At School Programs

Program Description:

Our Student Driven Research programs teach the scientific method through the creation of a field research project. By studying locations near your school campus, students strengthen their connection to the ecosystems in your community. In addition to delivering increased academic confidence, better social skills, and building science and language skills, all our programs are designed to meet NGSS SEP’s and content, and NGSS DCI’s in a fun and engaging way.

Coronavirus Update:

All our educators have been vaccinated and we are now offering in person field days. The instructional part of the program can be delivered digitally, and the field research is completed in person (outdoors).

  • Hybrid: Group intro sessions and project design takes place over Zoom. Headwaters instructors will visit your school in person to lead a socially distanced field research day at or nearby campus. Data analysis and research presentations take place over Zoom

Overview

Our programs at schools offer a high-level, inquiry-based science research experience in a flexible setting.

Cost: Program costs are determined by the length of the program. Multiple class volume discounts are available. Financial aid is available to low-income schools

Schedule

This is a sample schedule that lays out a full research Project. We can do shorter programs that only includes some parts of the project such as: scientific question asking, scientific literacy, and in introduction to field methods.

Day 1: During the first class session students learn how to ask relevant research questions about the topic chosen by the teacher. The students draw background information from class and a pre-assignment. Students learn the basics of scientific literacy.

Day 2: Students meet with their scientist mentor to finalize their research design and hypothesis. They will then develop their methods and equipment needs.

Day 3: Students get a half or full day of research at school or a field site. Students work with their scientist mentor and will execute their project methods and work through the many real world problems of data collection. Students will organize their data for homework.

Day 4: Students will learn basic data analysis and potentially statistics. During this hour session, students analyze their data with their mentor. They will learn relate their conclusions back to their hypotheses, and the scientific background information they have. Students will work with their mentor on their scientific talk or poster.

Day 5: Students will record their scientific presentation with Headwaters. The presentations can be shared with the parents and the school. 

Pre and post-program learning evaluation, in the form of a 15 minute assessment, are used to measure program effectiveness. 

Parent Night

On hold (due to COVID), but presentations can be recorded and given to parents.

We encourage you to host the optional capstone for this project at your school: a parent night where students can present their research. This evening is essential in bridging the gap between student learning and parent involvement. 

The Parent Night Structure:

The parent night typically takes place at your school in the evening of the final day of your program. Students and parents gather in a school classroom or auditorium for about 2 hours. Following a short introduction by you and a Headwaters instructor, the students present individually to their parents kiosk-style, as they mingle around the room, like a science fair. 

We can help you create question cards to hand out to the parents, so they have some ideas of what to ask the students about their projects as they watch the presentations.

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Meet Your Instructors

Our programs are taught by professional scientists and graduate students. Click here to meet our team.

Program Topics

Middle School Program Topics

Middle school is a great time to expose your students to the scientific process through conducting original scientific research. We offer overnight and at school programs for middle schools. All programs give students experience using all of the fundamental science skills laid out in the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) as well as several NGSS Cross Cutting Concepts. Below is a list of recommended topics by subject area.

Life Science

NGSS corresponding content: MS.Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems and/or MS.Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

  • Populations and Resources: 
    • How does the abundance of biotic and abiotic resources affect the plant, insect, and bird populations? 
    • How do organisms compete for limited resources and use ecological niches to survive?
    • What factors affect insect biodiversity and population size?
  • Ecosystems and Human Impacts: 
    • How do the biotic and abiotic (water quality, substrate, and hydrology) components of an ecosystem affect ecosystem services (habitat, water filtration, and erosion prevention)?
    • How have human-driven abiotic (development) and biotic (invasive species) changes shaped habitats in urban areas?
    • How can we use riparian bioassessments to monitor and design solutions that promote ecosystem health?

Weather

NGSS corresponding content: MS Weather and Climate and/or MS Earth’s Systems

  • Differential heating and circulation patterns: ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth’s Surface Processes and ESS2.D: Weather and Climate
    • Uneven heating of earth surfaces – How do different surfaces absorb heat differently causing changes to local air temperature? 
    • Ocean Current Circulation – What factors cause ocean currents to move and what impact does this have on global weather patterns? 
    • Air circulation patterns – How do differences in atmospheric pressure affect local weather?

Earth Science

NGSS corresponding content: Earth’s Systems

  • Erosion and Sedimentation:
    •  What factors affect rates of erosion and sedimentation around the field site?

 

High School Program Topics

All of our programs challenge high school students to apply fundamental science skills to real-world scenarios through the process of scientific research. These programs give students experience using all of the fundamental science skills laid out in the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) as well as several NGSS Cross Cutting Concepts.

