Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, Field Trip Opportunities
Ellanor C. Lawrence Park is a unique community resource well suited to reinforce students’ knowledge of Virginia history and natural resources. Its 650 acres feature historic structures and evidence of past land use as well as a diversity of natural habitats in which students can observe firsthand the relationships between plants, animals and their environments, human impacts on the natural world and more.
The Walney Visitor Center features a live animal display and exhibits on the parkland’s history. Unless otherwise noted, field trips meet at the Walney Visitor Center, 5040 Walney Road, Chantilly, 20151.
Although SOL correlations are noted in the program descriptions below, most programs can be tailored to meet the needs of pre-school through 6th grades with advanced notice. Please discuss your field trip goals with a naturalist when reserving a program date. Programs fill quickly.
Reservations and Payment
Programs are available Monday through Friday mornings (start time: 10 am) from September until June. Staff permitting, programs may also be scheduled on select afternoons. Students may be divided into smaller groups.
For 60-minute programs, in-county fees are $5 per student or chaperone; out-of county fees are $6 per student or chaperone. For 90-minute programs, in-county fees are $6 per student or chaperone; out-of county fees are $7 per student or chaperone. Teachers and aides are not charged. Payment, in full, is due on the day of your visit with check made payable to “Fairfax County Park Authority” or with Visa or MasterCard.Payment can be made at Walney Visitor Center on the day of the field trip program.
Advance reservations are required and the schedule fills up quickly. To make a reservation request, use the Field Trip Calendar. Click on a date with availability and complete the reservation request form.
Please be aware that you are not guaranteed to receive the specific dates requested. All requests will be reviewed in the order that they are received and you will be contacted to confirm your field trip dates. No requests will be taken over the phone, however, if you have any trouble please contact the site and staff will assist you in making your field trip reservation request.
We look forward to your visit!
History and Social Studies Programs
American Indian Life in Fairfax County
One of our most popular programs with 2nd and 4th grades! Students explore what life may have been like for an Eastern Woodland Indian and the relationship which they would have had with the land that is now Fairfax County at the time of European colonization. Students rotate between up to five stations to learn about the uses of fire and native plants and animals, foodways, personal decoration and skill-based games. Activities include a trail hike in search of native plants and animals, corn grinding, a corn dart game and a deer “hunt.” Naturalists will also talk about what material evidence these peoples and those who came before them left behind. This program is 90 minutes. SOLs addressed include HSS 2.2 and VS.2.
Past residents at Walney left a unique record of their lives and how the land was used that we can learn from today if we know how to “read” it. Students visit various man-made features within the park to discern their past functions by using clues from observations of physical features and sample artifacts. Features include remains of a dairy, ice house, tack shed and ice pond. After successfully identifying the uses of these features, students will draw conclusions about what daily life may have been like at Walney farm during the 19th century. Students will also learn about the importance of tobacco and gardening during this time period as well as the role of archaeology in providing us important information about the past. SOLs addressed include VS.1, VS.2 and VS.3.
Natural History and Science Programs
Life in the Leaf Litter
Students will learn that the forest is made up of many layers. Trees, understory shrubs, and the smaller plants on the ground make up the layers of the forest. The soils beneath them are made up of tiny bits of rock and humus, moisture and small pockets of air. The forest goes through seasonal cycles. A naturalist lead trail walk to look at areas of erosion on the trail and students will be able to stop and look in the leaf litter for animals and plants. This program provides a hands on look at the forest ecosystem. SOLs addressed include Science 4.4, 4.5 and 5.5.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Students learn about adaptations, habitats, and life cycles by observing reptiles and amphibians and their habitats. Students will have an opportunity to see live native reptiles and amphibians up close with a naturalist and will take a trail walk to explore a variety of habitats within the park looking for other reptiles and amphibians. SOLs addressed include Science K.6, 1.5, 2.4, 3.4, 3.5, 4.5, 5.5.
Trees are Terrific!
Students will learn the basics of tree biology, identification and the important roles trees – both dead and alive – play in the environment through an interactive game, discussions and trail walk. Depending on the season, naturalists will guide students in making tree identifications by examining and comparing leaves, barks, twigs and/or seeds. SOLs addressed include Science 1.4, 2.4, 3.8
Senses and Seasons
Students explore the unique characteristics of the current season by using their senses to make observations on this fun and interactive trail walk. Other activities may include a trail listening exercise and a game. SOLs addressed include Science K.6, 1.5, 2.4.
Students explore the lives and life cycles of ants in this entertaining, interactive program. While a naturalist leads discussion, students act out stages in an ant’s life cycle and perform a skit demonstrating how ants work together in a colony to provide for their basic needs. Afterwards, students will take a short trail walk to look for ants in their natural environment, observe how they forage for food and identify the unique physical characteristics that make ants insects. SOLs addressed include Science K.6, 1.5, 1.6.
