Thank you for your interest in bringing students to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Our buildings are currently closed due to COVID-19, and we are uncertain about when we will open to the public again. If you would like to register your interest in scheduling a field trip when the NCAR Mesa Lab reopens, please fill out this form or email Tiffany Fourment, and we will contact you when we begin scheduling again.

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Student playing with hands-on exhibit

The School and Public Programs office is always looking to improve our exhibits, tours, and learning labs. After your class has visited the NCAR Visitor Center for a field trip, please fill out our survey to provide feedback.

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Learning Labs

The NCAR Visitor Center offers a wide variety of Science Learning Labs for students of all ages. Check out the follow-up activities for our Learning Labs below!

Jump to a section:

Grades K - 1

Grades 2 - 3

Grades 4 - 5

Grades 6 - 8

Grades 9 - 12

Grades K - 1:

Name That Cloud: Observe and identify different types of clouds. Students will also model their favorite clouds and watch a cloud burst into action. Weather permitting, we will go out on our weather trail and use the NCAR cloud viewer to identify the clouds by their scientific names.

  • A Clouds Image Gallery, with pictures and descriptions of different types of clouds.
  • The Cloud Sorting Game: Sort clouds based on how high above the ground they form.
  • The Clouds Memory Game: Use your memory to find the matching pairs of clouds.
  • The Cloud Matching Game: Learn the names of different types of clouds.
  • The Clouds Teaching Box: A collection of classroom-ready activities, content, and multimedia resources to build student understanding about clouds.
  • The Art of Clouds: Create your own art to depict cloud types.
  • Cloud Viewer: Use the downloadable cloud viewer to explore the clouds and sky outside.
  • Create a Portable Cloud; A hands-on activity to learn the conditions necessary for cloud formation.
  • The Winter Weather Teaching Box: A collection of classroom-ready activities, content, and multimedia resources to build student understanding about the science of winter weather including concepts of Earth Science.

Grades 2 - 3:

Air: A Piece of the Weather Puzzle: Students experiment with soapy water to see how changing the temperature in a bottle changes how the air behaves. This lab is designed to help students explore the properties of convection.

  • Modeling the Behavior of Air with Bottles: Observe how changing the temperature of the air affects the behavior of air molecules.
  • Balloon on a Bottle: Brainstorm various ways that an un-inflated balloon placed over a bottle's opening can be inflated without touching the balloon.
  • Air on the Go: Learn that air moves from areas of higher pressure to areas of lower pressure in this "magic trick" demonstration.
  • Balloon Inside a Bottle: Learn that air takes up space and exerts pressure.
  • Modeling a Weather Front: A demonstration of what happens at a weather front, when cold and warm fluid meet.
  • The Winter Weather Teaching Box: A collection of classroom-ready activities, content, and multimedia resources to build student understanding about the science of winter weather including concepts of Earth Science.

Weather Trail Discovery: Students embark upon a scavenger hunt to see firsthand how weather impacts our surroundings. While walking we’ll be looking for and learning about the wonders that exist in NCAR’s backyard. Students will use weather instruments to learn how scientists collect and use data to understand weather.

  • Photon Folks: Play a game to understand how visible light from the Sun is reflected, absorbed, and/or transmitted through certain objects on Earth and in the atmosphere.
  • Looking Into Surface Albedo*: A hands-on inquiry activity to explore how the color of materials that cover the Earth affects the amounts of sunlight it absorbs. *While this activity is designed for older students, it could be adapted for use with 3rd graders.
  • The Winter Weather Teaching Box: A collection of classroom-ready activities, content, and multimedia resources to build student understanding about the science of winter weather including concepts of Earth Science.

Exploring Earth's Polar Regions: Arctic and Antarctic regions of the Earth are discussed in this Learning Lab. Students learn how penguins communicate and care for their young and what keeps polar bears warm.

  • Catching Snowflakes: Learn how snowflakes form and examine the variety of snowflake shapes.
  • Glaciers Then and Now*: Compare photographs of glaciers to observe how Alaskan glaciers have changed over the last century. *While this activity is designed for older students, it could be adapted for use with 3rd graders.
  • The Winter Weather Teaching Box: A collection of classroom-ready activities, content, and multimedia resources to build student understanding about the science of winter weather including concepts of Earth Science.

Grades 4 - 5:

Simply Shocking: Students will learn about lightning safety and electricity in the atmosphere. We explore why some clouds have an electrical charge and how charge separation creates lightning. Activities include learning the parts of an atom, generating a static charge, and interacting with a Van de Graaff generator.

Under Pressure: Recount the historic 2005 Atlantic hurricane season with its many named storms, devastation, and hurricanes such as Katrina and Wilma, and also look at the current hurricane season. Find out how air pressure and ocean temperatures impact hurricanes. Student activities address atmospheric pressure, the Bernoulli principle, and how hurricanes impact the Earth.

