Welcome to

Mattawoman Creek Nature Center

We provide meaningful, fun educational experiences for all ages. We emphasize a hands-on, inquiry-based approach involving multiple disciplines, spending as much time as possible outside.

We conduct programs at our on-water nature center, schools, other nature centers, parks, and private locations.

Most of our environmental education programs can take place on land as well as by kayak. Our on-water kayak programs are run out of our Discovery Center on Piscataway Creek, a beautiful, tidal freshwater tributary of the Potomac River just 1/2 hour from Washington, DC and Alexandria, VA.  For programs where our clients would like to explore the Chesapeake Bay, we often go to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, MD.

No kayaking experience or special equipment is required for our on-water educational programs.  Each program includes an educator, safety-trained instructors, a brief kayak lesson, and a safety discussion.  We use stable, two-person kayaks that instill confidence in the beginner, and we conduct programs either from the kayaks themselves or from beaches that are accessible by boat only. Kayaks are a great hook to capture the students’ interest, and they allow us to access places we could not otherwise reach.  Everyone gets some exercise, the boats are quiet, and they don’t pollute!

Contact us today to discuss your needs. Choose from specific programs that are correlated to standards, or work with us to develop a program that is customized to meet your needs.  Contact us today!

  • Introduction to Watersheds (land)

    We will make a model of the school’s watershed or the Piscataway Creek Watershed to understand watersheds and human impacts on water quality.  Students will gain an understanding of how water flows and how smaller watersheds affect the larger Chesapeake Bay watershed. (This is conducted on land.)

  • Macro Invertebrates & Fish (land or kayak)

    Students will use nets to collect aquatic macro invertebrates and fish that can be used as indicators of creek health.  Students will identify and count the species and input the data into a water quality index.  (Land or kayak)

  • Water Chemistry (land or kayak)

    Students will determine creek health by conducting water quality experiments, such as measuring temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. Students will learn why these indicators are important and how they relate to the health of the creek. (Land or kayak)

  • Creek Botany (kayak)

    We will search for aquatic and shoreline plants and learn about plant structures and adaptations.  Students will also learn about edible and medicinal plants.

  • Creek Biodiversity (kayak)

    We will explore the plants and animals of Piscataway Creek to evaluate its biodiversity.  We will use seines and dip nets to identify and count invertebrates and fish, and we will identify submerged aquatic and other vegetation to determine how many different species are present, both native and non-native. (kayak)

  • Discovery Paddle

    We will spark student interest in science on a nature paddle full of sensory exploration.  Look in the water, listen for birds, and smell our favorite marsh plant that can be used to make candy.  We will encounter many different plants and animals on this trip, offering many natural teachable moments. (This is conducted by kayak only.)

  • Plankton (land or kayak)

    Students will collect plankton, learn to identify them, and learn about their role in the ecosystem.  (land or kayak)

  • American Eel Life Cycle (land and/or kayak)

    Students will learn about the fascinating life cycle of the American Eel and its critical role in the freshwater ecosystem.  If desired and available, we will kayak to some eel traps to count and measure the eels and record the data. (land and/or kayak)

Activities are correlated with standards of learning:


Structures and Adaptations

Life Cycles

Food Chains and Food Webs


Water Cycle

Ecosystems and Interdependencies

Human Impact on the Environment

Watershed Investigations by Foot and by Kayak

Students will investigate a watershed of choice through hands-on, inquiry-based activities.

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Atlantic Kayak Company


Washington, DC Metro Area