Frequently Asked Questions About "The Elms"


Who runs Elms Environmental Education Center?

  • The Elms is operated by St. Mary's County Public Schools and is the home of SMCPS's Environmental Education program.

Is "The Elms" the same as "Elms Beach" Park?

  • No, "The Elms" (Elms Environmental Education Center) is operated by the St. Mary's County Public Schools. Elms Beach Park is a public park operated by the St. Mary's County Parks and Recreation Department, and is located one mile south of "The Elms."


What should I wear?

  • Chaperones, teachers and students should all dress in comfortable clothing and shoes that can get dirty and/or wet. Please check the weather forecast for your field study site and dress accordingly, temperatures near the water tend to be cooler than at home and school. Layers are best in cooler weather, and rain gear is encouraged if rain is expected.

Can I wear sandals?

  • Please wear closed toe shoes that can get wet. Sandals and flip flops don't stay on well and won't protect your feet.

Is there food available for purchase?

  • There are no concessions available at any of our field study sites, please pack a healthy lunch in reusable containers and bring a refillable water bottle.

Can my child bring sunscreen and insect repellent?

  • Sunscreen and insect repellent are recommended in the warmer weather. Please remember that this is an outdoor field trip and your student runs the risk of sunburn and tick exposure. It is best to apply sunscreen and insect repellent before leaving home. Students who bring sunscreen and insect repellent with them will need to apply it to themselves. Chaperones may apply suncreen/ insect repellent to their child only. It is against school policy for any adult to apply sunscreen/ insect repellent to anyone other than their own child.


How many chaperones are allowed to accompany each class?

  • 4 SMCPS-approved volunteers are selected by the classroom teacher.

What is expected of chaperones?

  • Chaperones are vital to the success of our field studies, we appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedules to assist. Chaperones are expected to serve as active program assistants and small group leaders. In addition, please remember it is an outdoor environment and a physical program. We will be walking on trails in the woods and on the beach. Chaperones can expect to walk approximately one mile with their groups.
  • Preparing to be a chaperone (PDF)
  • Tips for chaperones (PDF)

Do I have to know how to canoe to chaperone the 5th Grade field trip?

  • Chaperones should be prepared to participate as needed and accompany students on water in canoes, but take a support role only, encouraging and allowing students to learn and experience for themselves. You do not need to know how to canoe to be a great chaperone.


How do I know if a field trip has been cancelled?

  • You will be notified by your child's teacher if their field trip is cancelled. The decision to cancel is usually made by 8:00 am. Programs are not necessarily cancelled by weather. They will be cancelled for safety reasons,for example lightning or cold water if canoeing, and also for system-wide weather cancellations (including delayed arrivals and early closures).

When will field trips be cancelled?

  • Programs WILL be cancelled if steady rain is expected for the majority of the period from 10:00 to 2:00. They will also be cancelled for a combination of two or more of the following factors: rain, strong wind, and cold temperature. Winter programs are based indoors with significant outdoor activities. The ratio of indoor to outdoor time is adjusted based on the above factors. No programs are conducted entirely indoors. The Elms building is not designed to hold classes indoors for a full day.

What if there is hazardous weather during the field trip?

  • In the event of hazardous weather during the field trip the instructors will take every precaution to keep your student safe. We follow the NCAA guidelines for lightning & severe weather. Weather is monitored constantly throughout the day. In the event of lightning, all individuals will seek shelter in a building at the field study site. They will remain in the shelter for at least 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning or sound of thunder before returning to any outdoor activity. In the event of a tornado warning, all individuals will seek shelter in the basement of the house (or other available shelter - turkey shed/ cottage at Sotterley) staying away from windows and doors. They will remain in the shelter until the treat of the warning has ended.

If you would like to communicate with us, feel free to email or call us the day before questionable weather (301-862-3964). Anytime ...

Have a question we didn't think of? Please let us know.