Our outdoor science program is designed around independent research projects to give students the empowering experience of designing and imDSC_6088 (Ambrose Tuscano's conflicted copy 2014-08-12)plementing their own original research projects. Our field site on the Sierra Crest offers diverse ecosystems for student engagement. Students investigate questions of their own design and build experiments in our natural laboratory. Potential topics include wetland wildlife, fire ecology, host-parasite relationships, environmental chemistry, forest succession, geology, and the impact of human history on local ecology. We also offer snow science programs for winter experiential programs. We are happy to mix in outdoor adventures such as skiing, kayaking, swimming, and hiking.

HSI programs are mobile! There are lots of great places to go. We can use conference centers around the country or go camping as well. Do you already have a trip idea, but you need science content? We will go with you and create a great research environment for your students.

Consult with us about experiential research weeks at any location that suits your program goals. This experiential program will prepare students for upper level science classes and looks great on college applications. In addition to conducting academically rigorous projects, students will have plenty of time for adventure and exploration in the surrounding mountains and lakes.

The spirit of experiential education is alive through Headwaters Science Institute programs. Students learn science by doing science, in amazing environments. The inspiration students have to chase down their own questions and to learn rigorous methods is a testament to the value of experiential ed.”

-Andy Giordano, Sugar Bowl Academy Dean, and Head of Experiential Education

Program Costs

Sample Schedule

The schedule is completely customizable based on timing (we can compact into 3 days or stretch it into more days, we are happy to utilize weekend days), location, program goals, and academic interests. 

Day 1

SpencerandkidsBMICheck in: 10:00 am at the Clair Tappaan Lodge. Students arrive at Clair Tappaan Lodge to check in and learn the layout of the lodge

Program introduction: 10:30am, followed by departure to Van Norden Meadow. In the field students will gain hands on experience conducting wetland monitoring, working with amphibians and insects in the meadow. Students are introduced the HSI question asking protocol during these introductory studies. We have lunch in the field and we return to the lodge between 3 and 4 to give the students some time to relax, shower, and prepare for dinner. The lodge has plenty of great activities for the students including: Ping-Pong, volleyball, soccer balls, a library, piano, and lots of board games.

Dinner: 6pm

Evening Program: 7:30-9 pm An environmental film and exercises in developing experiments. Quiet time starts at 10pm.

Day 2

Breakfast: 8am

Daily Program: 9:00am Students will head out to survey onsite old growth stands, collect phonological data, and learn about forest fire cycles. The group will eat lunch in the filed and then will hike to a lake after lunch where students will have the option to swim. Before returning to the lodge for dinner, students will do a brain storming session to come up with their research questions. We will break into small research teams (3-8 students) based on the question(s) they would like to answer. The research groups will start coming up with methods for their projects they will implement over the next few days. We will again return to the lodge between 3 and 4 to give students some time to explore the lodge and prepare for dinner.DSC_6045

Dinner: 6pm

Evening Program: 7:30-9 pm Engineering challenge or research project planning

Day 3

Breakfast: 8am

Daily Program: At 9:00am students will split into research teams based on project interests and head into the field to collect data. After lunch teams assemble their preliminary data and make adjustments to their methods. Afternoon provides opportunities for outdoor recreation: paddle boarding and kayaking on Donner Lake with a little bit of water science, or any of a multitude of awe striking hikes on Donner Summit.

Dinner: 6pm

Evening Program: 7:30-9:00pm Groups focus analyzing and presenting their data.

IMG_0101Day 4

Breakfast: 8am

Daily Program: At 9:00 am research teams will start collecting and analyzing the last of the field data. Teams integrate relevant scientific research and data into their presentations with support from HSI staff. Research presentations are honed and finalized.

Dinner: 6pm

Evening Program: 7:30-9:00pm Campfire with skits and smores

Day 5

Breakfast: 8am

Daily Program: Our last day starts with a morning peak hike for vistas and personal reflection or a hike to learn about the human history of the area.

Final Presentations: At 11:30 am research teams return to the lodge to present their projects to the rest of the group. Parents are welcome to come early and watch the team presentations.

Departure: between 1:00 and 2:00 pm

More information about Donner Summit programs

Check out and share our flyer: Experiential Ed Flyer

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