  • Balloon Inside a Bottle: Learn that air takes up space and exerts pressure.
  • Air on the Go: Learn that air moves from areas of higher pressure to areas of lower pressure in this "magic trick" demonstration.
  • Clouds in the Air: Why Are They There?: A demonstration to explore air pressure, temperature, and volume and learn what is needed for clouds to form.
  • Plunger Pull: Observe the force air exerts when a vacuum is created.
  • Not Your Usual Pop!: An adult-led demonstration showing how to crush a can with only air pressure.
  • Up and Away - Bernoulli's Way: Observe the Bernoulli Principle in action: as the velocity of a fluid increases, the pressure exerted by that fluid decreases.

Water Cycle Dynamics: Students explore where water is found in the Earth system. Students learn about the percentage and distribution of salt versus fresh water and explore how water impacts Earth’s living organisms. The water cycle game is included in this Learning Lab.

  • Rain Measurements Tell a Story: Explore rainfall data to learn how to measure precipitation through an interactive story.
  • It's Just a Phase: Modeling the Phases of Water*: Construct physical models to explain the molecular behavior of ice, water, and water vapor in relation to temperature. *While this activity is designed for older students, it could be adapted for use with 5th graders.
  • Water Cycle Activity*: Build a model to simulate parts of the water cycle. *While this activity is designed for older students, it could be adapted for use with 5th graders.

Modeling the Sky: Inside Weather Data: Students learn how meteorologists use weather instruments to collect data to inform the development of weather models and forecasts. Activities include using infrared temperature thermometers and hand-held weather stations to observe the current atmospheric conditions.

What's Up with Climate Change? Earth's Changing Weather, Over Time: Explore the basics of climate change, including greenhouse gases and their contribution to rising global temperatures, impacts of climate change in Colorado, and solutions for reducing human impact.

  • CO2: How Much Do You Spew?: Analyze the energy consumption of a hypothetical household to determine the amount of carbon dioxide they are adding to the atmosphere each year.
  • Drip Drop! Music video and companion activity: Watch a climate change video as a springboard to engage in conversation about this important topic. Links to the lesson plan and other resources from this page as well.
  • Climate Postcards: Learn about the climate zones of the world by interpreting graphed data and then identifying climate zones described in postcards.
  • Greenhouse Gas Game: Learn about the heat trapping properties of greenhouse gases as your team explores the relationship between human activity and climate change.

Grades 6 - 8:

Computer Models and Data Visualization: Learn how NCAR supports scientists in their use of mathematical models through the high-resolution animation of the Earth's complex systems. We’ll use augmented reality to see how these models represent weather and climate.

  • Model Resolution Exploration: Create and investigate a physical model to explore how resolution impacts model results.
  • The Systems Game: Play a game to understand how relationships between the parts and subparts of a system affect the entire system.
  • Connections: Make connections and/or cause and effect relationships between nature and built environment phenomena.
  • Hunting for the Pineapple Express: Identify the location of an atmospheric river (called the Pineapple Express) over the Pacific Ocean by analyzing water vapor data collected by COSMIC satellites.
  • Demonstrating the Thickness of Atmospheric Layers: Use scale models of the atmosphere in this two-part activity to compare the height of Earth's atmosphere to the size of the planet, and to learn about the thickness the four main layers of the atmosphere.
  • The Satellites and Weather Teaching Box: A collection of classroom-ready activities, content, and multimedia resources to build student understanding about satellites help make weather forecasts.

Modeling the Sky: Inside Weather Data: Students learn how meteorologists use weather instruments to collect data to inform the development of weather models and forecasts. Activities include using infrared temperature thermometers and hand-held weather stations to observe the current atmospheric conditions.

What's Up with Climate Change? Earth's Changing Weather, Over Time: Explore the basics of climate change, including greenhouse gases and their contribution to rising global temperatures, impacts of climate change in Colorado, and solutions for reducing human impact.

Grades 9 - 12:

Computer Models and Data Visualization: Learn how NCAR supports scientists in their use of mathematical models through the high-resolution animation of the Earth's complex systems. We’ll use augmented reality to see how these models represent weather and climate, and students will engage in a kinesthetic group activity exploring the dynamic, complex nature of systems.

  • The Systems Game: Play a game to understand how relationships between the parts and subparts of a system affect the entire system.
  • Connections: Make connections and/or cause and effect relationships between nature and built environment phenomena.
  • Hunting for the Pineapple Express: Identify the location of an atmospheric river (called the Pineapple Express) over the Pacific Ocean by analyzing water vapor data collected by COSMIC satellites.
  • Studying CO2 from Pole to Pole: Analyze data sets that show how carbon dioxide varies through the atmosphere at different latitudes, altitudes, and different times of the year.
  • Weather and Climate Data Exploration: Explore the relationship between weather and climate by graphing temperature data and comparing with climate averages.
  • Demonstrating the Thickness of Atmospheric Layers: Use scale models of the atmosphere in this two-part activity to compare the height of Earth's atmosphere to the size of the planet, and to learn about the thickness the four main layers of the atmosphere.
  • The Energy Balance & Greenhouse Effect Teaching Box: A collection of classroom-ready activities, content, and multimedia resources to build student understanding about the planetary energy balance and the Greenhouse Effect.