Field Trips

Bring your class to the park!

Trails Photo

Island Beach State Park provides the perfect outdoor setting to enhance classroom-based learning! IBSP Park naturalists conduct curriculum-based field trips using this remarkable landscape as a tool.  Students engage in real-world exploration of concepts they learn in the classroom.

Trip Logistics:

  • Field trips are typically 2.5-hours and are designed for grades 1 through 12.
  • Fall field trips are available Tuesday through Friday, between Labor Day and November 18, 2019. 
  • Spring field trips are available Tuesday through Friday between May 1 and June 16, 2019. 
  • Fees:  $3 per student, chaperones are free.
  • Each program is limited to 50 students.  It may be possible to book multiple programs on the same day for larger groups. Please call the Nature Center at 732-793-1315.
  • Island Beach State Park suggests 1 chaperone for every 10 students. Chaperones play an integral role in any field trip. Please ensure they know the group’s itinerary, students’ names, and remind them to stay with students throughout the visit.
  • Field trips are outside, weather permitting, and require walking on paved and unpaved trails and uneven terrain.
  • Students must bring lunch. IBSP is a Carry-In, Carry-Out facility.
  • Students must wear a name tag.
  • To prepare for your trip, please review the Group Leader Checklist
  • Buses/transportation MUST stay with the students at all times.

To Register:

  • Read the detailed information on the Guided Field Trip to ensure it suits your groups needs.
  • Fill out the registration form (attached below) and email it to
  • You will receive a confirmation email once we receive and review your registration form.
  • A small number of grants are available for school that are experiencing funding issues.
  • If you need to cancel your visit, please contact us at least three weeks in advance. IBSP will make every effort to reschedule your visit.
  • Please note that visits are not confirmed until you have received a response and confirmation from the park. Programs are filled on a first come, first serve basis and are dependent on staff availability.


Island Beach natural dune. Photo by Kevin Knutsen.

Guided Field Trips:

Barrier Island Ecology 

Shaped by storm and tides, Island Beach State Park is a narrow barrier island stretching for 10 miles between the restless Atlantic Ocean and the historic Barnegat Bay. Island Beach is one of New Jersey’s last significant remnants of a barrier island ecosystem that once existed along much of the coast and is also one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier beaches on the north Atlantic coast. Over 3,000 acres and 10 miles of coastal dunes remain almost untouched since Henry Hudson first described New Jersey’s coast from the ship, the Half Moon, in 1609.

Miles of sand dunes and white sandy beaches offer habitat to maritime plants and diverse wildlife that is almost the same as it was thousands of years ago. Island Beach contains outstanding examples of 9 distinct plant communities (listed below) that are able to withstand a variety of environmental hazards, such as flooding, salt spray, temperature changes, nutrient-poor soil and strong winds.   The state’s largest osprey colony calls the park home and they welcome a wide variety of migrating birds including peregrine falcons, wading birds, shorebirds, waterfowl and migrating songbirds. Island Beach is nationally known as a unique resource with over 400 plants identified, including the largest expanses of beach heather in New Jersey.

  • Plant Communities of Island Beach State Park
    • Primary Dune
    • Secondary Dune
    • Thicket
    • Edge
    • Maritime Forest
    • Freshwater Wetland
    • Salt marsh
    • Bayshore
    • Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV)

During this guided field trip, students will explore each plant community and learn about the different plants and wildlife that inhabit them.  The trip will be broken up into two parts:  Beach Ecology and Bay Ecology.  During the Beach Ecology portion of the trip, students will walk a transect through the maritime forest, thicket, secondary and primary dune communities and end up on the beach.  While there, students will collect data on the different plant and wildlife species and expert naturalists will review details about each species.  During the Bay Ecology portion of the trip, students will walk a transect through the edge, maritime forest, salt marsh and bayshore communities.  At the Bayshore, students will study the ecology of Barnegat Bay shallow water habitats and draw inferences of how an ecosystem works using a sampling technique called seining.

Following completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify the different plant communities of Island Beach by observation of various visual characteristics
  • Understand how each plant community responds to weather, waves and human actions
  • Draw conclusions about how barrier islands work.
  • Use a seine net to gather a sample of what’s living in the shallow water habitats of Barnegat Bay
  • Identify organisms (plants and animals) in the different communities
  • Classify the organisms collected based on their anatomy/morphology, where they live within the habitat, and their role in the community (food web)
  • Hypothesize what would happen to the community sampled as a result of changes in environmental variables or the habitat due to natural causes or human impacts

Self Guided Field Trips:

  • If you are unable to participate in a Naturalist led field trip to IBSP, or if our educational programs do not meet your curricular needs, consider organizing your own class field trip to the park. Please contact the nature center for details.