At School Programs

Headwaters at-school programs…

…engage students in the sciences while exploring a natural system nearby. By studying locations near your school campus, travel time and expenses are reduced. Students also strengthen their connection to the ecosystems they live in by designing and executing their own original research projects. In addition, all our programs are designed to teach students fundamental science skills, NGSS SEP’s and content, and NGSS DCI’s in a fun and engaging way.

Overview

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

Cost: Program costs are determined on a sliding scale based on financial need. Multiple class volume discounts are available.

Full and partially online options

 

Any information you see here about our in-person programs can be adapted to suit the changing needs of students learning online. 

Fully online program:

Students are guided through program topic and research methods through online lessons over digital platforms and through recorded videos. Students then select a field site near home to design a research project around. 

Partial-online program:

Students are guided through program topic and research methods through online lessons over digital platforms and through recorded videos. In accordance with guidelines, students then gather in groups of <10 at a field site guided by a Headwaters instructor. All hybrid programs strictly observe safety precautions and proper social distancing regulations. 

 Schedule

Day 1: During a two hour session students learn how to ask relevant research questions about the topic chosen by the teacher. The students draw background information from class and/or reading assignments to help. Students end the session by designing their research methods.

Day 2: Students get a half or full day of research at school or a field site. Students will execute their project methods and work through the many real world problems of data collection. Students will organize their data for homework.

Day 3: During this final two hour session, students analyze their data, relate their conclusions back to their hypotheses, and work on their final product. Students will be given homework time or an additional class session to finish their final product–a scientific poster, slideshow presentation, or paper.

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

Parent Night

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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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?

Meet Your Instructors

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