Field Experience

Field Experiences immerse classrooms of students and their teachers in learning science through inquiry as they conduct investigations and engage in scientific discourse. Participants speak with Van Andel Research Institute scientists and watch them in action at the Institute’s demonstration lab.

Program Details
  • Where: Van Andel Education Institute, 216 N Division Ave, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
  • Time commitment: 2 – 4 hours (dependent on grade and content)
  • Class size: Up to 30 students and a teacher
  • Cost: $10 per student, $200 minimum
    *Costs may vary for customized field experiences.
Elementary Field Experience

Students learn about the tools of science by conducting an investigation using plants and animals.

Alike vs. Different Investigation

Students will use their senses and scientific tools to observe plants and animals to determine an answer to the question, “Are organisms more alike or more different?” 

Structural Traits Investigation

Students will investigate the physical adaptations of a variety of organisms to answer the question, “How do an organism’s structural traits help it survive in its environment?”

Behavioral Traits Investigation

Students will investigate the behaviors of a variety of organisms to answer the question, “How do an organism’s behavioral traits help it survive in its environment?”

Middle & High School Field Experience

Students learn about the use of model organisms in cancer research and their connection to understanding human health.  

Explorations at the Whole Organism, Cell and DNA Levels

Students investigate how organisms are alike and different by observing plants and animals.

Investigation questions:

  • How alike and different are plants and animals?
  • How alike and different are plant and animal cells?
  • How alike and different is plant and animal DNA?

Students will observe plants and animals to determine how similar or different organisms are when compared to each other. Your students will learn to hold some of our education animals, create slides to view under the microscope and extract DNA from strawberries and their cheek cells.  

Daphnia Investigation

Students investigate the effects of various substances on the heart rate of a model organism, daphnia.

This experience includes hands on investigation using daphnia and microscopes to quantify and determine a baseline heart rate that is then used to assess the effect of substances like alcohol and caffeine.

  • Investigation question: How do various substances affect the heart rate of daphnia?
  • Depending on your preference, we could either assign substances to test (alcohol and caffeine) or your students could have more choice in the testing substances (teams choose from selection of substances).
  • Option to focus on environmental contaminants to explore the impacts of pollution on aquatic organisms.

Photosynthesis Investigation

Students investigate how variables affect the rate of photosynthesis using algae beads.

Students will observe the rate of photosynthesis under different light conditions in a structured investigation.

  • Investigation question: How does the rate of photosynthesis compare in light and dark conditions?
  • Optional second visit: Students will have the opportunity to design their own investigations to determine how the rate of photosynthesis changes under other conditions (colors of light, strength of light, temperature).

Oil Spill on the Grand!

Middle school students will work together to design solutions to:

  • Stop a leak in an oil pipeline;
  • Clean up a site after an oil spill;
  • Care for animals after an oil spill.

During this process, students will learn how oil spills occur and the current methods that are employed to remedy these disasters. They will use creative and critical thinking skills as they work together to solve this very real problem.

If you would like to sign-up your classroom for Field Experience please, contact VAEI at or 616.234.5528 for scheduling or to inquire about customized visits.