Deepening our Connection with Nature through Education and Exploration.
Our core program for 25 years, Nature Studies provides hands-on outdoor education in Juneau 3rd-5th grade classrooms. We strive to provide every Juneau child a foundation in the outdoors, and a sense of comfort and curiosity in nature. Our programs include science curriculum-integrated lessons with hands-on field trips in the stunning natural areas accessible to Juneau schools. Made possible thanks to support from Discovery Southeast members, Hecla Greens Creek, and each school’s PTA.
Although Southeast Alaska has endless outdoor opportunities, many children in our community do not grow up spending time outdoors. Nature Studies introduces children to the outdoors by taking each classroom outdoors with a skilled naturalist each season. Additionally, the program provides natural history classroom instruction tied to the school’s science curriculum.
At a time when children are focused on more screens, for more hours, and at earlier ages, Nature Studies teaches children how to identify wildlife tracks, how to dress for the weather, and how to open their senses to the natural world. We introduce children to pursuits that will serve them a lifetime, whether that is an interest in geology or a passion for hiking.
By targeting all 3rd-5th grade classrooms, we seek to serve the entire community, including children who otherwise would not be introduced to the outdoors.
The Nature Studies curriculum is aligned with the core content of state and school district curriculum requirements for the sciences, and also features safety training, team-building exercises, and role-play games — activities depend on the grade and the season. Lessons include forest and watershed ecology; wildlife studies (habitats, predator/prey relationships, tracking); resident and migratory birds; the intertidal zone; forest succession; and fungus, bacteria, and invertebrates, among other subjects.
There’s no need to enroll. Nature Studies takes place in Juneau classrooms every season, thanks to the support of Parent Teacher Associations, Discovery Southeast member donations, and the partnership of local foundations and businesses such as Hecla Green’s Creek.
Week-long summer camps for children entering 2nd-6th grade (*plus limited camps for children entering 7th and 8th grade). We offer small group size and an excellent staff of knowledgeable adults. An open format allows inquiry-based learning and plenty of unstructured time, with activities emphasizing local natural sciences. Most of all, we’re outside having fun every day, with much of our time spent in the Tongass National Forest. Each day brings a new destination and the opportunity to learn, explore, and grow outside with old friends, new friends, and Discovery Southeast Naturalists. Our Day camps meet from 8:30-3:30 with at Twin Lakes, in the parking lot by the Caouette cabin. From there we travel to natural areas throughout Juneau, usually via 15 passenger van. Made possible thanks to the US Forest Service and the City and Borough of Juneau through sales tax revenue.
Full tuition is $260 for regular weeks, and $320 for kayak camp, but all camps are offered pay-as-you can – there’s no financial barrier for any family.
Discovery Days & Spring Break Camp
Day-long outdoor field trips in nature during in-services or school holidays (including Spring Break). Each day brings a new destination in Juneau’s fabulous backyard.
Generally for upper-elementary children, we also have occasional Discovery Day options for primary students. Sliding scale tuition makes this program affordable for every family.
Outdoor Discovery Leaders
Our after school programs at both Juneau middle schools focus on wellness and outdoor recreation. The programs are free drop-in sessions that finish in time for the late bus home. Because time outdoors builds healthy perspectives and habits, we’ve integrated the Sources of Strength evidence-based suicide prevention program into Outdoor Discovery Leaders. We’re grateful to the Juneau Community Foundation’s Hope Endowment for making this possible.
Middle school is an important age, when children start to explore independently. Our program provides a bridge to lifelong healthy habits–mental and physical.
After school sessions take children outdoors to develop recreation skills and the natural sense of comfort and confidence that develop outdoors. Developing outdoor leadership, recreation skills, and a supportive community, longer trips on weekend days are organized by program participants, and open to the entire school.
We offer two sessions at each school, one fall semester and one winter/spring semester. Occasionally we offer additional full day programs when possible.
Teacher & Community Education
Learn from great naturalists in an awesome classroom! Our programs include local afternoon or multi-day programs around Juneau and occasional longer field expeditions. Teachers earn continuing education credits (500 level courses) while exploring gorgeous areas and learning the natural history of Southeast Alaska. We offer affordable tuition thanks to generous support from our partners.
JuneauNature Seminars are weekend and evening classes for teachers and the general public. Learn more & register here.
Teacher Expeditions are designed to ensure teachers have all the tools needed to engage their students outdoors for years to come. Working with our classrooms outdoors can invigorate lessons, bringing abstract concepts to life and engaging children who may not be as engaged indoors.
There are three main components to our courses:
- Time outdoors to reconnect and explore our own curiosity,
- Natural history science information to inform the lessons we teach,
- The soft skills to make teaching outdoors second nature.
Lessons in our own backyard (2017)
In this 1 credit professional development course, Discovery Southeast naturalists and partners will show you how to plan and implement purposeful, engaging, place-based learning experiences outside. Using the Next Generation Science Standards science and engineering practices as a guide, you will learn how to design lessons that get students to think and engage with the outside world by immersing themselves in it. Open to all K-12 educators.
Crossroads in Cross Sound: Nature as an intersection of People and Place (2016)
In one of the most stunning locations imaginable, Crossroads in Cross Sound explores the interaction of humans in the natural world and how we teach that to our classrooms. Teachers come away feeling a deeper connection with nature, possessing tools for working with students outdoors, and better-understanding the natural history of Southeast forests, marine environments, and even global climate change.