High School Biology

Headwaters’ programs are a great way to challenge your biology or A.P. bio students. Whether it is at our Donner Summit Field Site or a location closer to your school, our instructors can help you find an engaging natural system for students to conduct original research projects around. All of our programs challenge students to apply fundamental science skills to real-world scenarios through the process of scientific research. All programs give students experience using all of the fundamental science skills laid out in the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) as well as several NGSS Cross Cutting Concepts. Below is a list of recommended topics by subject area.

NGSS Corresponding Content: HS. Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems and HS.Natural Selection and Evolution 

  • Ecosystem dynamics
    • How can we quantify habitat value and measure the effect this has on population size and biodiversity? (for plant, insect, and bird populations)
    • Why is it that wetlands are biodiversity hotspots and provide key ecosystem services?
    • How does riparian morphology affect water quality and the organisms living around the riparian corridor?
    • How does forest structure and composition affect susceptibility to parasites such as parasitic Dwarf Mistletoe in Sierra conifers?
    • How can changes to an ecosystem cause shifts in the natural selection pressures on plants and insects?
    • Seasonally dependent – What factors affect the timing of plant development and how could climate change affect these systems?
    • Recommended only for overnight programs – What factors affect nutrient cycling of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels in soil?

NGSS Corresponding Content: Human Sustainability 

  • Human impacts
    • How do human development and invasive species affect biodiversity and habitat quality in urban areas?
    • How does human activity affect turbidity and salinity in waterways? What impact does this nonpoint-source pollution have on the ecosystem?

Environmental Science

Headwaters’ programs are a great way to challenge your environmental science or A.P.E.S. students in the sciences. Whether it is at our Donner Summit Field Site or a location closer to your school, our instructors can help you find an engaging natural system for students to conduct original research projects in. Wetlands are our most common and popular field sites. All of our programs challenge students to apply fundamental science skills to real-world scenarios through the process of scientific research. All programs give students experience using all of the fundamental science skills laid out in the NGSS teaching framework, all Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) and several Cross Cutting Concepts, as well as almost all of the A.P.E.S. Science Practices. Below is a list of recommended topics by subject area.

NGSS Corresponding Content: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystem

APES Corresponding Content: Unit 1: The Living World: Ecosystems, Unit 2: The Living World: Biodiversity

  • Biodiversity and Bioassessment
    • What biotic and abiotic factors affect the plant, insect, and bird biodiversity around the field site?
    • How can benthic macroinvertebrate and riparian bioassessments be used to monitor and design solutions to promote healthy waterways?

NGSS Corresponding Content: Matter and Energy in Ecosystems

APES Corresponding Content: Unit 1: The Living World: Ecosystems, Unit 8: Aquatic and Terrestrial Pollution. 

  • Environmental Chemistry 
    • What factors drive changes in total dissolved solids, pH, nitrogen and phosphorus species in the waterways and wetlands?
    • Recommended only for overnight programs – What factors affect nutrient cycling of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels in soil?

NGSS Corresponding Content: Human Sustainability and/or Earth and Human Activity

APES Corresponding Content: Unit 2: The Living World: Biodiversity, Unit 9: Global Change

  • Human Impacts 
    • How does human activity affect water quality in waterways? What impact does this nonpoint-source pollution have on the ecosystem?
    • How have human-driven abiotic (development) and biotic (invasive species) changes shaped habitats in urban areas?

NGSS Corresponding Content: Earth and Human Activity

APES Corresponding Content: Unit 5: Land and Water Use, Unit 9: Global Change

  • Snow Science
    • Snow and Water Availability – How does the structure (temperature, crystal shape, and density) of the Sierra snowpack affect water availability in the state?
    • Snow Melt Mechanics – How do albedo, aspect, and forest density affect rates of snowmelt?
    • How does human activity affect snowmelt rates and runoff water quality in the Sierra?

High School Chemistry

Headwaters’ at school or overnight programs are a great way to challenge your A.P. chemistry students. Our chemistry programs give students the opportunity to investigate how concepts they have learned in the lab function in a natural environment. All of our programs challenge students to apply fundamental science skills to real-world scenarios through the process of scientific research. All programs give students experience using all of the fundamental science skills laid out in the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) as well as several NGSS Cross Cutting Concepts. Below is a list of recommended topics by subject area.

  • Water Chemistry – What factors drive changes in total dissolved solids, pH, hardness, and nitrogen species in the waterways and wetlands?
  • Aquatic Nutrient Cycling – How do human, plant, and animal activities impact phosphate and different nitrogen species concentrations in waterways?
  • Soil nutrient cycling – Recommended only for overnight programs – What factors affect nutrient cycling and availability of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels in soil?
  • Rates of reactions – PS1.B: Chemical Reactions – How does temperature and/or anaerobic conditions affect rates of reactions in natural systems?