Deepening our Connection with Nature through Education and Exploration.
Our core program in elementary schools for 30 years, Nature Studies provides hands-on outdoor education in Juneau K-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.
Nature Studies primarily occurs in Juneau’s K-5 classrooms, but to enroll in the special programs for homeschoolers please click here.
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 K-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 outdoor summer camps for children 4 years old up to 9th 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. Made possible thanks to the US Forest Service and the citizens of the City and Borough of Juneau through sales tax revenue.
Stay tuned for information on summer of 2023.
Full tuition is usually around $260, but all camps are offered pay-as-you can – there’s no financial barrier for any family!
A program for preschool aged children (3-6)! Haadaa Héeni encourages wonder in the natural world and invites children to enter the forest using all of their senses. We play, explore, discover, and learn together in the very special forest environment hidden away in a close location. We use music, science, stories, art, and full-body learning. Children have constant practice in how to trust themselves, how to be in a relationship with others, and how to connect with the land. Each session is based on the interests of the children and what is happening in nature, but each day follows a similar structure: a walk, forest kitchen play, story hill, snack, and open exploration.
Sessions are month long and follow the Juneau School District Calendar.
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. Made possible thanks to the US Forest Service and the citizens of the City and Borough of Juneau through sales tax revenue.
Sliding scale tuition makes this program affordable for every family.
Registration for October 2022 Discovery Days is closed. As always, keep updated by following us on social media or signing up for our email list at DiscoverySoutheast.org
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. 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 outdoor 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.
Register here for our “Wander the Wetlands at Montana Creek” walk we are co-hosting with Southeast Alaska Land Trust. Must register to attend!
Interested in improving your tracking skills this July? Click here to register for a Tracking Certification course provided through South Sound Nature School here in Juneau.
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 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As part of registering for a Discovery Southeast program through our website, please complete our online Participant Agreement here.
The form is for the parent/guardian to complete, unless the participant is 18 or older, in which case the participant should complete it.
There are three parts:
1) Contact Information,
2) Medical and Health Information, and
3) Legal Acknowledgement and Waivers.
Please take time to complete it accurately and carefully. If you have any questions, just ask. We’re at email@example.com
If you’d like to preview the forms, you can see a review pdf of the Participant Agreement here. However, please ultimately complete the online version, not the pdf version.