9 Natural Science Programs for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Pretty young girls having outdoor science lesson exploring nature

9 Natural Science Programs for High School Students

Natural science programs for high school students offer invaluable opportunities for hands-on learning and exploration in various scientific disciplines. These programs provide a platform for students to delve into the wonders of the natural world, conduct experiments, and gain practical experience that goes beyond traditional classroom education. Engaging in natural science programs not only enhances students’ understanding of scientific concepts but also fosters critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and a passion for inquiry.

Participation in natural science programs during high school can significantly impact college admissions and the overall college experience. Admissions officers often value applicants with hands-on experiences, and showcasing involvement in these programs demonstrates a student’s commitment to academic exploration and practical application of scientific principles.

Such extracurricular engagement can set students apart in the competitive college admissions process, demonstrating not only their academic prowess but also their enthusiasm for scientific inquiry. Additionally, having prior exposure to natural science through high school programs can better prepare students for the rigors of college-level coursework in STEM disciplines, contributing to a smoother transition into college and a more enriching overall academic experience.

AdmissionSight prepared a comprehensive list of the best natural science programs in the country meant for high school students.

1. Stanford Earth Young Investigators High School Internship Program

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: To be announced
  • Program Date: Summer of 2024 (exact date is yet to be disclosed)
  • Application Deadline: To be announced
  • Eligibility: Grades 10–12

The Stanford Earth Young Investigators High School Internship Program offers an exciting learning chance for high school students, especially those fascinated by environmental sciences. Hosted by the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, it was originally meant to be an in-person mentorship but adapted to a virtual format due to COVID-19 restrictions.

front view of the Stanford tower

At its core, the program focuses on research. Students have a unique opportunity to explore topics like climate change, hurricane physics, and ecosystem sustainability. The program involves a mix of lectures, interactive sessions, and practical exercises, all guided by Stanford Earth scientists. These sessions aim to be both educational and thought-provoking, encouraging students to actively engage with the material and the scientific community.

2. University of Chicago Stones and Bones (Paleontology)

  • Location: University of Chicago and Wyoming
  • Cost: $14,000 | Registration Fee – $50
  • Program Date: June 15-July 12, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: 10th or 11th graders; at least 14 years old; must have earned a grade of B or better in high school biology or geology.

The Stones and Bones program at the University of Chicago provides a transformative experience that exceeds the usual summer course. This four-week intensive program blends academic rigor with hands-on fieldwork, offering a comprehensive look at paleontology. It showcases the collaboration between the University of Chicago Stones and Bones (Paleontology) and the Field Museum, both distinguished in science and education.

The first part of the program unfolds in Chicago, within the University of Chicago’s labs. Here, you get into both the theoretical and practical aspects of paleontology. Field Museum scientists and university faculty lead you through the examination of fossil specimens, the analysis of geological layers, and the scientific documentation of your findings. This phase acts as an intensive training ground, providing you with crucial skills and knowledge for the subsequent fieldwork.

The program transitions to its second phase, taking place in Wyoming. In this stage, you join an ongoing Field Museum expedition in the Green River Formation, an area abundant in well-preserved fossils.

3. Environmental and Water Studies Summer Program @ Stanford

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: Unavailable
  • Program Date: Unavailable
  • Application Deadline: Unavailable
  • Eligibility: Grades 11–12

This program offers an advantage by providing the chance to enhance your understanding of environmental and water-related subjects. Its varied curriculum encompasses a wide range, spanning from climate change and ecosystems to water policy and conservation strategies. This acquired knowledge will lay excellent groundwork for your future pursuits in the field of environmental studies.

Biologists testing water of natural river

Ultimately, the Stanford Environmental & Water Studies Summer Program plays a crucial role in building a more sustainable and resilient future. By equipping students with the knowledge, skills, and passion to tackle environmental issues head-on, the program contributes to a world where humans live in harmony with nature, preserving the planet for future generations.

4. Environmental Studies Summer Youth Institute (ESSYI)

  • Location: Hobart and William Smith Colleges Campus
  • Cost: $3,900
  • Program Date:  July 14–27, 2024
  • Application Deadline: rolling admissions
  • Eligibility: Grades 11–12

ESSYI, the Environmental Studies Summer Youth Institute, is a two-week college-level summer program designed for talented high school students entering their junior and senior years or about to graduate. It aims to familiarize students with environmental issues and interdisciplinary approaches to solving environmental problems.

During the program, students delve into current environmental challenges, examining them from scientific, social, economic, philosophical, ethical, and political viewpoints. This on-campus program is a one-credit course (equivalent to 4 semester hours) providing an introductory overview of environmental studies.

5. Science At Sea (SAS) at Woods Hole

  • Location: Woods Hole, MA
  • Cost: $5,950
  • Program Date: 
    • Session 1: June 29–July 10, 2024 Voyage: Roundtrip from Woods Hole, MA.
    • Session 2: July 14–25, 2024 Voyage: Roundtrip from Woods Hole, MA.
    • Session 3: July 31–August 11, 2024 Voyage: Roundtrip from Woods Hole, MA.
    • Session 4: August 15–August 26, 2024 Voyage: Woods Hole, MA, to Boston, MA.
  • Application Deadline: March 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: Grades 10–12 and recent high school graduates

Submerged in the day-to-day routine aboard SEA’s SSV Corwith Cramer, SEA Expedition allows students to engage in all aspects of a demanding offshore sailing and oceanographic journey. As they sail through the coastal and offshore waters of Cape Cod and New England, students will develop navigation and sail-handling skills while actively participating in scientific deployments. Previous SEA Expedition trips have ventured into Cape Cod Bay, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, the Gulf of Maine, and George’s Bank (located at the continental shelf’s edge).

