Mountain Naturalist

BySternberg Museum

Mountain Naturalist

Financial Aid
Student testimonials
Parent testimonials


Travel across the Kansas prairie to Colorado to explore wildlife and habitats high up in the Rocky Mountains! Students will be lead on excursions to find and identify plants and animals in majestic wilderness. This includes setting motion-sensing trail cameras, to catch a glimpse of critters that are a bit more shy. We will also explore the history of the Rocky Mountains, and how their formation affected the wildlife and habitats of western North America. Students will get to see transitions in animal and plant life, and discuss explanations for these differences with instructional staff. Our adventures also include nocturnal wildlife hikes, looking for owls, foxes, insects, and other night time creatures. We will camp at different locations along the way, and use tools such as GPS units, black lights, spotting scopes, and other tools to learn about how professional scientists investigate the natural world. Along the way, we will emphasize discussion of ideas and critical thinking skills, helping students build knowledge as well as mental tools to tackle complex subjects. The mountains are calling! Let’s go!

Program Cost

Tuition is $660 per member, and $740 per non-member.

Application Requirements

– Student applicants must be ages 11 to 13 as of June 2018.
– 1 page (2-3 paragraph) letter of interest from the student applicant.
– Letter of recommendation from the non-family member for the student applicant.
– Financial aid application paperwork (if applying for financial assistance).
– Complete online registration.
– Submit correctly filled out, signed waiver and release form.

Contact Us

For questions about the Sternberg Science Camps programs, contact Education Director David Levering at, or 785-639-5249.

Next Generation Science Standards

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a national collaborative set of benchmarks for science education in the United States. Here, we have listed parts of the NGSS subject contents that are included in this camp program.

From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
MS-LS1-4      MS-LS1-5      MS-LS1-6

Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      MS-LS2-2      MS-LS2-3

MS-LS2-4      MS-LS2-5 

Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
MS-LS4-1     MS-LS4-4



To understand the differences we observe in organisms, an understanding of evolution is absolutely necessary. Students are presented with an initial lesson on how populations of organisms evolve, and how selection over time can lead to new species. We continue lessons on evolutionary biology throughout the program, always relating back to the essential concepts of heredity, selection, and relating genes to physical features. From beak shape and feather colors in birds to the shapes flowers, we will be discussing evolutionary biology frequently, in great depth.

Studying the interconnected nature of organisms to each other and their environment is crucial for understanding the structure of that ecosystem, and why organisms have evolved as they have. Within the extremely broad field of ecology, we make sure to touch on the following during the program, tailored for abilities of a junior-high student audience:
– Population ecology
– Community ecology
– Niche ecology
– Trophic ecology
– Behavioral ecology
– Biogeography

Human environmental impacts are a huge concern, even  high up in the mountains. The majority of our hikes and exploring will take place in habitats set aside to protect them from destruction and pollution. Even still, human environmental impacts can still be easily found in all the ecosystems we visit. Students will participate in lessons and discussions about the importance of habitat and biodiversity conservation, including how to approach these topics in the 21st century.

A majority of our field lessons and exploring will require 2-4 hour hikes through the mountains. In order to stay safe and healthy, students will receive instruction on properly packing their backpack, optimal attire, hydration, footwear, use of sunscreen, self-awareness and group safety. Weather will typically be warm during the day, and cooler at night (and we do go out on night hikes to look for nocturnal wildlife, especially owls). Preparation is key, and we will make sure your student has the information to be prepared.

Taking initiative, staying organized, and effectively communicating are all important skills for working with a team in the field. Over the course of the program, students are coached on developing these areas. With guided opportunities to lead portions of field work, students are encouraged to develop their voices, organize team efforts, and build confidence in their abilities.

From staying hydrated to dealing with bad weather, students are introduced to the hazards of field work and how to effectively, safely deal with them. Staff provide lessons on safety through discussion, making sure students have a clear understanding of problems that can arise and how to effectively avoid them, or mitigate their effects afterwards.

Knowing some basics of camping is essential to field work. Scientific field work is often done in remote or semi-remote locations, making camping skills necessary to being able to do field work at all!

Training includes:
– Putting up tents
– Camp cooking
– Setting up and breaking down camp
– Leave No Trace strategies
– Efficiently loading and unloading field vehicles
– Environmental injury and illness mitigation
– Building and safely managing a campfire