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.


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
Take Me to the River is an education program for middle school and high school students designed to complement Big River Journey and the UWCA, and expand our partnership with Minneapolis and Saint Paul Public Schools and the YMCA.

Take Me to the River brings kids back to their national park for a second or third time to teach them further how to recreate, appreciate, and experience the outdoors on their own. The program brings academic subjects like geology, geography, ecology and history to life for students outdoors on the river. Participating high school students can also earn academic credit by attending and successfully completing field assignments. Families and friends of Take Me to the River program participants can also spend time together trying new outdoor activities. Take Me to the River serves over 600 urban youth annually, with a specific focus on North Minneapolis and East St. Paul.


Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures
Through a unique partnership between Mississippi Park Connection, the National Park Service, and Wilderness Inquiry, we have created Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA), an outdoor 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.

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 curriculums with on-the-ground learning in the outdoors.

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.

Read more about Urban Wilderness Canoe adventures on our partner Wilderness Inquiry’s website.