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STEM Field Trips At ACE Adventure Resort

Each of our S.T.E.M.-based field trips offer hands-on learning in a stunning outdoor classroom. Students will raft, zip, climb or hike their way to becoming more interested in the world around them while performing scientific studies or experiencing living history. Studies of similar programs show that participation increases students’ enthusiasm for learning, critical thinking and relationship skills, and improves academic performance across curriculums.

Contact our Group Sales Team for more information about STEM programs at ACE: or 866.347.6296

STEM Hydrology Fieldtrips

Lesson Plan

Hydrology – An Explanation of WhitewaterA Journey through the New River Gorge is a journey through time that began over 300 million years ago. That’s when the youngest rocks of the gorge were formed and water and erosion began to carve this thousand-foot canyon. Considered one of the oldest rivers in the world, it makes an ideal “classroom” for exploring first-hand how the waters on our planet cycle through the environment and sustain life as we know it.

As part of this full-day hydrology study, students will raft the New River Gorge, a section appropriate to their age range. In this floating classroom, students will learn about how water, the landscape, and human activity are interconnected. They will explore why what is a precious resource and how they can become part of the solution to its preservation by participating in a stream survey.


  • Mark observations and measurement to identify quality based on observable properties.
  • Observe how the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere interact.
  • Model the amount of water and fresh water in various reservoirs to provide evidence about the distribution of water on Earth.
  • Develop a model to describe the cycling of water amount living (Biotic) and non-living (abiotic) parts of an ecosystem.
  • Collect data that shows how changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
  • Practice the skills and methods designed to monitor and minimize human impact on the environment.


Overview Procedure: 

  • Introduction (20 minutes)
  • Drop in the Bucket (20 minutes)
  • Pools, Rapids, and Hydraulics or Story of the New River Card Activity (20 minutes)
  • River Anatomy (During Whitewater Rafting Trip)
  • Water Quality Survey: Biodiversity analysis (45 minutes)
  • Water Quality Survey: Chemical profile (45 minutes)
  • Conclusion (15 minutes)
  • Macro-invertebrate Mayhem (30 minutes) or To Dam or Not to Dam (30 minutes)

Ecology Expedition

Ziplining may be fun, but it can also be used to explore the ecosystems that exist along the rim of the New River Gorge. Incorporating curriculum-standard-based activities, teacher will be able to enrich textbook lessons through a hands-on science day. During this full day trip, students learn how plants, animals, and no-living factors play critical roles in their environment. Among other activities that teach self-awareness and human impacts, students will record the biodiversity of the New River Gorge.


  • Learn how certain plants and animals adapt to and change their environment
  • Learn how parts of an ecosystem are interrelated
  • Practice critical thinking skills be debating an environmental issue
  • Learn to identify common plant, tree, and animal species on ACE’s property
  • Learn about dichotomous keys and practice using them

Essential Questions/Guiding Questions

  • What is an ecosystem?
  • How are abiotic factors, plants and animals interrelated?
  • What plant and animal species can be found in the New River Gorge?
  • How do some plant and animal species adapt to their environment?
  • Is climate change affecting local flora and fauna?
  • How can laymen contribute to science?

Activity Descriptions

Carrying Capacity – An active game that demonstrates the dynamic nature of populations within an ecosystem.

Energy Pipeline – This activity demonstrates the concept that energy is lost as you move from plants to herbivores to carnivores in the food chain. It shows student that it is more “energetically expensive” to be higher up on the food chain.

Ziplining – Students will have the opportunity to view different ecosystems while traveling by zipline. They will also learn that ziplines were used by scientists to help them travel through their test sites. There are 9 zips and 2 sky bridges included in the day’s activities.

Citizen Science Project – Students will participate in a project to plot the biodiversity of the New River Gorge. Using iNaturalist (a citizen science database) they will classify and record specimens to be uploaded. Students will then complete a simple worksheet that demonstrates what can be done with the information they have collected.

Beaver Ecology – Students will participate in a lesson that demonstrates the effect beavers have on the surrounding environment and how they have adapted genetically to it.

The Great Debate – Students will practice their debate skills by participating in a discussion about one of three tops: invasive species, recreational use of land, or climate change — (or choose your own).

National Park Service’s New River Gorge – Start exploring our ecosystem!

West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Publications:

iNaturalist – A citizen science database for recording observation about the natural world.

Geology in the Gorge

From the HImalayas to the deepest, darkest depths of the Mariana Trench, humans have been fascinated for centuries with how our planet came to be and what makes it “tick.”