We depart Juneau via boat for a breath-taking morning trip around the northern tip of Admiralty Island, through Icy Strait, past Glacier Bay to Cross Sound. Our class is hosted by the Inian Island Institute, at the well-known Hobbit Hole lodge. We will camp in wall tents or out buildings, but there’s also an option to reserve space at the Hobbit Hole for those interested.
We’ll be on a wilderness island, in one of the most powerful, active waterways in southeast, sandwiched between Glacier Bay National Park and the wilderness of the major Tongass islands. During our five days (four nights) at Inian Islands, Discovery Southeast Naturalists and guest instructors will lead hands-on classes exploring natural and cultural history, and there will be plenty of open time for reflection and exploration. Teachers seeking credit will have the opportunity to develop lesson plans for their classrooms. We’ll return to Juneau by boat on the 16th.
Juneau Icefield from Above and Below (2015)
In coordination with the Juneau Icefield Research Program and UAS instructors Cathy Connor and Mike Hekkers, this course allows teachers to explore Juneau’s most iconic landform. This five day trip spends three days (two nights) at Camp 17, just off the Juneau Ice Field and Blackerby Ridge. Learn glaciology, geology, and climate studies on the ice, then spend time at sea level at one of the world’s best resources for public education on climate change, the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. Discovery Southeast naturalist Richard Carstensen will lead lessons on the natural history of glaciers and deglaciated regions, and naturalist Steve Merli will lead sessions on working with students outdoors. Lessons emphasize how to bring the material back to the classrooms—or the classrooms to the outdoors. Participants seeking continuing education credit will develop a final project consisting of a lesson plan for their classes. Made possible through generous support from the Mountaineers Foundation and Northstar Trekking. Check it out on KTOO.
Ecology “Out the Road”: Eagle River to Berner’s Bay (2015)
Out the road…like only in Juneau. Wild watersheds with some of Southeast’s richest, most diverse old-growth habitat support brown bear and moose. This hands-on, multidisciplinary course will prepare Juneau educators for school-year activities in the region commonly referred to as ‘out-the-road,’ from Asx’ée, twisted tree (Eagle River) to Daxanáak, between 2 points,(Berners Bay). It will deepen teachers’ understanding of the natural and cultural history of these mostly undeveloped watersheds, as well as their comfort level in bringing students here. For participants from outside the Juneau School District, our studies and explorations of this incomparable natural area will bring familiarity with the interwoven fields of geology, hydrology, ecology, and cultural studies that can be applied throughout our coastal rainforest bioregion.
Brown Bears of Admiralty Island, Pack Creek (2005-2015)
Accessing the renowned bear habitat of Pack Creek by float plane, teachers camp and kayak in this stunning, wild area for five days. This is a behind the scenes experience of an area most tourists only get to peek into. Teachers immerse themselves in this astounding place with a knowledgable instructor and an experienced guide, learning the natural history of the area and its bears, and exploring how to bring those lessons alive for their classes.This trip is made possible, and affordable for teachers, thanks to generous support from Coeur Alaska.
Whales of Icy Strait (2008-2014)
Study the behavior, habitat and management issues of humpback whales and other marine mammals such as sea lions, seals and killer whales while kayaking in Icy Strait and camping along the north shore of Chichagof Island. We explore the ecological connections between terrestrial and marine systems and the effects of human use patterns on the landscape through forest, meadow and stream walks in the uplands bordering these rich marine mammal feeding waters.
Seals, Glaciers, and Climate Change: Kayaking the Wilderness of Endicott Arm (2010-2014)
Teachers spend five days kayaking and camping in Endicott Arm, with instruction from the US Forest Service. Topics include glaciers and climate change as well as wilderness and wildlife, with a focus on seals and pupping. Endicott Arm is an intimate, gorgeous, remote, and stunning location to learn about wilderness, glaciers, and climate change.
Discovery Southeast is proud to offer custom educational or research programs for groups or projects. Our naturalists are excellent educators and extremely knowledgeable. If you have a project or program that you’d like our assistance with, please contact us.
Some recent programs are below:
We’re happy to offer special programs for groups. Past examples include:
- Tracking and habitat courses for Juneau Community Charter School’s winter camp.
- Afternoons outdoors for Big Brothers and Big Sisters matches.
- SeaWeek education for all Juneau 3rd graders (salmon and water focus, at the Mendenhall Glacier) and 4th graders (shorebird focus at Fish Creek and the Airport Dike trail).
What can we do with your favorite group?
Discovery Southeast co-hires a naturalist with Goldbelt Heritage Foundation and has been proud to partner with Goldbelt Heritage Foundation, Hoonah Indian Association, and Sealaska Heritage Institute to offer place based cultural programs. Our favorite curriculum explores the question “Why do we live here?” and has taken students afield in Northern Lynn Canal and Glacier Bay.
In the past, our week-long trips have allowed children to paddle the cross admiralty route. More recently, we’ve supported AWARE’s (Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies) ReBound trips, which offer leadership-building opportunities for rural youth. These programs are currently irregular, however, we intend to build them into consistent opportunities.
Discovery Southeast and lead naturalist Richard Carstensen have undertaken many mapping and GIS projects illuminating the natural areas we love. For an example, check out the City and Borough of Juneau’s Juneau Trails Project.
If you’re excited to develop educational materials, mapping, or curriculum on a place, let us know!