Field Trips

Field Trips immerse classrooms of students and their teachers in learning science through inquiry as they conduct investigations and engage in hands on discovery. 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.

K-2 Field Trips

Take it Apart

Inspired by a twisted version of Humpty Dumpty,  students take an object apart and use the materials to create a new object. Students observe the characteristics of objects and will be inspired to create something new to take home.

Sensing the World Around You

Students use their senses and scientific tools to investigate the characteristics of plants and animals living at Van Andel Education Institute.

Blow the House Down

Inspired by the Three Little Pigs, students construct their own houses that can withstand the big bad wolf’s huffing and puffing. They put their houses to the test and vote on the most successful design.

Reversible Changes

Students apply heating and/or cooling to create changes in objects, and then discover which of those changes are reversible and which are not.

Save the Sand!

Students will explore how wind can change the shape of a sand tower to better understand how wind can shape the land. Students also use a pile of sand and simple objects to design and test a windbreak that prevents erosion.

3-5 Field Trips

Alike vs. Different

Students 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

Students 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

Students 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?”

Water Filtration Challenge

Inspired by natural habitats, students design, build, and test possible solutions to clean polluted water samples.


Students discover the relationship between distance and apparent brightness of light by answering the question, “What is the effect of distance on the brightness of stars?”

Uncovering Our Past

Students learn how fossils are formed, discovered, and used to help us understand Earth’s past. They participate in a fossil dig and think and act like true palentologists as they explore, ask questions, and find answers to the mystery of prehistoric life.

Light’s Out

Students discover how to connect a battery to a light bulb using wires in order to make it light. Students are then challenged to design and build a lighting device within given criteria and constraints.

Mystery Powders

Students will explore the properties of solid matter by testing and observing a set of powders. They will collect data to be used to identify an unknown substance.

Plant Structures & Dissection

Students examine flower structures and determine how these structures support reproduction.

How Strong is My Magnet?

Students first discover which objects are magnetic and which are not. Students then determine the strength of a magnetic force with magnets that are not in direct contact.

How Will You React?

By testing their own reaction times, students discover how humans capture, make sense of, and respond to information from the environment.

6-8 Field Trips

A Living World: Exploring life from DNA to cells to whole organisms

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

Engineering Design Challenge: Oil Spill on the Grand!

Students learn how oil spills occur and the current methods that are employed to remedy these disasters. They will use creative and critical thinking skills to design solutions to stop a leak in an oil pipeline, clean up a site after an oil spill, and care for animals affected by the spill.

Daphnia Investigation

Students investigate the effects of various substances on the heart rate of a model organism, daphnia. Using microscopes, students will quantify and determine a baseline heart rate that is then used to assess the effect of substances like alcohol, caffeine, and other environmental contaminants.

Engineering Design Challenge: Transporting Water on Mars

Students think like engineers as they design and build a lightweight solar-powered pumping system to determine which device can move water between two storage tanks the quickest.

Chemistry in a Bag

Students will collect and use evidence to identify what chemicals are responsible for specific observations. They will also learn how matter can undergo both physical and chemical changes.

What’s for Dinner: Animal choices and food chains

Students investigate energy flow through a food web by observing the eating preferences of organisms. Dissect an owl pellet to learn where an owl’s energy comes from and construct a bone diagram to take home.


Students learn how to make an electromagnet out of a battery, nail, and wire. The students explore and then explain how the number of turns of wire affects the strength of an electromagnet.

Engineering Design Challenge: Orion’s Splashdown!

Space crafts encounter rapid speeds and intense heat as they return to Earth’s atmosphere. Students design a waterproof capsule that will protect astronauts during their splashdown using everyday materials.

Crime Scene Forensics

Students study different techniques of forensic scientists to analyze a crime scene and determine who is ultimately responsible for committing different crimes.

9-12 Field Trips

C. elegans Investigation

Students utilize laboratory equipment including microscopes and centrifuges to investigate the effect of various substances on the model organism, C. elegans’s behavior to determine the  physiological effects of various substances.

DNA Fingerprinting: Who done it? (9-12)

Students practice the skills of forensic scientists to identify a DNA sample left behind at a crime scene. Students will learn to use a micropipette, set a gel, run DNA samples with the aid of electrophoresis, and analyze the results.

Daphnia Investigation

Students investigate the effects of various substances on the heart rate of a model organism, daphnia. Using microscopes, students will quantify and determine a baseline heart rate that is then used to assess the effect of substances like alcohol, caffeine, and other environmental contaminants.

Candy Crush with Gel Electrophoresis

Students use gel electrophoresis to separate color dyes found in candy to discover how molecules move through a gel using electrophoresis. They investigate how the physical and/or chemical properties of each dye sample affect the distance each molecule travels along the gel.

Rate of Reaction

Students determine the rate of reaction for the decomposition of Hydrogen peroxide using Potassium iodide as the catalyst. They will apply their knowledge of reaction rate to design and conduct an investigation testing how a chosen variable affects reaction rate.

Engineering Design Challenge: Showering on Mars

Students explore the challenges of living on Mars as they design, test, and build a solar water heater. Students will follow criteria and constraints to successfully heat water and try to achieve the greatest rise in temperature possible.

Photosynthesis and Plant Pigment Chromatography

Students conduct an investigation exploring the rate of photosynthesis in a spinach leaf under given conditions. Students then identify a variable to explore its impact on photosynthesis during a follow-up investigation. Students will proceed through a sequence of lessons that demonstrate how plants utilize energy from the sun and Carbon dioxide to create carbon containing compounds.

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