Experiences in Conservation, Outdoor Education and Living History 

The Cradle of Forestry’s education programs are designed to get students outside and investigating their National Forests. All programs include hands-on activities that reinforce the programs’ theme and utilize our interpretative hiking trails. We adapt program format according to your time restraints, group size, and weather. Programs are correlated to N.C. state curriculum standards and U.S. Forest Service guidelines. Trained educators will help you “Sow Seeds of Stewardship” while accomplishing your teaching goals. Check here for program correlations.  

Reservations are required for all field trips. If you have students with special needs, please let us know in advance. Please call Stephanie Bradley at (828) 877-3130, or email cradleprograms@cfaia.org to reserve your space.

Option 1 – Our trained educators lead our programs
•$5.00 (use fee + program fee) per student
•Free for all accompanying teachers and chaperones

Option 2 – Self-guided visit
•$3 for youth ages 4 to 12
•$6.00 for 13 years old and older
•$6.00 use fee per chaperone

Day of Payment is preferred, however invoicing is available. Checks should be made out to: CFAIA

Site Resources

  • First in Forestry Film (28 minutes) – Set in the late 1800’s, this movie reveals the significance of the site while introducing America’s forestry pioneers and their work. Viewing the video before your visit saves time and is a great resource. It can be borrowed to be used in the classroom.
  • Exhibit Hall Exploration (approximately 30 minutes) – Explore our hands-on educational Exhibit Hall in the Forest Discovery Center using age appropriate activities that supplement our programs and your curriculum. Conservation history, habitats, careers, and forest products are just some topics ready for discovery. A simulated fire-fighting helicopter ride and scavenger hunt are highlights for some students.
  • Interpretive Trails (1 hour each) – Walk on two 1-mile paved interpretive trails. The Biltmore Campus Trail passes seven historical buildings, including a schoolhouse, commissary, and student quarters. The Forest Festival Trail explores Dr. Schenck’s forestry experiments, a portable saw mill, and a logging locomotive that students can climb aboard. The trails stimulate discussions about ways of living, habitat, how plants grow, succession, energy cycling, forestry concepts, and issues while you enjoy the forest at your fingertips.

Programs with a Science Focus:

Forest Senses (Kindergarten and 1st grades): Using our senses, we’ll explore one of the Cradle’s paved interpretive trails while focusing on the wonderful colors, shapes, smells and sounds found in the forest. Students will be observing, collecting, and sorting natural materials they find on the trail and discuss with educators how people and animals rely on the forest.  

Forest Birds (Kindergarten through 5th grades): Birds play an important role in the forest ecosystem and have adapted to live in different layers of the forest in order to find food, raise young, and to avoid competition. In this program students will learn how local birds have adapted to life in the forest by participating in fun activities that explore bird identification, behavior and diet.

Arthropod Hunt (1st through 5th  grades): Students will peak under leaf piles and sift through pond water to discover arthropods and investigate the roles these animals play in the forest ecosystem. Students will compare arthropods living in three different habitats; forest floor, trees/shrubs, and a freshwater pond. This program addresses the concepts of arthropod body structure, adaptations, lifecycles, metamorphosis, and diet. For older students we discuss how arthropods are connected to issues of forest health and water quality. Bring shoes that can get wet and muddy.

Plant Discovery (3rd & 6th  grades): Investigate a diverse forest while observing, identifying, comparing, and personalizing plants. Through fun activities students will build an understanding of plant growth, adaptations, and interdependence with wildlife and people. This versatile program can include activities on topics of your choice: such as lifecycle, identification, pollination, soil and invasive exotic species.  Older students will focus on the structure and function of flowering plants and different strategies used for survival.

We Speak for the Trees (4th Grade and Up): The Lorax story is a cautionary tale about the dangers of rampant environmental exploitation and will guide students to closely examine their impact on the environment and ways they can speak for those without voices. Through discussions, role-play, and utilizing the forest as our classroom, students will explore environmental topics such as, natural vs. renewable resources, forest biotic and abiotic interactions, sustainable forest management, and conservation. 

Bogs, Bugs, and Beavers (5th grade & Up): Examine wetland ecosystems of the Pink Beds valley with a guided hike to areas of past beaver activity. While discussing positive and negative consequences of change, we’ll explore and learn about aquatic life, mountain bogs, forest succession, food webs, and landscape influences. Bring shoes that can get wet and muddy.

Habitats and Microclimates (5th, 6th & 8th grades): Students explore a forest plot to see how abiotic (nonliving) factors such as soil temperature, weather, sunlight all affects biotic (living) components of a forest habitat. Students will use a range of scientific tools to gather abiotic samples for testing as well as use data sheets to record what they find. 

Getting to Know Trees (Designed for Scout groups): Students will start by reviewing what trees need to grow and reproduce and then head outside on a guided hike around our Forest Festival Trail (1-mile paved trail). We will be exploring our local forests, identifying individual tree species and their roles in WNC forest ecosystems, as well as learning how we manage our forests for the future. This is a hands-on program that gets students outside and exploring trees and the forest ecosystem. 

Working Woods (Designed for Scout and other non-formal educational groups): Enjoy a guided walk around our Forest Festival Trail (1-mile paved loop) while we discuss a few of the many scientists that work in our National Forests. Students will be introduced to forest scientists, learn about their role in forest conservation, and work hands-on with a few of their tools. This is a great introduction to jobs in conservation and learning about forestry management. 

Programs with a Social Studies Focus:

Toys, Tools, and Resources (Kindergarten through 5th grades)This program provides a hands-on experience to capture students’ imaginations and challenge their critical thinking skills as they compare the technology of the past with what they see in their own lives. Students will be immersed in an Appalachian mountain community from the early 1900’s, visiting historical buildings along our Biltmore Campus Trail (1-mile paved loop). Younger students will explore toys and play from the past, while older students will discover the advantages of tree identification and how wood products were useful in everyday life. 

Get Your Bearings (Kindergarten through 3rd grades): This versatile program introduces students to the world of navigation, maps, and cardinal directions with students designing a visual map for a story walk. Students will learn why and how people and wildlife navigate their habitat and explore the forest with the help of a map and compass. 

Living with the Forest (3rd grade)In small groups among the Cradle’s historic buildings, students role-play doing chores in an early 1900’s mountain community. They will experience how family and community members depended on each other and their forest resources while making comparisons to their own lives. 

Programs for Adult Groups 

Many of the programs described above can be adapted for adult groups. In addition to these outdoor-oriented experiences, the following presentations can be scheduled for groups in the Forest Discovery Center:

  • Our Forest Heritage: An educational guided tour of our Biltmore Campus Trail (1 mile paved loop trail) exploring historic buildings that give us a glimpse into the life of those pioneering sustainable forest management and education in Pisgah National Forest.