Sky Island Science Investigators

We offer a diverse variety of science field classes – on the UA Campus at the Bryant Bannister Tree Ring Building, at Tumamoc Hill, and at field sites in the Catalina Mountains - where students learn that science is a dynamic process of gathering and evaluating information.

We also offer portable classroom visits if you are unable to visit the UA Campus.

This outreach program is innovative in that schoolchildren become the scientists, not just learn about scientific concepts. We want to make science accessible and relevant to the general public.

Our field classes are free.  We adapt our innovative approach to work with teachers and students of all ages and grade levels, depending on the needs of your students. 

To schedule your visit today, please contact Pamela Pelletier: or 520.621.0984

Courses offered Year-round:

Tales Tree Rings Tell

Tree rings tell the tale of how climate, fire and people interacted hundreds and thousands of years ago. Students will be introduced to the subject of dendrochronology - the study of time using trees, specifically the annual growth rings in trees. Students in this class will have a hands-on exploration of tree “cookies” or cross sections of trees to better understand how dendrochronology has influenced forest ecology, archaeology, and climate change.  Location: Portable Classroom Visit

Investigating Artifacts: Uncovering the Past through Middens:

The science of archaeology often focuses on old village sites known as “middens”. Middens are deposits people have left behind, the remains of settlements, the “garbage dumps” of long lost communities. In this session, students will examine “middens” representing sites of prehistoric Hohokam people at Tumamoc. After a demonstration of the procedures that will be used to excavate the site, teams of students act as archaeologists working together to excavate objects form the layers of the soil in shoe box “middens”. Students learn that materials discarded or lost by people long ago can provide valuable clues for reconstructing a picture of an earlier culture. While practicing the methods of archaeologists, students infer information from objects, group objects, and share drawings and explanations from clues of the past. Location: Portable Classroom Visit

Field Class: Middle Bear Canyon, Catalina Mountains Day Trip

Dendrochronology is a retrospective science that can provide glimpses into our environment long before humans altered the natural environment. Students will be introduced to the subject of dendrochronology - the study of time using trees, specifically the annual growth rings in trees. Students in this class will have a hands-on experience learning to sample and core trees. We continue our exploration of Mt. Lemmon and look at the urban-wildland interface by exploring the landscape around Summerhaven to better understand fire history and forest management practices. We continue our exploration up Mt. Lemmon to another field study site to calculate plant densities in plots, where students will then analyze their results. Location: Catalina Mountains

Ecology: Introduction to Cactus Surveys:

Students will survey cactus species and perform a spatial analysis of the plants.  Students will calculate plant densities in plots and analyze their results. This class expands students’ biological understanding of life by focusing on the characteristics of living things, the diversity of life, and how organisms and populations change over time. Location: Tumamoc Hill

Ecology: Species, Slope, & Soil:

Students will survey cactus & perennial shrubs species and will calculate plant densities in plots and compare results. A soil analysis will be conducted.  Students will also determine the slope within their plot and use this information to analyze the vegetation densities within each plot.  Students will do an analysis of their data set and look at patterns across the landscape in terms of elevation gradients. Location: Tumamoc Hill