Bring your class or youth group to explore the mountain by day and by night with the Mount St. Helens Institute’s Volcano Outdoor School. Come face-to-face with geologic forces and discover the amazing stories of plant and animal life in the heart of the Mount St. Helens blast zone.

“Wonderful! This is an experience the children will remember their ENTIRE lives. Lots of cool activities, beautiful environment, very nice facilities. Such a great time/place!” “The Volcano Outdoor School educators were phenomenal. They were energetic, patient, kind, and engaging. Thank you!” “Very hands-on, science based experience with a big dose of outdoor and team-based learning. Tons of fun. Great teachers. Great mix of theory and practice.”



Volcano Outdoor School Overnight Programs provide a unique, interdisciplinary, fully-immersive experience that supports Next Generation Science Standards.  

Throughout the program, students explore the world around them, using scientific tools, recording field observations, working in a team, sharing and discussing ideas, creating art, and reflecting on the environment and themselves. 

In our ecology programs, students investigate themes of disturbance, succession and renewal.  

In our geology programs, students investigate themes of scale, human connections to geologic processes, and interactions between earth systems.  

  • Maximum group size: 30 youth, 6 adults
  • Student:Educator ratio: 15 students per 1 MSHI educator 
  • Duration: 1-night or 2-night
  • Times: 2:00 PM arrival day - 12:00 PM departure day.
  • Cost: 
    • $145/person/night (Minimum: $2500/night)
    • 1 teacher/group leader free
    • INCLUDES: 3 meals + snacks throughout the program + lodging + 8 hours of educational activities led by Mount St. Helens Institute per night
    • New in 2022!  Schools in Washington State  bringing 5th and 6th grade students may be eligible for reimbursement through Washington State Funding for Overnight Outdoor School. Learn more about this funding with this FAQ sheet. View an informational slide deck to share with school administrators. 
    • Financial assistance may be available for low-income groups


Whether your class is able to be at Mount St. Helens for 1 hour or for 8 hours, Volcano Outdoor School day programs are a fantastic way to make the most out of a day experience with hands-on, experiential learning!  Mount St. Helens Institute education staff will work with you to create a schedule that aligns with your goals and your schedule needs.

  • Maximum group size: Dependent on activities and staff availability 
  • Student:educator ratio: Dependent on group size, activities and staff availability 
  • Duration: 1-6 hours
  • Times: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM. Custom times available upon request.
  • Cost: 
    • $12/person/hour (Minimum: $500/day)
    • 1 teacher/group leader free
    • Financial assistance may be available for low-income groups


Most Volcano Outdoor School programs are based at the Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center located in the heart of the 1980 eruption blast zone.  In this place where the 1980 eruption scraped and scoured the land, students investigate the past and present geology and ecology at work.  View an interactive Google map of the Mount St. Helens Science & Learning Center program area. Field trips may include at other locations such as Ape Cave, Trail of Two Forests, Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Seaquest State Park, and more. These locations are available on a case-by-case basis. 

“A must do for Washington kids. The history, the science, the event are all so relevant.” “Profound. unimaginably successful. A paradigm shifter for the classroom." “I heard voices that tend to be quiet in the classroom.”


View our calendar of available dates HERE.  Please note that these dates are subject to group size and staff availability.  


You can review program policies including COVID-19 specific policies HERE.  

Groups are required to provide chaperone support at a ratio of 1:5 chaperones per students for overnight trips and 1:8 chaperones per students for day trips.


  • Do you offer field trips in winter? Yes we do! Learn more about our winter trips in this slide deck.

  • What are examples of educational activities that are led during trips? Browse our Volcano Outdoor School Activity Guide including how each activity aligns with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Yes you can request certain activities during registration.

  • How do these field trips support social emotional learning? Field trips are GREAT in supporting social emotional learning! Learn more in this slide deck.

  • What kind of meals are provided? Review a sample menu of meals provided at the Science & Learning Center.

  • What do you have to manage indoor air quality? Group sleeping areas and restrooms in the Science and Learning Center are equipped with air purifiers that (at their maximum settings) will filter the air every 12.5 minutes. These air purifiers are on wheels and can be easily moved around to meet program needs. 

  • What else can I do before or after my field trip to Mount St. Helens? There is so much to explore and learn in the landscape around Mount St. Helens. View our interactive Google map of Attractions & Amenities around Mount St. Helens to explore and plan your trip.

  • Are there classroom resources to support my field trip to Mount St. Helens? Yes! Check out our Virtual Field Trips which are a fantastic supplement to in-person field trips. You can also visit our Educator Resources Page

  • Is financial assistance available for field trips? Yes! Visit our Financial Assistance page for more information. For schools based in Washington State, take advantage of new funding from Washington Outdoor School for All. Learn more about this funding with this FAQ sheet. View an informational slide deck to share with school administrators

  • Can I include a visit to Service Johnston Ridge Observatory with my class? Yes! The U.S. Forest Visitor's Center at Johnston Ridge Observatory offers free admission for education groups that register in advance. JRO is open from May - October. Sign up on their website by selecting "West Side". 


To begin registration, complete our non-binding INQUIRY FORM.  After you complete the form, Mount St. Helens Institute staff will reach out to you to provide more information and answer any questions that you have. 

You can also email learn@mshinstitute.org with any questions or for further information. 


US Forest Service, WA Recreation & Conservation Office No Child Left Inside, WA State Parks, Honorable Frank L and Arlene G Price Foundation, Autzen Foundation, Outdoor Schools WA, Chevron, Goodfellow Bros., Cowlitz Indian Tribe, BNSF Railway Foundation, and HB Fuller.


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Mount St. Helens Institute operates under a special use permit from the US Forest Service, WA State Parks and is honored to work on the Traditional Cultural Property, ancestral and present day lands of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. Mount St. Helens Institute is an equal opportunity provider.