"What a great experience! ONSC provides the chance to learn in the way that kids learn best, by doing. This experience has had a great impact in connecting science to the world around us"

-McNair teacher

"This trip to ONSC is something I'll never forget in the history of my lifetime"

-Asher, Janie Darr 5th grader 

School Programs


ONSC offers a unique, immersion-based approach to learning about nature and the natural sciences. Every year, approximately 3,000 students from public and private schools experience the beauty and unique biodiversity of the Ozarks' natural environment through our residential school program. We offer authentic science learning experiences that are staffed by our talented team of teacher naturalists. Lessons and activities are correlated with national and state science learning standards which provide in-depth education in biology, ecology, geology, and social studies – all while students have fun hiking and experiencing nature.

The Setting


Our classroom is the 400 acre Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission Bear Hollow Natural Area. The area features eight miles of trails, bluff shelters, rock outcroppings, glades, a historic farmhouse and cabin, and beautiful vistas. Students also learn about water quality and conservation during lessons in and along the crystal clear waters of Bear Hollow Creek, which bisects the natural area. ONSC is adjacent to the approximately 15,000 acre Arkansas Game and Fish Commission McIlroy-Madison County Wildlife Management Area. Our studies often take us to this public property to study forest and cave ecology and to experience several waterfalls and creeks.

What do Students Learn?

During our guided hikes and night hikes (field exploration), students are guided along a trail by an ONSC Teacher Naturalist. The students are immersed in a variety of natural science topics including geology, water quality, life cycles, and much more. Hikes include opportunities for discovery, investigation and reflection that help students understand the natural world.  Night hikes include topics such as astronomy, creatures of the night, geography, geology with rose quartz, nighttime pond, and science at night.


In addition to guided hikes, a visit to ONSC includes one or more of the following classes:


Creek Critters - Under the water there is a world of life. In this class students will meet and identify some of these water dwelling macroinvertebrates and discover how their
presence can be an indication of water quality through hands experimentation. Join us as we explore the world of the tiny and its large impact.


Breaking It Down - Exploring the Four Spheres through Decomposition ‐students will have a hands on demonstration of a living, breathing earthworm compost where they will be introduced to the three major groups of decomposers: Fungus, Bacteria and Invertebrates. The class will sketch, analyze chemical alteration by microbes and compare old to fresh compost. They will see first‐hand how cycles of energy and decomposition occur while learning to treat all living things with respect including compost ‐ a building block of life.


Radio Tracking  - Have you ever wondered how scientists study animals in the wild? Students will learn firsthand how and why scientists use radio tracking to monitor and help wildlife. Following a brief tutorial, students will put their newfound knowledge to the test as they head out into the field to locate hidden transmitters using real radio tracking equipment.

Discovery of the Specimen (DOTS) - Students will explore ONSC’s museum, where they will use tools and resources to identify specimens and collect data. From measuring a skull, to using a microscope, this hands‐on course will illustrate methods used for specimen identification, while highlighting the diversity of the Ozarks.


Herpetology - This adventure will introduce students to many different species of reptiles and amphibians, their amazing abilities, threats to their well‐being and how mankind can help them. The students will learn by playing a herpetology game and will have the opportunity to meet our snake ambassadors. This hands-on experience will continue as they investigate the herpetology specimens in our science museum.


Ornithology - Students will “flock” to this class, where they will learn the basics of bird biology, adaptations for flight, and bird conservation. They will explore the Ozark fliers as they conduct field work by heading outdoors to use binoculars and field guides to identify ONSC birds and accurately record scientific field notes.


FrogWatch - FrogWatch is a nation‐wide citizen science project that will have students using scientific protocols to identify frogs and record data while exploring a pond. Students will learn to identify Ozark frogs and toads by their songs of croaks and peeps. They will gain knowledge about amphibians as bioindicators while learning about stewardship and wetland conservation.


Entomology - There are more insects on our planet than any other type of animal. Students try out new skills as entomologists as they study these amazing creatures. Identification, adaptations, habitats, and observations make all parts of this class hands‐on both outdoors and in the lab.


Botany - A course that introduces students to the Ozark plant world. Learn to identify local trees, herbs and flowers and their uses to early pioneers. Students will collect specimens, learn to use field guides and dichotomous keys as they explore hands on in the wild and in the classroom.


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More information about our program and what your child can expect during their visit to ONSC