Camp Conditions Summary Explanation

These categories are presented to help applicants determine if a program is a good match for their preferences. Under each drop-down you will find a description, and an outline of what different numerical scores indicate. 

Our staff are trained and outfitted to guide our students through the challenges that come with our respective camps. We understand that each student will arrive with different capabilities, and we are prepared to train and support each student so they can learn, build, and grow. Even with this guidance from our staff, students should be aware and accepting of the conditions they will be working and learning in before applying to any individual camp. If you have questions about these categories with respect to any individual camp, please contact us at

Physical Exertion

How physically strenuous can the participant expect their camp to be. Field-centric camps tend to be more physically strenuous by their nature. Activities including but not limited to hiking, carrying gear, setting up tents, using fieldwork tools, using lab tools, and the amount of time those activities are typically done each day. Students are provided extensive coaching on basics to successfully complete the tasks at hand. While conditions in the sciences can be physically demanding, our staff works very hard to set students up to be successful. For any rating over a 5, we will provide a short list of main reasons why the camp received that rating on its webpage.

  • 1-3: Low to no rigorous physical exertion. Participants should expect moderate walking travel around campus, through town, or field-trip sites. Use of hand-tools and lab equipment is frequent at the high school level, and participants will be expected to be able to handle and use said tools ably. Many of our indoor camps fall into this category, while our dedicated field camps all rank a 4 or higher.
  • 4-7: Moderate physical activity levels. Participants should expect hikes with day-packs, carrying and using camping gear, or use of hand-tools. At the upper end of this zone, participants should be prepared for full days at field sites (potentially hiking) with day-packs; these sites and hikes can include hills or moderate elevation. Multiple full days in a row in the field are also frequent, which will include helping with setting up and packing up camp sites.
  • 8-10: Conditions are frequently physically strenuous. Participants should expect extended periods over multiple days involving day-hikes with packs of field equipment sometimes in difficult terrain), use of heavy tools and/or hand-tools, or carrying boxes of camping equipment. While participants will be provided consistent rest opportunities, the nature of the camps in this category makes avoiding said physical exertion difficult.
    • Our 2-3 week high school field camps include multi-day rest periods where students are engaged in less physically demanding activities. Typically these involve more extensive stretches of down time, as well as lab work or processing field data. Our goal is to give participants a real experience with field science, while training them how to cope with its rigors in proactive, healthy ways.

Academic Pace

Emphasis on building new vocabulary, conceptual understanding, and exercising critical thinking skills.

  • 1-3: New terminology and concepts are presented regularly, but with more extended amounts of time to build flexible understanding of new information. Students are consistently challenged to expand their understanding of key concepts, and build connections between facts. Most of our middle school camps will fall around a 3. None of our high school camps fall into this category. 
  • 4-7: Students will be consistently engaged with new content in discussion, mini-lecture, and group Q&A sessions. New terminology will be presented regularly each day as staff guide students through concepts and associated vocabulary. Students should expect concepts and terms to build on each other, requiring students to develop a flexible grasp of presented content.
  • 8-10: New terminology and concepts are presented at a rapid pace, building on previous content with expectation of students actively pursuing their own improved understanding. Students should expect to be doing academic work (engaging in discussions, presentations, research, independent or group activities) for 6-8 hours a day. (Note: These activities are broken up with breaks, games, etc, keeping with our best understandings of maximizing effectiveness of intensive learning environments.)  Curriculum for these camps are built to facilitate a high volume of advanced academic concepts, terms, and critical thinking scenarios in productive, accessible manners. Programs in this category still make use of a blend of discussion sessions, mini-lectures, and Q&A sessions to deliver new content.

Outdoor Intensity

Weather, and time outside in the elements. Conditions may include heat, rain, cold, wind, and seasonal storms during camping portions. 

  • 1-3: Very low to low concern with adverse outdoor conditions. These are typically camps that take place mostly indoors, and may include anything from individual outdoor activities to 1-3 day field trips. 
  • 4-7: We expect mild to moderate weather conditions, with some chance of rain or exposure to outdoor temperatures above 80F. These are typically one to two week field programs, where tent-camping should be expected for 4-5 nights in a row. 
  • 8-10: This is typically a combination of heat, and potential for seasonal storms. (Sometimes humidity is a factor as well.) In any case, our staff are prepared ahead of time to readily minimize potential danger from these conditions by modifying daily schedules and training students to work in them safely. (This training includes consideration for knowing when to end field work if conditions, such as thunderstorms, are outside our ability to manage and must simply be avoided.) These are typically field camps running from 2-3 weeks, with stretches of 6+ days in a row of tent camping. (In some cases, such as camps based in South America, we may use lodges instead of tents, but still experience outdoor conditions in this category.)
    • We do not operate any camps with consistently intense low temperature concerns at present; in some cases groups will be at altitude or in desert conditions with low temps that they will need to pack appropriately for. Details on apparel for each camp are included in the packing list for each camp provided to accepted applicants.

Computers and Mathematics:

Training and use of digital handheld devices and/or camp topic-specific computer programs. 

  • 1-3: Little to no computer usage. Students should expect at least light training with program-relevant electronic devices (digital cameras, GPS units, etc), but there is minimal time dedicated time using laptop or desktop computers.
  • 4-7: Moderate computer usage, usually during a dedicated portion of the camp curriculum. These can include digital illustration tools, spreadsheets for organizing data, and digital photo/video processing. For field camps, training and use of GPS units and digital cameras should be expected. 
  • 8-10: Extensive computer use. Students should expect to spend a good deal of time learning to use new applications, and implementing these new skills in practice. At the highest levels, the curriculum will likely include writing code, combinations of software to complete exercises, and creating digital visualizations of data. This will frequently also include statistical mathematics in our indoor research-focused camps. 

Art and Graphics

This encompasses training and practice of physical and digital graphic arts, including sketching, painting, photography, videography, and graphic design. 

  • 1-3: Specimen and location sketches are recommended for students to practice as an improvement to their field or lab notebooks. Staff will give feedback, but likely in a less formal manner. 
  • 4-7: Students should expect training and practice in any combination of digital photography, digital videography, field sketches, concept or process diagrams, and/or anatomical figures. Students may be tasked with working individually or in teams to process digital photos or videos as part of fieldwork record-keeping practices.
  • 8-10: Extensive artwork design and production. This may be in physical media, digital media, or a combination of the two. Graphic products will likely go through phases of staff and peer feedback to offer insights for improvement before completion. Students should expect these visual-arts components to be a central focus of the camp curriculum, and to be done in pursuit of best professional practices and standards.


This may include, but is not limited to, field notes, lab notes, written responses within group activities, social media posts, research summaries, and multi-phase editing to teach better writing skills and practices. 

  • 1-3: Basic note-taking is recommended but not specifically expected by staff. Students should expect to participate in activities with written components, including cooperative problem solving exercises and games. 
  • 4-7: Students are expected to keep a field and/or lab notebook throughout the camp which will be assessed by staff to provide feedback. (Feedback is designed to be constructive, and to facilitate individual improvement. No grades or scores are assigned at any point.)
  • 8-10: Written work may include more extensive field or lab notes as students are trained to follow best professional practices for the work being done. (This will also include written feedback from instructional staff, as described above.) Writing product activities and exercises will be more directed by staff as a central theme of the camp, with drafting, peer-review, and editing phases built in to improve the quality of work.