Field Trips | Frequently Asked Questions

Field Trips | Frequently Asked Questions

Thank you for your interest in bringing students to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Our school field trip schedule fills quickly and at this time we don't have any additional availability for the 2019-2020 school year. To discuss self-guided tour options for small groups (5-10 people), please email Tiffany Fourment or call 303.497.2401.  Be sure to read the FAQs before contacting us to schedule a field trip.

  • Reservations for summer 2020 field trips will be taken beginning March 1, 2020.
  • Reservations for fall 2020 field trips will be taken beginning March 1, 2020.
  • Reservations for spring 2021 field trips will be taken beginning May 1, 2020.

Please make note of these dates and we'll look forward to hearing from you then!

Field Trip Planning Guide: FAQs | Reservation Checklist | Reserve Your Date | Preparing for a Field Trip | After Your Field Trip

Students at the touch a cloud exhibit

A field trip to the NCAR Visitor Center is a fun way for your class to learn about weather, the atmosphere, climate, Sun and space weather, and more! Our interactive exhibits and hands-on Learning Labs help students explore the world around them.

Field trips to the NCAR Visitor Center are available for school, camp, club, and home school groups Monday through Thursday throughout the year. During the school year these field trips include a tour and hands-on learning experience in the classroom. Summer field trips feature a tour and an Outdoor Learning Experience. Please note that the maximum group size is 50 students.

To help you learn more about our field trip programs and figure out if they're right for your student group, check out our frequently asked questions below! If you have a returning group, feel free to go directly to the Reservation Checklist.


Before you book

Who should go on a field trip?
We encourage visits from student groups of all ages, including pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school, post-secondary, non-traditional, and mixed-age groups from home schools and clubs. Please note that the maximum group size is 50 students.

What happens on a field trip to the NCAR Visitor Center?
Our experienced science educators typically begin a field trip with a guided tour of the NCAR Visitor Center, followed by a hands-on learning experience of your choosing. Afterward, students can spend some time exploring the exhibits and/or take a short 10-20 minute walk on the Walter Orr Roberts Weather Trail. We work with you to tailor your field trip to meet the needs of your group.

How much does a field trip cost?
Field trips to the NCAR Visitor Center are free! As a renowned science center, we want to inspire students to learn more about the world around them.

How long does a field trip usually take?
Field trips require anywhere from an hour for our youngest visitors to a half day or longer for those at the college level. Most K-8th grade field trips last two hours, but we can adapt field trips to meet the time limitations of any group.

How can I arrange a field trip to NCAR?
Before you get in touch, make sure you've reviewed the Frequently Asked Questions and Reservation Checklist. Then, contact our School and Public Programs office by email. Visits are scheduled on a first come, first served basis and we tend to be quite busy during the school year. We recommend scheduling six to eight months in advance whenever possible.

What can I do to prepare before a field trip?
Learn a little about NCAR by exploring the UCAR and NCAR websites. A good place to start is the Air Planet People video, which will give you some basic information about the organization. Please let your students know that the NCAR Mesa Lab is a professional work environment with several hundred employees and that we expect respectful conduct during the visit. Also, be aware that we are at 6,100 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and students should dress appropriately for the current weather.


During the field trip

What do we do when we arrive at NCAR?
Before departing for NCAR, make sure that your drivers know how to get to NCAR and where they should park (PDF). It takes approximately ten minutes to walk to the entrance from the parking lot, so remember to arrive early! Buses can drop students off in the designated drop-off area. Vehicles are not allowed into the turnaround at the entrance unless arrangements are made prior to your visit. Our Field Trip Information (Google DOC) document is a handy guide to share with your chaperones!

What are our options for lunch?
Groups are encouraged to enjoy a picnic lunch on NCAR's Tree Plaza when the weather allows. Lunch accommodations are also available in the NCAR cafeteria and/or classroom. Student groups are not permitted to buy their lunch in the cafeteria unless arrangements have been made in advance of the visit. Teachers, group planners, counselors, and parent chaperones are welcome to buy their lunch in NCAR's cafeteria. Weekly cafeteria menus are available online.

My group has special needs. Are you able to accommodate us?
Our School and Public Programs staff are committed to serving every group who books a reservation for one of our programs. In fact, most of our educators have taught in special needs classrooms or programs in the past. When you contact us to schedule your visit, please let us know what accommodations your students will need.


After your visit

What follow-up activities do you recommend after my field trip?
After your visit, check out the Learning Zone for activities related to your Learning Lab.

How do I provide feedback after visiting the Mesa Lab?
If you have brought your students to the NCAR Mesa Lab visitor center for a field trip, please fill out our survey to provide feedback. You can respond by mail with the paper survey you receive during your visit or you can fill out our online survey.

Anything else I should know?
We want to hear how your visit went! We strive to ensure each experience at the Visitor Center is valuable and we are continually improving our offerings. During your visit, you'll receive a paper survey with a stamped return envelope. You can fill out the paper survey or our online survey to let us know how we did!


Learning Labs

What is a Science Learning Lab?
Science Learning Labs incorporate hands-on activities and a guided tour of sections of the exhibit relevant to the topic you select. This provides an opportunity for more in-depth learning around your topic. Our labs are designed for PreK-12th grades and are aligned to Colorado science standards. Check out our list of available Labs and their descriptions.


Have a question that you don't see here? Contact our School and Public Programs Office by email with any other questions you might have. We want to make your visit educational and fun!

Next step: Reservation Checklist