Overnight @ The Elms

Kinda Says It All ...

student overnight drawing

The Program: Overview

tentThe overnight program emphasizes group cooperation and a spirit of adventure and exploration throughout two days and one night. Three formal lessons, age appropriate and tied to the State Curriculum are led by the Elms staff. The classroom teacher has the opportunity to present a lesson of her/his own as well.

  • Schedule permitting, overnight trips are available to all St. Mary's County Schools (public, parochial, home-school groups), grades 4-12.

Typical Schedule:

Day 1

10:30 a.m.: Bus pick up at school.

  • If possible, pack personal gear in chaperone vehicles. Bus drivers consider loose gear in the bus a safety risk.

11:00 a.m.: Arrival Elms, Orientation and LUNCH

  • Orientation includes a discussion of the rules and definition of boundaries.

12:00 – 3:00 p.m.: SESSION 1

  • This is the first lesson period — generally a dry lesson.

3:00 -- 4:30 p.m.: Set Up Camp

  • Students will choose tent names and create a banner/sign for their tent.
  • Staff assign chores during this time.
  • Adults may have to bring their own tents.
  • No adults in student tents/no students in adult tents. This includes family members.

4:30 – 5:30 p.m.: Free time/Dinner Preparation

  • Classroom teacher in charge, students under adult supervision.
  • This is the student’s opportunity to explore nature on their own terms, with adult supervision to ensure safety. It is by design and necessity unstructured.
  • Non-nature play is discouraged during this free period.

5:30 – 6:00 p.m.: Dinner

  • A hot meal prepared by the Elms staff and served by one of the tent groups.

6:00 – 6:30 p.m.: Prepare for evening program

  • Students clean up after dinner.

6:30 – 8:30 p.m.: EVENING PROGRAM campfire

  • This is the teacher’s structured time to do whatever they like. In the absence of a teacher directed lesson, Elms staff are prepared to lead a variety of activities including; bird watching, stargazing, cooperative games, skits, campfire, night walk, owl walk.

8:30 – 9:00 p.m.: Prepare for bed

9:00 p.m.: Bedtime/Lights Out

Day 2

7:00 a.m.: Wake Up

8:00 – 9:00 a.m.: Breakfast

  • A cold breakfast served by a student tent group.
  • Students clean tents & pack personal gear, leaving out a set of dry clothes for the end of the day.

9:00 – 10:30 a.m.: SESSION II

  • Second lesson.

10:30 a.m.: Take down camp

11:00 a.m.: Lunch

  • A hot meal prepared by the Elms staff and served by one of the tent groups.

11:30 – 1:15 p.m.: SESSION III

  • Third lesson — usually wet.

1:15 -- 1:30 p.m.: Departure

  • Departure times may vary depending on bus and school schedules.

The History

old tentThe Elms Environmental Education Center has been offering residential programs for more than 30 years. Since the program’s move to the Elms Property in 1978, thousands of St. Mary’s County public school students have enjoyed the opportunity to experience the sprit of cooperation, expanded exploration of the natural world and the little understood and often forgotten ways of our earth at night. This opportunity survives to this day in the form of two day/one night overnight trips available spring and fall to grades 4 - 12.


All lessons are age appropriate and tied to the state curriculum. They may include, but are not limited to:

  • Geography: Maps, compasses and GPS.
  • Art: Photography and Nature.
  • Science: Biological survey of the inshore habitat of the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Environmental Issues: The Mute Swan Debate.

Customized environmental lessons can be developed for any content area. Contact Elms staff for more information.

(Lesson plans can be found in the "For Teachers" area of this site.)

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The Elms Environmental Education Center is the home of Environmental Education for St. Mary's County Public Schools.

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