During this new and exciting program, Students from Discovery and McLoughlin Middle Schools gathered for a few hours each week to learn about our mission of science, education, and exploration. Family-Community Resource Centers work to help all children succeed by removing barriers and connecting families with available community resources.

At Discovery Middle School, young "Earth Detectives" modeled glaciers with ice cream, learned about natural hazards, and even built their own seismometers to record foot-stomping earthquakes!

"Campcraft" students from McLoughlin Middle School explored outdoor living skills such as knot tying, wilderness first aid, Leave No Trace principles, and proper camping techniques.

Both schools came together for a family field trip at the end of their five weeks, where they explored lower Ape Cave—part of a 2.5-mile long lava tube on the south side of the volcano. Many of the families and students had never visited Mount St. Helens before, nor been inside Ape Cave, so it was an eye-opening experience for all.

During the trip, students shared their new outdoor skills, and their understanding of Earth processes that created the cave 2,000 years ago, with their families. Together, they hiked through the snow to the entrance to the cave, where they learned about White Nose Syndrome and spelunking safety. Inside Ape Cave, the group maneuvered between piles of fallen boulders, saw the reflective nature of cave slime, and experienced extreme darkness. At the end of the lower cave, everyone turned off their lights to reveal just how dark it could be and, by candlelight, the group heard the story of the cave's discovery in 1947.

Our staff’s favorite highlight was Mimi—a 2-year old sibling who traveled the length of the cave alongside her big brother and mom. Mimi was deeply curious about the special rocks she found on the cave floor and enjoyed sharing them with others. We believe there's a budding adventurer and scientist in all of us!

We look forward to working with more deserving youth like Mimi in the future through this vital partnership.


Afterschool Adventures, a partnership between Mount St. Helens Institute and Vancouver Public School's Family Community Resource Centers, connects middle school youth with science and exploration during a 5-week after-school program.