriately dressed, we can often provide alternative indoor programming depending on the size and age of the group, or we can do our best to find an alternative open day to reschedule (be aware that this may be difficult to do in spring or fall).
Please note - these are only possible examples of field trip arrangements! Field trips may be adjusted due to class size or adult ratios, staff availability, requirements of specific program topics, and group interest.
Larger groups can also do other activities in the park on their own (picnic, hike, teacher led activities) and rotate through a program at the EDC or OC in smaller groups. Keep in mind hiking distances and times between major facilities in the park (playgrounds, shelters, between the EDC & OC) are not practical for most large groups and will usually require bus transportation - we recommend talking to a park naturalist for advice if you have any questions.