With Such a revealing specimen in our own backyard, the New River Gorge is the subject of ACE’s hands-on geology curriculum. The first half of the day includes interactive lessons that examine the erosion and evolution that have exposed formations and our planet’s geological character in this thousand-foot gorge. Students learn the natural history of the New River Gorge, the factors that cause change, and how geology affects ecosystems and economies.

Part two of our day takes on a very different sort of discovery. Students have the opportunity to climb the very cliffs our planet spend millions of years compressing into rock. It’s a tactile experience that drives home how our planet seems so unchanging but is, in fact, evolving all the time.


  • Explore the formation of observable landforms in the New River Gorge
  • Discover how geological characteristics of an area influence what lives there
  • Recognize factors that cause change within the system
  • Explore prehistoric life by hunting for and observing fossils
  • Research renewable and nonrenewable energy sources

Essential Questions/Guiding Questions:

  • What are the parts of this landscape?
  • Are they changing/Are geology and ecology related?
  • What fossils can be found in this landscape?
  • What are the pros and cons of renewable and nonrenewable energy sources?

Activity Descriptions

Story of the New River Gorge – Students will learn how the New River Gorge came to be by acting out its geologic history.

Dynamic Lithosphere Game – An active vocabulary review game that highlights plate tectonics and fossil formation processes.

Fossil Hunting – Explore the past by finding fossils that formed 300 million years ago. Students will predict what life was like when these fossils were living creatures.

Soil Pits – Digging soil pits is a fun way to see how ecosystems are formed from the ground up. Students will explore how geology affects all life in the New River Gorge.

Plant Study – Get to know some of the most ancient plants on the planet. In this study of ferns and club mosses, students will become familiar with the plant families that form coal.

Energy Debate – Coal is one of West Virginia’s biggest economic resources. Students will learn and debate about using renewable versus nonrenewable resources and their affects on humas.

Rock Climbing – Using features formed by our moving earth, students will make their way up beginner climbing routes. They will discover why people come from all over the world to climbe the unique sandstone of the New River Gorge.


Soil surveys have been completed for Fayette and Raleigh Counties (Gorman and Espy, 1975) and Mercer and Summers Counties (Sponaugle, et al., 1984). Paul andey Pauley (no date) described soils near Gauley River National Recreation Area based on Gorman and Espy (1975). An updated soil survey is currently being performed for Fayette and Raleigh Counties (Tony Jenkis, National Resource Conservation Service, personal communication, 2001).

Ehlke et al (1982, 1983) summarized the above soil surveys that include the three parks. Soils place New River Gorge National River (Dekalb-Rock outcrop) and Gauley River National Recrecation Area (Dekalb-gilpi-Enist and the Gilpin-Ernest-Buckhannon) in the Eastern Allegheny Plateau and Mountains Land Resource Area (Austin, 1965, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1981). Soils in Bluestone National Scenic River (Gilpin-Dekalb) place it in the Southern Appalachian Ridges and Valleys Land Resorce Area.

Based on existing published information, moderately deep silt loams or sandy loams dominate the valley bottoms and lower slopes in the three parks. These soils are well drained and very stony. Most of the soils lie on very steep (40 to 70%) slopes and are of low to moderate fertility. Derived from shale and sandstone, they are well suited for tree growth, but have severe erosion potential when destabilized. The upper slopes, ridge tops, and tributaries contain sandstone outcrops and broken cliffs that are from 1 foot to over 100 feet high. Brown sand loams are also found on the ridge tops. The updated soil survey of these areas is expected to provide more details about these forested landscapes than was included in the older, more agronomic-oriented publications. This information is expected to be available between 2005 and 2007 (Tony Jenkins, Natural Resources Conservation Service, personal communication 2001).

Source: http://www.nature.nps.gove/geology/parks/neri/


USGS background info:

Great overview of NRG geology!

WV Geology Survey Educational Materials:

West Virginia 300 Million Years Ago:

Carboniferous Period Explanation:

Plant Fossils of West Virginia:

Geology Illustrations:

STEM Waterpark Fieldtrips

Our STEM Waterpark Fieldtrips help you teach your students about STEM in the coolest classroom ever, ACE Adventure Waterpark. Students will spend 2-3 hours exploring the principles of mathematics and physics, then enjoy the rest of their day playing at the waterpark!

As part of the program, students will explore Newton’s Laws of physics, study buoyancy, investigate the properties necessary for creating a reliable personal flotation device, and much more!