Mount St. Helens High School STEM Field Study

Students work with experts to set up their study plots

Students work with experts to set up their study plots

In order to provide opportunities for students to gain real-word experience and insights into scientific/technical careers, this program provides students with project-based learning through ecological research conducted alongside Mount St. Helens scientists in the field. The volcano is a unique outdoor classroom and laboratory for studying the response of aquatic and terrestrial systems. Student experiences are further enhanced by the opportunity to conduct comparisons along a gradient of disturbance from the 1980 eruption overlain by a variety of post-eruption timber management regimes (cut prior to 1980, salvage logged and replanted).


Students work side-by-side with Mount St. Helens scientists and land managers to collect data, develop a question, enter and analyze the data. Students then prepare a poster presentation and meet at Washington State University-Vancouver to present their results to other students and to scientists, land managers and educators from the community.   This is an on-going project with permanent research plots. Data are available from each study year.


Lessons include:

  • Introduction to field studies
  • Ecological response to 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens
  • Vegetation and aquatic sampling protocols
  • Developing a research question
  • GPS use and mapping
  • Leave No Trace ethics
  • Field-based data collection
  • Data entry and analysis using Excel
  • Presentation development and public speaking


For information on 2016 programs, please contact:



Participating Schools: Castle Rock High School, Toutle Lake High School, Wahluke High School, iTech Prep, Centralia High School, and CASEE (Center for Agriculture, Science and Environmental Education).


Partnering Organizations include: Mount St. Helens Institute, Washington STEM, USFS Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station, Washington State University-Vancouver, World Forestry Institute, ALS Global, Vernier Software and Technology, Pacific Education Institute, Chevron, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and the Weyerhauser Family Foundation.