Originally developed by the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, the Environmental Learning for the Future program is an award-winning environmental education program for elementary-aged children and is used is in hundreds of school districts around the country. For nearly 30 years, ELF has been a popular and successful program for getting volunteers into elementary classrooms. Gahagan provides the ELF program to five schools in our area, with the capacity to provide programming to additional schools.

ELF encompasses five ecological concepts: Habitats, Cycles, Adaptations, Designs of Nature, and Earth and Sky. Each of these themes includes eight lessons and their associated materials: one kit for each month on the school year. This structure provides for five years of continuous programming in a given school district. Each ELF teaching kit contains multiple activities complete with resource materials such as slideshows, mammal and bird skulls, audio tapes, puppet shows, rock collections, games, etc. The development of each ELF lesson was informed by current K-5 national science education standards.

ELF Kits.jpg

The ELF kits at Gahagan, ready for action!


The ELF program requires a committed team of volunteer educators. Once a month, volunteers gather for a one-hour evening training workshop at their local school. Gahagan helps these volunteers adapt the provided lessons and materials for various grade levels. The volunteers then go into classrooms for roughly sixty minutes to share the lessons and activities from the current month's ELF kit. At the end of each month, these kits are returned to Gahagan Nature Preserve, where they are refurbished, restocked, and made ready to use again. Formal teaching experience is not required to volunteer for this awesome program, and lesson ideas and teaching strategies are provided by the preserve. This program is great for family members who would like to be involved with their child's classroom, retired teachers, or aspiring educators seeking to obtain classroom experience. If you are interested in volunteering for this program, or would simply like to request information, please fill out the form on our Volunteer page! 

How the ELF program benefits students:

  • Engages them with fun educational activities

  • Deepens their experience with nature and the outdoors

  • Expands their understanding of ecological principles

  • Promotes responsible action to conserve natural resources

  • Supports science literacy

Remember, classrooms still need volunteer educators to deliver the ELF program. Please consider sharing your time and volunteer today!

The Five Themes of Project ELF

Designs of Nature

Nature’s designs are beautiful to behold, and many of them also have a specific purpose. The closer we look, the more we learn to appreciate the relationship between form and function.

The overlapping scales on a pine cone help to shed water and protect the developing embryos inside. The beautiful web of an orb weaver is also a deadly trap created by the spider to ensnare unwary insects. The cells in a honeycomb, hexagon-shaped so they share walls and fit together tightly, make efficient use of the space in a hive. While viewing some of the intricate designs found in nature, children discover how these forms contribute to an organism’s chances of survival.

For more information, contact!