Field Trips | Reserve Your Field Trip

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Learning Labs

A Learning Lab is a 2-hour experience that includes an exhibit exploration and classroom activity. The 45-minute classroom activity incorporates hands-on activities and has been specifically designed for different grade bands. During the field trip, students will also go on a 45-minute exploration of the NSF NCAR Mesa Lab that aligns with the subjects from the selected Learning Lab. This provides an opportunity for more in-depth learning about your topic. Our labs are designed for PreK-12th grades and are aligned to Next Generation Science Standards. Field trips to the NSF NCAR Mesa Lab are entirely free, but transportation and lunch are not included.

Summer Learning Labs:

  • Engineering for Change: An Extreme Weather Design Challenge (Grades PreK-12): Calling all engineers, inventors, designers, and crafters! Extreme weather presents many challenges as well as exciting opportunities for innovation to help our communities stay safe. Engineers of all ages will get crafty and curious while building structures to protect people from extreme weather and exploring outside to learn how researchers at the U.S. NSF National Center for Atmospheric Research rely on creativity and teamwork to explore our amazing planet.
  • Our Powerful Planet (Grades PreK-12): With raging wildfires, spinning storms, towering trees, and a blazing Sun, our planet is a powerful place! Become an Earth explorer at the U.S. NSF National Center for Atmospheric Research while discovering our amazing planet outside on our Weather Trail and in our Ozone Garden. Investigate the impacts of wildfires, air quality, and our Sun on people, plants, and animals. Then get up hands-on with our interactive exhibits to investigate more about weather, climate, and our Sun.

Note: A significant portion of summer learning labs takes place outside, so students will need to dress appropriately and wear attire for walking on a rough dirt trail. If the weather is severe enough to restrict us from going outside, we will switch the outdoor Weather Trail experience to an indoor exhibit experience. Please email the School and Public Programs team to discuss accessibility accommodations for your group.

School Year Learning Labs:

  • Cloud Detectives (Grades PreK-K): Send your students’ curious minds soaring as they explore the science of clouds. Through song, story, art, and play, students will learn about the many different types of clouds. Students will touch a cloud and watch a cloud burst into action. Weather permitting, this Learning Lab may include a short cloud walk outside on the Walter Orr Roberts Weather Trail.
  • Air: A Piece of the Weather Puzzle (Grades 1-3): Did you know a typical cumulonimbus cloud can weigh as much as 253 blue whales? How does it stay up in the sky?! Explore how the sun affects our Earth’s weather with an interactive experiment comparing hot and cold air. Transform your students into cloud detectives as we explore this cloudy mystery together and learn how air behaves when it changes temperature.
  • Weather Trail Discovery (Grades 2-3): Calling all weather explorers! Students embark upon an outdoor science scavenger hunt to see firsthand how weather impacts our surroundings. While walking on the Walter Orr Roberts Weather Trail, we’ll use scientific instruments to look for and learn about the weather wonders in NSF NCAR’s backyard. Note: A significant portion of this program takes place outside, so students will need to dress appropriately for the weather and wear shoes for walking on a dirt trail. If the weather is severe enough to restrict us from going outside that day, we will switch your Learning Lab to a different program that can be run inside.
  • Sky Sleuths: Inside Weather Data (Grades 3-5): Put your detective hats on as we discover what clues scientists use to create weather forecasts. We’ll explore how meteorologists gather weather data from around the world and use supercomputers and models to create the forecasts that help us plan our lives and stay safe. Your meteorologists-in-training will team up to gather real weather data outside the NSF NCAR classroom, then graph and analyze their own atmospheric data. Note: A short portion of this program takes place outside, so students should dress appropriately for the weather and wear shoes for walking on a dirt trail.
  • Simply Shocking (Grades 3-5): Nature provides a spectacular show when lightning strikes. Students explore this hair-raising phenomenon to discover what lightning is and how it forms. Turn your students into a thunderstorm, and discover that while there are many kinds of lightning, there are simple ways we can stay safe from this stunning weather hazard. 
  • What's Up with Climate Change? Earth's Changing Weather, Over Time (Grades 4-8): 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.
  • For grades 9-12, we welcome individualized program requests. Email our School and Public Programs team at to talk about setting up a field trip for this age group.

Learning Lab Visual Schedules

Help your students get prepared for each step of the field trip and gain confidence in independence by using our Visual Schedules. This resource is specifically developed for students with ASD or related disabilities, but can be beneficial for anyone! 

Additional Visual Schedules coming soon. 

Before Making Your Reservation:

Make sure you know the following information before contacting us to schedule your field trip:

  1. Your preferred Learning Lab, listed above.
  2. Your preferred field trip dates - you will need to provide 3 preferred dates along with any general availability. School year field trip programs run from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm MT on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Summer field trips run on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm MT. We will only consider field trip requests at least 3 weeks in advance of your date. Please keep in mind we tend to book up to 5 months out and field trips are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis.
  3. Information about your group, including student’s grade(s), number of students, and an estimated number of teachers/chaperones (an 8:1 student-to-adult ratio is suggested). Please remember our field trip group sizes are limited to 15*-50 students. If your group is larger than 50, you will be split into programs across multiple days.
  4. Information about any individuals with disabilities or needs requiring accommodation.
  5. Contact information for you and any other educators for the day of the field trip.
  6. Plans for lunch (if applicable).
  7. Transportation to the NSF NCAR Mesa Lab, located at 1850 Table Mesa Drive, Boulder, CO 80305.

*Please note our group size minimum has increased to at least 15 students. 

Making Your Reservation:

We are now accepting reservations for Summer 2024. We are fully booked for reservations for the 2023-2024 school year (September 2023-May 2024). 

If you are interested in booking a Summer 2024 field trip or joining our Spring 2024 waitlist, please fill out our In-Person Program Request Form. If joining our waitlist, please keep in mind that you may get notified of an opening with short notice. 

To stay in the loop with reservation and program announcements, sign up for our monthly K-12 newsletter. Each April, field trip reservations open for the upcoming Fall semester. Each August, field trip reservations open for the following Spring semester.

Our team will be in touch about the program within ten (10) business days. If you have any questions or need to make adjustments to a submitted request, please email the School and Public Programs team


To cancel a confirmed field trip, please email us at least two weeks in advance. If a last-minute cancellation is necessary, please email us or call 303.497.2401 as soon as possible.


Next step: Prepare for a Field Trip