Youth Education

Outdoor youth education programs provide a fresh, hands-on approach to the ways in which learning can be integrated with the outdoors, empowering students to become avid learners, and enabling them to begin building a lifelong relationship with the river and our national park.

Our goal is to reach more than 20,000 youth and their families annually—increasing student achievement and encouraging outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship as life-long pursuits.

Big River Journey & Journey to the Falls
The Big River Journey and Journey to the Falls field trip programs allow students to explore, enjoy and learn about the river on the river itself, and begin a personal connection. The program serves school children in grades 3-6 on trips in Minneapolis (Journey to the Falls) and Saint Paul (Big River Journey).

The field trips provide on-the-river learning opportunities for more than 5,000 area youth annually. Mississippi Park Connection is proud to provide full scholarship funding for more than 2,700 students to experience these trips each year. For most of these students, this is their first time on the river.

Mississippi Park Connection also supports the annual Big River Art Contest. Hundreds of students submit original art that is inspired by their trip on the river. Judges select sixteen winners, including one Grand Prize winner for each of the four categories: Mighty Mississippi, Caring for the River, Big River Journey and Journey to the Falls. The contest is open to 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students; and only students who participated in Big River Journey or Journey to the Falls can enter those two categories.

Since its inception in 1996, Big River Journey and Journey to the Falls have served more than 65,000 students in our community. Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman officially proclaimed September 27, Big River Journey Day.

Visit the National Park Service site for complete information about Big River Journey, teacher resources, videos, and more.

Take Me to the River
The Take Me to the River program is a hands-on educational program designed for fourth graders facilitated at Hidden Falls Regional Park each fall. The program focuses primarily on the cultural history of the river, but also addresses geography, geology, and physical science and is aligned with state educational standards. Students rotate through 3 activities stations including Orienteering, Shelter-building, and Firebuilding/hiking. This physically active, outdoor program brings students to their national park to explore, gain outdoor skills, and have fun along the Mississippi River!

The TMTR program is a partnership between the National Park Service, the Mississippi Park Connection, and the City of Saint Paul.

Mississippi River Fellows Program
Each summer, Mississippi Park Connection funds internships for urban youth to work in the outdoors and guide summer trips for younger students. We also provide funding for seasonal national park rangers who lead day trips and match school curricula with on-the-ground learning in the outdoors.

Canoemobile – Mississippi River
The Canoemobile program is a youth education and recreation program on the Mississippi River— complete with guided day trips, overnight camping, and environmental education programs for youth in elementary, middle, and high school. We are proud to support this program in partnership with the National Park Service, Wilderness Inquiry, and many others.

Read more about the Mississippi River Fellows and Canoemobile programs on our partner Wilderness Inquiry’s website.