Science Investigations

Students engage in authentic scientific research during their NatureBridge program, experiencing scientific principles firsthand.

Science Investigations

We envision a world in which every student learns about the science of nature, is excited by its beauty, and is motivated to take actions that protect the natural world. Our approach to environmental science helps build an environmentally and scientifically literate society that prioritizes long-term, informed decision-making and innovative solutions to critical environmental problems.

Using our national park ecosystems as classrooms, we provide opportunities for students to engage in scientific research. Our students explore the complexities of the natural world using scientific practices that ignite curiosity and inspire awe. They might participate in an established citizen science project or create a research project of their own design. They collect data, share their findings with their learning group, and engage in scientific discourse with their peers by practicing argumentation from evidence. Whenever possible, NatureBridge educators connect students’ research with the larger scientific community by inputting data onto public platforms and comparing their findings to public data sets.

NatureBridge science investigations:

  • Empower students to lead with curiosity, think critically, and learn how to seek answers to their questions;
  • Support NGSS science practices;
  • Develop and build upon students’ existing skills, abilities, and knowledge;
  • Connect participants with the larger scientific community; and
  • Create motivated global citizens who are inspired to protect our natural world.


Student-driven Investigations

NatureBridge educators support students in investigating a question of their own design. Research topics are inspired by place-based observations. Students collect data, share their findings with their learning group, and engage in scientific discourse with their peers by practicing argumentation from evidence.

Research questions can vary widely, based on the ecological features of the national park and student and teacher interest. Recent investigations included these highlights:

  • An investigation of the body temperature difference between lizards and newts; students collected and graphed their data, determined averages, and came up with reasons for the discrepancy.
  • An exploration of animal behavior by student observations of Tegula snails in sunny and shady environments.
  • A comparison of the water content of snow in the Crane Flat meadow versus the surrounding forest.


Citizen Science* Projects

When NatureBridge participants engage in citizen science projects, they collect data investigating current environmental issues. These projects are designed to tie participants into the larger scientific community and create motivated global citizens who are inspired to protect our natural world.

Examples of NatureBridge Citizen Science Projects


Phenology is the study of cyclical and seasonal biological events (such as the timing of new leaf buds and pollen release) in relation to variations in climate. NatureBridge students track phenological events of native plants in national parks to monitor the impacts of climate change. Through our partnerships with the USA National Phenology Network, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the National Park Service, students contribute to a national effort to understand the responses of plants and animals to environmental change.


Water Quality and Macroinvertebrate Monitoring

To learn about the importance of healthy aquatic ecosystems students collect water quality data on streams, lands, and ponds at NatureBridge locations. Students also identify macro-invertebrates living in these water systems as biological indicators of pollution levels and stream health.


Wildlife Monitoring

NatureBridge supports park wildlife biologists monitoring the populations of various species, including the elusive fishers in Olympic and black bears in Prince William Forest. Students check motion-activated cameras deployed in strategic locations in the park to detect these animals, contributing critical information about the population status and habitat requirements. These studies inform efforts to help the re-colonization of species to their former ranges. Students also discover other elusive wildlife inhabiting the park!


For some of our participants, the term citizen science may feel exclusive or alienating. We aspire to use a more inclusive pedagogical approach that reflects the range of nationalities of our participants. We welcome opportunities to engage in conversations regarding the use of the term citizen science, both within the larger scientific community as well as with our participants in the field.


Bring your students!

Our environmental science education programs can enhance your classroom curriculum and offer opportunities for students to engage in research investigations and citizen science projects in one of our national park locations. Learn more about how our programs can help you meet your educational goals.



Our students had the opportunity of a lifetime putting science into action in a way they would never have been able to without NatureBridge. 

-Kimberly, 5th grade teacher, Excel Academy