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Science First

Science Enrichment Program

Science First is a great learning opportunity, a chance to see the Garden's 385 acres of plants and nature, and a great way to meet other science-curious students. Each summer, approximately 40 students from Chicago Public Schools travel to the Garden by school bus from designated stops to spend four weeks being immersed in a free, nature-based science enrichment program that engages students in a unique hands-on experience.

About the Program

Each day, Science First students can be seen exploring and learning in the Garden. They hone their observational skills in our display areas, like the Rose Garden or Waterfall Garden; they interview plant geneticists in our research labs; they play educational games to learn about predator-prey relationships; and they conduct quadrat studies in McDonald Woods or Dixon Prairie. The emphasis is on using the Garden's space and resources to guide their explorations and learning.

While exploring the Garden's natural habitats, students learn about botany and ecology and use the scientific method to answer real-world science problems. Daily activities, directed by a team of science teachers, include hands-on science lessons "in the field." Students learn about the Garden's river, prairie, and woodland habitats, touching on topics as varied as genetics, soil ecology, and food webs.

In addition to boosting science knowledge, goals for the program include improving analytical skills needed for scientific inquiry, increasing comfort with science, understanding the role of botanic gardens, and gaining familiarity with careers in the natural sciences.


Each session of Science First culminates with a display of student projects. Students who attend our four-week session for new participants design their own botanic garden with native areas and display gardens. Students who attend our four-week session for returning students focus on learning science inquiry and process, and advanced ecology and botany.

After Science First

Students from Science First are invited to apply for our College First paid high-school internship program. College First is an extension of Science First but also includes career mentorship with Garden staff and critical assistance in preparation for college.

The Science Career Continuum, comprised of Science First, College First, and undergraduate internships, is made possible by the generous support of the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Sally Mead Hands Foundation, ITW, Colonel Stanley R. McNeil Foundation, Alvin H. Baum Family Fund, Discover Financial Services, Annette R. Kleinman Revocable Living Trust, Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation, Sage Foundation, Trillium Foundation, W.P. & H.B. White Foundation, William J. Clancy Foundation, and the Bertha Lebus Charitable Trust.