Shapes and Colors in Nature
Young learners explore the grounds of the historic Walney Visitor Center to find shapes and colors in nature to reinforce classroom lessons. Students identify shapes and colors and guess what they might find of similar shapes and colors in nature before setting out to explore and discuss the how and why of what they find with a naturalist. SOLs addressed include Science K.4, K.7, 1.4, 1.6.
Students learn about the food web, life cycles and decomposition through naturalist-led discussion and field observations focusing on the life of worms and who depends on them for a meal. Students look for worms in leaf litter and beneath logs to collect and observe before releasing. SOLs addressed include Science K.6, 1.4, 2.4, 2.5, 3.4, 3.5, 4.5.
Insect Safari: Meadow and Stream Habitats
Students compare and contrast meadow and stream habitats and draw conclusions about the general characteristics of the types of insects found in each by making observations through field collection. Students will explore the biodiversity of the insect world and the importance of insects to other animals and plants. (This program meets at the Cabell’s Mill complex across from Walney Pond. 5235 Walney Road, Centreville. This is a 90 minute program.) SOLs addressed include Science 2.4, 2.5.
Students investigate the physical and biological characteristics of a pond habitat through hands-on collection (and release) of aquatic insects and other pond dwellers. Naturalists will lead observation and discussion of the interdependency of life found at the pond, habitat characteristics and how human actions affect water quality and life found in aquatic habitats. (This program meets at Walney Pond.) SOLs addressed include Science 2.4 and 2.5. Please note: This program can be modified to address the needs of older grade levels.
Soil and Water
On a short trail hike, students learn about the components of soil and observe soil layers, decomposition and the impacts of erosion in a forest. Interactive games demonstrating the water cycle help prompt discussion of how clean water is a unique resource important to all living things. SOLs addressed include Science 2.3, 2.6, 2.7 and 3.9.
All About Plants
Students learn what makes a plant a plant! During field study, students make observations and draw conclusions by examining plants in different systems, noting animal and plant interactions and looking into plants’ roles in soil building. Naturalist-led discussion includes basic plant biology and reproduction strategies, the role of plants in ecosystems and food webs and why conservation is important. Students also learn to identify, through comparison and contrast, at least three different plant types. SOLs addressed include SCI 3.5, 3.6, 3.8, 3.10, 4.4, 4.5 and 4.8
Animals and Their Habitats
What determines, in part, what animals call Ellanor C. Lawrence Park “home?” Students will use critical thinking and observation skills to answer this question on a guided trail hike by comparing the habitat needs of an assigned animal species with what they identify as suitable food, water, shelter and a safe place to raise young within the park. SOLs addressed include SCI 3.4, 3.5, 4.5 and 5.5.
Planning for Your Visit
Please keep the following in mind to help make your trip a success.
Arrange for enough chaperones so that the adult to student ratio is at least 1:10.
There is a 15 attendee required minimum. Programs may be scheduled for less than 15 students, but this minimum fee will still be assessed. This applies also to reduced attendance due to absenteeism.
All trip programs take place outside, so students, teachers and chaperones should dress for the weather.
All students, chaperones and staff should wear long pants and sturdy shoes appropriate for outdoor activities - no sandals.
Also wear boldly printed nametags so naturalists can use names during programs.
Remind students, chaperones and staff to respect plants, animals and parkland. Stay on marked trails and do not pick plants or remove anything, living or otherwise, from the park.
Please be on time. Late arrival may mean programs are shortened or canceled because of other park programming and operational needs.
After the program, with proper adult supervision, classes are welcome to visit the Walney Visitor Center, which features exhibits on park history, live animal displays, a sales area, restrooms and a water fountain.
You may want to pack a picnic lunch to eat at the park. Because of limited trash pickup and wildlife scavenging, please bring your own trash bags and take your trash out with you.
If your class chooses to picnic at the park, consider bringing hand sanitizer to minimize a long bathroom wait for hand washing.
If your classes wish to purchase a souvenir, Ellanor C. Lawrence Park pencils can be arranged for and given to you at the conclusion of your program to distribute to your class when you choose. Pencils can be purchased for $.20 each. If you wish to do this, please let the naturalist know when making your program reservation.
We value your input so we can make our programs the best they can be for your students! Please complete and return the program evaluations given to you at the after the program or send an email to Anthony.Bulmer@fairfaxcounty.gov .
What People Are Saying
"Wonderful Worms is a perfect field trip for 1st graders.
This is the 5th time I have taken my 1st graders on this field trip.
The engaging Park Rangers lead the students through the park which
provides them with hands on opportunities to reinforce the FCPS
Science POS for 1st graders ! The Park Tour Guides keep the students
engaged and eager to learn more. Each year we leave the park with big
smiles and an increased depth of knowledge about
"Thanks for another great field trip! As always, it was
1st grade teacher
"The Trip To Ellanor C. Lawrence Park was very educational
and informative. Our guide Hayley, was very knowledgeable and
captured the attention of the kids and adults alike."
Abdulla Brodie Parent Chaperone