2nd/3rd Grade – Teacher, Maria DiCintio
Indian Grinding Rock

Indian Grinding Rock is a biennial field study for NCSA’s 2nd/3rd grade Gryphon class. This is the culminating activity in our unit on the California Miwok and Geology/Caves. Students spend one day and one night exploring the lives of the California Native American Miwok people. The students stay in the park’s Environmental Living campsite, where they tour a re-creation of a Miwok village and sleep in a bark house. The second day is spent exploring the Black Chasm Cavern- a National Natural Monument- for an “eyes on” experience of the geology of caves we have been studying in the classroom.   Curriculum areas addressed in this field study include: Social Science- understanding of the way Native Americans lived in our region- how they found food, how they interacted with the environment, and their mythology, Life Science- the plants and animals of our region, and Earth Science- geology/ cave formation.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium is the other biennial field study that the Gryphon class takes part in. This trip is a final activity in our study of oceans. We travel to Monterey and spend the night in the Monterey Bay Aquarium, to see the animals we have studied up close. The next day we travel to nearby Asilomar State Beach to view the beautiful tide pools, and explore this unique habitat. This field study addresses the plant and animal kingdom, habitats, and the importance of a healthy ocean to our planet.

3rd Grade – Teacher, Robin Stoenner
Malakoff State Historic Park

This is an annual field study for NCSA’s 3rd grade. They spend three days and two nights re-creating the lives of the gold rush settlers. Curriculum areas addressed in this field study include the environmental and social impacts of hydraulic mining, the interaction of settlers with the native people of the region, and the development of laws and early government in California. Physical, earth, and life sciences are also included.

4th Grade – Teacher, Kate Fingerson
Jug Handle State Reserve, Mendocino Coast 

Curriculum includes ocean studies, ecology, California Redwoods, California history, the Pomo tribe of Native Americans, team building, service work at the Jug Handle Reserve, tide pool studies, and art lessons. This trip is a well-established part of NCSA’s 4th grade curriculum.

4th/5th Multiage – Teacher, Lori Spencer
Donner Summit (every other year)

This 3-day spring field study follows the Yuba River to its source at the Donner Summit. Students do stream side bio-assessments and learn signs of a healthy water ecosystem tracing the path of the water from its source through the meadow. Curriculum also includes the human aspect of the Sierra Nevada region as they learn about the Native Americans, the emigrant pioneers and the life of Chinese railroad workers. The highlight of the trip is rock climbing and exploring the old railroad tunnels. Students stay in the historic Clar Tappan Lodge.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse State Park (every other year)

This 3-day fall field study focuses on the flow of water from the source (studied in the previous year’s Donner Summit trip) in the mountains to the sea as we study the estuary and the coastal ecosystems. Curriculum areas highlight the water cycle, human impacts and the importance of freshwater as a limited resource. Students investigate the geology, erosion and forces that shape the coastline. Students stay in the hostel at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Both the Donner Summit trip and the Pigeon Point trip tie in to the 4th-5th grades study of watersheds and their importance in our lives.

Fort Ross State Historic Park (every other year)

This overnight field study brings California history alive as students recreate the nations and live like the people who created the multi-ethnic community at Fort Ross, the base for the international fur and commodities trade. Curriculum addresses the coastal Native Americans, the Aleutians and the Russians, and California geography and history. Students stay in the Fort and recreate life in early California.


5th Grade – Teacher, Gary Griffith

Mt. Shasta and Lava Beds National Monument 

The learning objectives of this trip are to understand the geological forces involved in the creation of the Shasta region, to study the biological diversity of the region, to learn about the human changes in the region from native to modern times, and to develop the ability to artistically respond to the experience of the trip through visual art and writing. Students, teachers, and parent chaperones will stay in cabins for two nights and camp in tents for two nights.

6th Grade – Teacher, Ashley Totoonchie
W.O.L.F. School

Web of Life Field School (WOLF) is five days of hands-on science education in the outdoors! Standards-based exploration of scientific concepts and natural history through field study, group initiatives, fun songs, active games and living together in a community.

Our curriculum is closely matched with the CDE State Science Content Standards and will cover many parts of the Life, Earth, Physical Science and Investigation and Experimentation sections of the Science Standards. As students make observations in the field, the concepts act as tools to use in understanding and analyzing their discoveries.  Students explore what it means to be stewards of the earth. In addition to all of the science, students also explore the history of thearea through story, art, and debate.   Finally, it is a place where students can simply be in pure joy and wonder of the natural world surrounding them.

WOLF School is located at Camp Tuolomne Trails at 2800’ elevation on the edge of the Tuolomne River Canyon.  Our week includes two all day trips to Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy Valleys.

Students and chaperones stay in comfortable cabins. Sites have bathrooms inside the rooms, with two outdoor bathhouses. All meals are healthy and happily prepared by the WOLF School and are served in the main lodge and dining room.

At outdoor science school, students can expect to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Living and learning in a community with their teacher and friends, they have the opportunity to grow academically and socially. Food and safety is taken care of, so real learning can take place! This is a field trip that requires only enough chaperones for driving.

7th Grade -Teacher, Rachel Defer
Oregon Shakespeare Festival – Ashland, Oregon

This field study diverges from the rest and brings students back into the city and into arts and entertainment and developing a love for language and literature.  In 7th grade students study some of Shakespeare’s more famous works, read his sonnets, plays and soliloquies and then perform their own Shakespearian mash-up play in the spring.  As a culmination of their studies they take a trip to the world famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland where they stay in a local hostel, just 3 minutes walking distance from the theatres, and see three plays.  At least one play is by Shakespeare, but others may include world premiers of original plays or classic musicals.  The students are also able to take advantage of beautiful Lithia Park whose rhododendrons are in full bloom in May!

8th Grade – Teacher, Dave Gordon
Death Valley National Park

This field study has been a part of the 8th grade curriculum at NCSA for many years. It is an experience that students and parents alike look forward to all year, and even in the years leading up to 8th grade. Additional teachers who join Dave Gordon on this trip are our physical education teacher, and Asia Currie, one of our Artists in Residence. Students, teachers, and parent chaperones camp in tents. The curriculum for this trip includes studies of ecosystems and geology, poetry, journaling, photography, drawing, and painting. Students are expected to complete a study guide that asks 34 wide-ranging questions about Death Valley. Examples of the questions include: How have the plants adapted to conserve water? When did people first come to Death Valley and who were they? Why don’t the dunes have the same slope on each side of the dune? Students are also expected to complete a number of sketches and other art projects, to keep a daily journal and itinerary, and to be prepared to write poetry based on the trip when they return to school.