A male student looking for his university

The program usually takes place in the summer, and the specific dates may vary slightly each year. It’s intentionally scheduled to align with the summer break, ensuring that students can participate in this educational experience without it overlapping with the regular school year.

6. Students On Ice Arctic Youth Expedition

  • Location: Arctic, Antarctic and more
  • Cost: $15,000
  • Program Date: undisclosed
  • Application Deadline: January 31, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students that are 14–24 years old

On Students on Ice expeditions, youth participants from worldwide go on educational trips to the Arctic, Antarctic, and other places. A team of scientists, elders, artists, musicians, historians, knowledge keepers, and visionary leaders engages and supports youth in their learning journeys. They learn from one another while gaining a deeper understanding of these important regions, their histories, and their complexities. This fosters a commitment to climate action, building healthy communities, and environmental stewardship. The result is an experience that changes perspectives and inspires action and initiatives for a nature-positive world.

The journey provides an opportunity to engage with specialists in fields such as environmental science. These connections might open doors to upcoming research projects, internships, or careers in fields like conservation. Imagine yourself chatting about discoveries with a leading climate scientist or brainstorming eco-friendly solutions with a social entrepreneur.

7. Acadia Institute Of Oceanography

  • Location: Seal Harbor, Maine
  • Cost: $1,600 – $3,300
  • Program Date: 
    • June 16–21, 2024: Introductory Marine Science Camp Program
    • June 23–July 5 and August 4-16, 2024: Intermediate Marine Science Camp Program
    • July 7–19 and July 21–August 2, 2024: Advanced Marine Science Camp Program
    • November 22–27, 2024: Florida Marine Science Camp Program
    • November 18–26, 2024: Tropical Marine Science Camp Program
  • Application Deadline: Rolling Admissions
  • Eligibility: Students ages 10–19

AIO provides different choices to match your timetable and interests. There’s a 1-week beginner session for the keen learners, two 2-week middle-level sessions for those wanting to explore more, and two 2-week advanced sessions for the true oceanography fans. The best part is that you don’t need any prior oceanographic experience to be part of the excitement.

View of a sailing boat.

Beyond being a summer program, the institute is a transformative experience that molds young minds to think critically about our connection with the ocean. With its mix of high-quality education, practical learning, and breathtaking location, the Acadia Institute of Oceanography has solidified its position as a top institution in marine science education.

8. Creating Green Cities And Sustainable Futures @ Cornell

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: $5,250
  • Program Date: June 24-July 12, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 20, 2024
  • Eligibility: Grades 10-12

This course dives into the past and future of eco-friendly cities and the technological and social influences that continue to shape them. It explores urban changes alongside alternative transportation, renewable energy, green infrastructure, recycling, resource management, and sustainable economics, aiming to transform cities into the foundation of an environmentally friendly and socially equitable society.

The initial part of the course introduces students to the extensive, though often overlooked, history of environmental city development in the Western planning tradition. The latter part reviews current efforts to implement these approaches in addressing contemporary challenges to creating ecologically responsible cities. Specific case studies are examined within the theoretical context and political struggles that surround them.

9. The Columbia Climate School in the Green Mountains

  • Location: Columbia Climate School, Castleton, Vermont
  • Cost: $6,790 + travel fees | Application Fee – $200
  • Program Date: June 30–July 12, 2024
  • Application Deadline: rolling admissions
  • Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12

Nestled in the scenic Green Mountains of Castleton, Vermont, the Columbia Climate School offers a targeted two-week campus program tailored for high school students. This program will equip the next generation with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively address the challenges presented by climate change. The program fosters individual growth and provides a unique platform for students to connect, collaborate, and build strong relationships with like-minded peers who share a deep commitment to environmental issues.

Group of four hikers with backpacks walks in mountains at sunset

To bring the Columbia Climate School in the Green Mountains to fruition, the school has partnered with Putney Student Travel. Established in 1951, Putney Student Travel is a reputable family-operated organization with a long history of crafting and executing enriching, secure, and enjoyable educational travel experiences for youth. This collaboration ensures a well-rounded and impactful program, combining the expertise of the Columbia Climate School with the extensive experience and commitment to excellence of Putney Student Travel.

In conclusion, natural science programs for high school students play a crucial role in shaping a well-rounded and enriching high school experience. These programs not only offer hands-on learning opportunities, promoting a genuine passion for the natural sciences but also contribute to the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Moreover, the exposure gained through these programs can significantly boost students’ chances of gaining admission to the college of their choice.

Integrating natural science programs into the high school experience not only enhances academic preparation but also positions students as well-rounded, enthusiastic learners ready to contribute to and thrive in a college setting.


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