STEM Educational Programs for Groups

  • 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.
  • Wet and Wild H2O

    Raft the Upper or Lower New to collect data for a citizen science water quality project.


    A 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 1,000-foot canyon. Considered one of the oldest rivers in the world, it makes an ideal “classroom” for exploring firsthand 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. In this floating classroom, students will learn about how water, the landscape and human activity are interconnected, all while having a blast! During this team-building experience, they will explore why water is such a precious resource and how they can become part of the solution to its preservation by participating in a stream survey. This day is customizable for grades 9-12.

    Essential Questions

    How did the New River Gorge form?
    What is the quality of the water here?
    What are some features of the river, from both an ecological and recreation standpoint?
    How do the actions of humans affect water?


    Your guide will tell give you a tour of the Gorge’s geology and the river’s features while you paddle along.

    A Drop in the Bucket
    A short demonstration that emphasizes the preciousness of water as a natural resource.

    To Dam or Not to Dam
    Students practice their debate skills while roleplaying a community member in a town deciding whether to approve a dam upstream of them.

    Stream Survey
    A lab where students measure water chemistry and find river insects (macro invertebrates) to test water quality in the Gorge. Results are given to stream monitoring groups for use as citizen science data.

    Sample Itinerary

    Trip times and order of activities are subject to change based on water level and section of river.
    7:00 AM: Guest check-in
    8:00 AM: Trip time (leave ACE)
    8:30 AM: Arrive at put-in
    8:45 AM: Introduction to hydrology and paddling instructions
    9:45 AM: Rafting
    12:30 PM: Lunch
    1:00 PM: To Dam or Not to Dam Debate
    1:30 PM: Water Survey
    4:00 PM: Estimated arrival time at take-out
    4:30 PM: Arrive at ACE

    For Educators

    Content Standards and Objects
    Pre-visit Packet
    Post-visit Packet
    Coming soon!

    Geology in the Gorge

    Learn the story of the rocks in the New by fossil hunting, climbing and more!


    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 has exposed formations and our planets geological character in this 1,000-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 spent 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. This day is customizable for grades 9-12.


    - 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.


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

    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 formed.

    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.

    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 people and the planet.

    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 climb the unique sandstone of the New River Gorge.

    Sample Itinerary

    Trip times and order of activities are subject to change based on trip time availability and number of students on the field trip.
    9:00 Meet at Climbing Barn and introduce day
    9:30 ACE Beach (The Story of the New River Gorge, Hike up lower Rigor Mortis, fossil hunt)
    11:00 Energy use debate
    11:45 Drive to Climber’s Paradise
    12:00 Lunch
    12:30 Soil Pits and Plant study
    1:45 Rock climbing
    4:45 Return to Barn

    For Educators
    Content Standards and Objects Pre-visit Packet
Post-visit Packet
    Coming soon!

    Ecosystem Expedition

    Some of the first zip lines were used by wildlife biologists to study canopy cover in Central America. Follow in their footsteps to discover different ecosystems in the New River Gorge.


    Zip lining may be tons of 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, teachers will be able to enrich textbook lessons through a hands-on science day. During this full day trip, students learn how plants, animals and non-living factors play critical roles in their environment. Among other activities, students will participate in a comparison of three ecosystems in the Gorge. This day is customizable for grades 9-12.

    Essential Questions

    What is an ecosystem?
    How are abiotic factors, plants and animals interrelated?
    What are some plant and animal species that can be found in the Gorge?
    How do natural, human-influenced and beaver-influenced ecosystems differ?
    How do some plant and animal species adapt to their environment?


Ecosystem comparison
    Students compare tree species, animal signs and soil composition in three different ecosystems, a ‘natural’ plot, a ‘disturbed’ plot and a ‘beaver’ plot.

    A fun way to learn about animal adaptations! We dress a student or teacher up like a beaver and discuss how each feature is a feature that helps the beaver be the marvelous engineer that it is.
    Debate: Are Beavers Pests?
    Students practice their debate skills by discussing for or against beavers as pests.

    Zip Line
    Observe the Gorge rim ecosystem while flying through it.

    Sample Itinerary

    Trip times and order of activities are subject to change based on trip time availability and number of students on the field trip.
    7:30 Arrive at Canopy Barn
    8:00 Trip time, introduction to the day and gear up
    8:30 Zip line and observe ecosystems
    12:00 Lunch
    1:00 Ecosystem comparison
    3:15 Build-a-Beaver
    3:30 Debate: are beavers pests?
    4:15 Drive to Canopy Barn

    For Educators
    Content Standards and Objects Pre-visit Packet
Post-visit Packet
    Coming soon!

    Zip Line Physics

    Experience and measure the force of our zip lines!
    Coming soon!

    A Walk through Time

    Bring history to life with this exploration of how coal in the New River Gorge affected the entire country.

    Coming soon!

    Jackie GallimoreJackie Gallimore
    M.S. Natural Resources with emphasis in Environmental Education – University of Idaho
    B.A. Psychology with minors in Biology and Outdoor Leadership – Western Kentucky University

    Experience: Trip Leader, ACE Whitewater, Minden, WV. Program Coordinator, New Discoveries Enrichment Program, Moscow, ID. Environmental Education Field Instructor, McCall Outdoor Science School, McCall, ID. Environmental Education Intern, Manzano Day School, Jemez Spring, NM. Environmental Education Intern, Mammoth Cave National Park, Mammoth Cave, KY. Ropes Course Facilitator, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY. Certified Outdoor Leader, Wilderness Education Association. Leave No Trace Trainer. Project Wet, Learning Tree, and Wild Certified.

    Contact our Group Sales Manager, Ashton Critchley, for more information about STEM programs at ACE: 


    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.