Headwaters School Science Programs

Our programs offer a high level, inquiry-based science research experience in a flexible setting. All programs meet NGSS standards.


All our programs provide an inquiry-based approach to science learning and the scientific method. We focus on Student Driven Research, where students design and implement their own independent research projects. Within this framework, we can teach a variety of subjects, and you can choose from longer, week-long programs or one class short programs. We do overnight programs on Donner Summit. We can conduct programs in your classroom, the field, or virtually. You can learn more about our offerings and subjects through the tabs below. 

Learn which programs are right for you:

We can help you navigate our offerings, from short online learning lessons to full research programs, and more. Set up a free meeting with us to discuss what programs would be best for your class. You can also stay up to date on our newest programs by signing up for our newsletter. 

What kind of research is possible?

Students in our programs can design and conduct research around almost any topic. Past students have created posters, digital presentations, given science talks, and even published papers. Check out some great samples below:


2020 Summer Research Experience student presentations:

2020 Summer Research Experience student presentations pt 2:

Headwaters Student Research Journal (click to access)

General Program Information

We call our educational framework “Student Driven Research” (SDR). This framework is a step-by-step process that allows students to conduct their own research. We start by teaching students to ask scientific questions and then have professional scientists guide them through the process of research to answer their question. The powerful experience of asking and answering their own questions gives students an unforgettable connection to science and the natural environment. These programs are certified accomplished by STEMworks at WestEd, among the top in the nation’s STEM programs. 

  • All programs are customizable in length, location, and add-ons
  • Our student-to-instructor ratio is ~12:1
  • Programs include professional development and lesson plans for teachers

Program goals

  • Students do an independent scientific research project
  • Students learn targeted content through their research
  • Students gain exposure to professional scientists as research project mentors 
  • Students learn or improve their ability to apply the scientific method
  • Students gain experience in writing scientific questions, hypotheses building, research methods, and techniques 
  • Students learn how to analyze data and present their findings
  • Educators gain the skills for implementing similar student research projects
  • All programs meet all 8 SEP’s and several CCC’s

About student driven research

Through our programs, students experience firsthand the basic scientific method that informs and guides cutting edge research in every branch of science.

We start by teaching students how to ask questions – a skill that many students have trouble developing. They use what they have learned from background materials in class and an introduction to the field site to think of questions they are interested in learning the answers to. We then build upon this base knowledge and support students in developing their own research projects and implement them through design, data collection, analysis and presenting their findings.

The powerful experience of asking and answering their own questions will give students an unforgettable connection to science and the natural environment.

Program outcomes

Between pre and post-program student surveys:

  • Student confidence in applying the scientific method improves 14%
  • Students’ perception of the sciences improves by 11%
  • 83% of students report learning something they would not have “in a regular classroom”

Program Topics

We teach programs based on NGSS standards, and on content typically covered in science classrooms for grades 6-12. The following is a list of our most commonly taught subject areas. There are many specific types of study which can be covered within these broad topics, and we can tailor the program focus to your specific needs. 

  • Middle School
    • Life Science
    • Weather
    • Earth Science
  • High School
    • Biology
    • Environmental Science
    • Chemistry
    • Physics

Staffing and Emergency Policies:

Headwaters Science Institute is committed to maintaining the highest safety and security standards for our programs.  When your children are in our care, you can trust that they are safe.

  • All employees and contractors are background checked before they start working with us. We use a national-level background check program called National Crime Search (nationalcrimesearch.com) that searches all states and county records for any criminal records, sex & violent offenders, and includes a terrorist search.
  • Our staff members are all first-aid and CPR certified. Some are Wilderness First Responder certified as well.
  • We have a safety plan for every field site we use and know where the nearest fire station is located. We are never more than a few minutes walk to the nearest road.
  • In the unlikely event of an emergency, we always work in areas that are easily served by 911. Our field site on Donner Summit is less than 2 miles from the nearest fire station with full-time EMT services and the hospital is a short 10-minute ride away.