Compass Nature Quest Classes
Step outdoors to each week to explore nature with a seasoned naturalist/ survivalist guide in Compass Nature Quest classes. Kids will discover all the secrets that woods hold when they stop, look, listen, smell, touch, turn-over, and peek under!
Students will learn valuable outdoor skills, discover native plants, animals, and observe the changes of seasons through group activities, free play, exploration, story-telling, and skill building. Emphasis will be on becoming comfortable with things they encounter outdoors, observing and appreciating discoveries in nature, safe exploration of the woods, and how to be a good steward of nature.
Where do Nature Quest classes explore?
Compass Nature Quest classes will explore a wooded section of the Sugarland Run Trail between Spring Street and Elden Street. This portion of the park is forested with a paved pathway that follows a stream.
Where do Nature Quest classes meet?
Nature Quest classes gather at the trail head of the combined pathways of the Sugarland Run Trail and the W&OD Trail. This can be accessed on the south side of the Herndon Police Station parking lot, under the power lines. From here, the Compass group will walk a few yards and enter the wooded area on an established, paved path.
- How do students get to Nature Quest class?Nature Quest classes meet at the trailhead to Sugarland Run Trail (above), located 0.5 miles from Compass. Parents are expected to drive their child from Compass to the Nature Quest meeting location and pick them up when the class is over. Parents are encouraged to form carpools to/from Nature Quest. Neither Compass nor your child’s Nature Quest guide are able to provide transportation. If parents have ample time, they may walk the 0.5 mile distance with their child between the Nature Quest meeting point and Compass along sidewalks, however, under no circumstance will a child be permitted to walk this route or cross the intersection unaccompanied.
- Is there time to get to another Compass class after Nature Quest?Nature Quest classes finish and return to the meet-up location at 0:50 minutes after the hour. That gives parents 10 minutes to get their child in the car, go through one traffic light, and drive the 0.5 miles back to Compass.
- What if my child has another class before Nature Quest?Classes in the Compass facility finish at 0:55 minutes after the hour. That gives parents 5 minutes to get their child in the car, go through one traffic light, and drive the 0.5 miles to the Nature Quest meeting location. Nature Quest classes will typically gather and review key points until 5 minutes after the hour before heading into the woods.
- What if we are late getting to the meet-up location?If a family is late arriving at the meet-up location, and the Compass group has already headed into the woods, the parent can park and accompany the child into the woods to search for the group. The guide will not be able to turn around and back track to meet up with a tardy classmate. If the parent and child are unable to find the group, the child will miss that day’s class. Under no circumstances can the parent send his/her child into the woods unaccompanied with the hope of finding and joining the class.
- If we miss the Nature Quest class one day, can my child just join another session later that day?No, if a child misses an earlier class meeting, the guide cannot accommodate him/her in a later class session. This is because the guide and Compass need to maintain appropriate teacher-to-student ratios.
- My child loves Nature Quest classes. Can she enroll in 2 sessions back-to-back on the same day?Yes, some students opt to take more than one session in order to have a longer time in the woods. No two classes are ever the same, and we discover different things on every trip into the woods. Check with Compass administrators about the age ranges of consecutive class groups before registering.
- What should my child wear to Nature Quest class?Students should come prepared for class with outdoor or play-appropriate clothes, closed-toe shoes, a hat, and jacket or layered outerwear appropriate for the weather/temperature.
- What about sunscreen and insect repellent?Parents may want to pre-apply sunscreen and/or insect repellent depending on the time of year. The Nature Quest guide will not apply these products to students, and students should not bring bottles/tubes of these products to class.
- Where does Nature Quest meet if it is raining (or snowing)?Nature Quest classes will be held while it is raining (or snowing) or after it has rained (or snowed). There are many new phenomena to see in the woods when the weather changes. Students should wear raincoats and rain boots or cold weather layers on inclement days. Nature Quest classes will not be held if it is thundering, lightning, or there is a risk of the area flooding. If these events happen, parents should watch for an email indicating whether there will be a classroom session that day or a cancellation with make-up class to be announced.
- What should my child bring to Nature Quest?Students may wish to bring a water bottle, however it should be pre-filled at home or at Compass since there will be no access to a water cooler in the woods. Parents may want to keep a change of clothes in the car for any adventurers who have close encounters with the stream or mud puddles.
- What if my child needs to use the restroom during Nature Quest?Students should use the restroom at home or at Compass before Nature Quest. Once in the woods, there is no one to lead one student back to facilities. Students are not permitted to use the restrooms of the Herndon Police Station.
- Does my child have to wear a mask in Nature Quest class?Children will need to wear masks in Nature Quest classes per the general Compass policy until masks are not longer mandated for COVID in the state of Virginia. If students demonstrate that they can reliably maintain a distance between each other for an activity, the guide may, in his best judgement, allow students to slide masks off for a portion of the class.
- Do we need to be concerned about ticks in the woods?Ticks are present throughout Fairfax County and are often found in wooded areas, brushy fields, and along trails in tall grass or leaf litter in the spring, summer, and fall. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people use repellents on exposed skin and clothing that contain the active ingredients DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) to repel ticks. The Fairfax County Department of health has several web pages about ticks and tick prevention as part of their Fight the Bite campaign. The county has resources on the identification of ticks and prevention measures. Families of Nature Quest students are encouraged to perform a daily tick check after class. The CDC recommends examining under the arms, in and around the ears, inside belly button, back of the knees, in and around the hair, groin, around the waist. If you find a tick on your child after a Nature Quest class, please notify your guide so he can gauge the prevalence of ticks in the areas that the class explores.
- What about poison ivy, poison oak, etc?Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are plants that produce an oily resin that causes a type of contact dermatitis (rash, blisters) in some people. The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation district advises that, “Poison ivy grows in non-cultivated sites, such as along stream banks, roadways, fields, and forests…Knowing how to identify and control it are the best defenses against accidental contact.” These plants have a very different appearance in each season of the year, and Nature Quest students will learn how to identify and avoid them. Anyone who thinks they might have come in contact with one of these plants should wash thoroughly with soap and water or use an over the counter skin cleanser such as TecNu, Ivy Dry, or Zanfel.
- What if my child has environmental allergies?During Nature Quest explorations in the woods, students will be exposed to pollen, trees/weeds, dust/dirt, insects, poisonous plants, and other common elements of the outdoors. If a student has seasonal reactions to these kinds of allergens, he/she may want to take antihistamines in accordance with a physician’s recommendations before class. If the student has more severe allergies that require him/her to carry an inhaler or epinepherine auto injector (such as Epi Pen), the parent should let the guide know.
- My child is young or has anxiety and may not be comfortable separating from the me for the Nature Quest class.For Nature Quest classes, all children must be comfortable separating from their parents and joining the small group class and guide in the woods.
- My child has the tendency to wander off or is not good about following instructions.For Nature Quest classes, children must be able to follow the instructions of the guide, adhere to class safety rules, remain with the group, and get along with others.
- Can I walk along with the Nature Quest group or follow along with my younger child/stroller, etc?The guided explorations in the woods are for enrolled students only. Tag-along parents and siblings cannot be accommodated. Sugarland Run Trail is a public site, and parents cannot be prevented from walking/hiking on their own. However, parents and siblings are asked to remain separate and not to interfere with the class activities.