High School Programs – Summer 2018

Live and learn side by side with an international community of Smithsonian researchers and industry professionals – and earn 1-2 college credits through George Mason University!

  • Open to rising high school Juniors and Seniors and rising college Freshmen in good standing, with a demonstrated interest in conservation and the environment, and the ability to be exceptional representatives for their states and high schools.
  • Students will have the opportunity to interact with preeminent conservationists and explore the complexity of environmental problems in their social, political and economic contexts.
  • Highly qualified world experts, including Smithsonian scientists, Mason faculty, and colleagues from other U.S. and international conservation organizations provide students with direct connections to the most current research techniques and field work.
  • Earn college credit through George Mason University at one of our immersive, one-week residential, field-based courses.
  • Course fees include instruction, room and board, tuition costs and all activity fees.


CONS 100 – Introduction to Field Conservation Ecology – Sunday, June 17 – Sunday, June 24, 2018 (2 credits)

In this immersive 1-week experience, students will acquire first-hand exposure to fieldwork in conservation and how conservation professionals

CONS 100 students participating in a birding activity.

contribute to the long-term survival of species in natural habitats.  Through a combination of lectures, discussions, field experiences and outdoor adventure with SMSC faculty and other conservation practitioners, students will be introduced to the major concepts of ecology (including diversity, succession, species interactions, communities, populations and ecosystems) in the context of species and habitat conservation. Students will have the opportunity to learn field methods in conservation research, with an emphasis on developing observational skills, defining a research question, and pursuing a guided pilot study that will culminate with a final presentation and poster.  In addition, students will have the opportunity to explore the complexity of environmental problems in their social, political and economic contexts through debates and discussions.  Tuition $2100

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Understand the complex nature of present-day conservation in practice
  • Utilize their increased scientific literacy and technical skills to investigate complex ecological systems and ask questions about the influence of human impacts on those systems
  • Critically review conservation issues and responses based on sound science;
  • Interact and network with leading conservation science and policy practitioners;
  • Develop skills in ecological field research, collect preliminary data, define a research question to address an issue in conservation, and present this question and their preliminary findings to a general audience.



CONS 110 – Herpetology – Sunday, June 17 – Saturday, June 23, 2018 (1 credit)

CONS 110 course visits the National Zoo in DC for a behind the scenes tour of the Reptile Discovery Center.

This week long course will provide an immersive introduction to the study of reptiles and amphibians. Through lecture, discussion, and field trips, students will learn about the biology, taxonomy, and ecology of snakes, turtles, lizards, salamanders, and frogs. Students will gain hands-on experience in a range of field techniques for the capture, survey, and identification of common herpetofauna in the Northern Virginia area.  The class will focus on the roles that reptiles and amphibians play in ecosystems and threats that may face those populations. Students will meet with local scientists and specialists from the Smithsonian and elsewhere to learn what is being done to monitor and protect amphibians and reptiles around the world. Throughout the week, students will produce a field journal detailing their coursework and species observations as well as written assignments linked to course readings and case studies. Tuition: $1995

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Utilize field techniques to survey and study herpetofauna in the wild;
  • Differentiate between different types of reptiles and amphibians, and identify common local species;
  • Make observations of reptile and amphibian behavior in the field;
  • Explain how reptiles and amphibians are important to ecosystems;
  • Utilize their increased scientific literacy and technical skills to investigate issues related to amphibian and reptile conservation, especially pollution, climate change, and emerging diseases
  • Critically review conservation issues and responses based on scientific evidence;
  • Interact and network with leading conservation science and policy practitioners