Sunnyside High School

Our time at UA Sky School has been a fascinating and wonderful experience. We have learned so much in the fields of science such as ecology, astronomy, and geology. Beginning with the first day here, we noticed things we usually don’t anywhere else. The hikes we went on made it fun to learn about arthropods, trees, and wildfires. We also enjoyed the night session of astronomy we had the first night.

One of the first things we started talking about were the different types of arthropods around us. We focused on their characteristics and were able to classify the insects and spiders we caught as a specific species of arthropod. Later on in the day, one of the mentors gave a presentation on wildfires in the area. It showed us the way fires begin, how they travel, and potential places a fire can start. After taking a hike we were able to see the effects of a fire on the environment. Feeding off of the wildfires topic, we started to focus on trees and plants in the area. We learned that many of them adapt to better their growth. By the end of the night, we were taken to a telescope to observe the night sky. There was so much terminology we never heard before. It was very cool to see how the domes and telescopes work together to navigate the sky.

Overall, our time here gave us a feel for hands-on work compared to the mind numbing classes at school. It was much more interesting to be able to interact outside with nature. We can all say we learned way more in one day than we would within a week outside of Sky School. So far, we have been enjoying every moment here and although it’s challenging, we are excited for what is in store the next days we are here.

Gregory School – Student Experiences

The Gregory School spent several days investigating the natural wonders of the ecosystem surrounding us here at Sky School. The following are selections from student reflections that highlight some of their experiences:

My experience at sky school was amazing! I would honestly do it all over again in a second and I’m sad that my time is running out here. My favorite part was probably all of the astronomy we’ve done. I absolutely loved learning about the stars and constellations and being so close made it just that much more amazing. I also really loved making our presentation. Our mentor was very open to ideas and we got to do a lot of really cool things independently. Everyone here is very go-with-the-flow and it makes everything a lot of fun and still very informative. This was truly an incredible experience and I am all for doing this again next year!



It’s been pretty fun here, really. I loved hiking and the echo’s in the canyon. We did a science project on Goose Grass. What makes the sticky plants sticky? We found that you could actually get dermatitis. Gave me a scare there. I liked the dorms despite the fact that it was home to thousands of moths. It was a great bonding experience when all of us came together to catch the moths. It brought out our inner ninja. A few times we found squirrels baby mice and deer. WE also played a game of hot lava. I really like it here. The sunset was beautiful and so was the night sky (except for when we were sleeping because I was afraid of clowns) and so I hope to come again and make it rain pinecones.



The past few days I have been at Sky School. Sky School is a place where one can learn and have fun. I have done a project about the difference in nutrient levels in soil next to a tree and away from a tree. Along with learning about soil, clay, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, testing soils nutrient levels, root balls, and different types of trees, I had fun while doing it and bonded with friends. When I came to sky school I thought it would be a boring all ay school. However, I was very wrong. I really like the idea of having a school outside because one will learn a lot of “school stuff” and they will learn about themselves. I also like the part that I get a lot of exercise here. In fact, yesterday according to my apple watch I was active for 72 minutes, I had 12,216 steps and I burned 552 calories. All in all, I really love Sky School for many reasons.



Sky School has been a blast so far. I was paired wit such a wonderful group and a wonderful leader, AJ, and it has been so much fun. Starting on Day 1 with our first hike, I got to see so many amazing things. Unfortunately, on our night hike, I tripped and re-injured my ankle. But after I fell, my friends helped me the rest of the hike and everyone was very helpful. The next 2 days were hard work but very fun. We got to learn in an environment none of us are used to. Seeing the stars last night was incredible, although it was cold. Today we collected data and created a poster. My team is the Dope Slope Squad and just in the past 3 days, we have bonded so much. Getting to spend time in the wilderness with all my classmates and friends is such a gift. I’m sad to leave but very happy I’ve had this experience with such great people!



Throughout the past 3 days I have spent at sky school we have learned and accomplished many things that I will never forget. For one, we started out the week hiking around the one and only Mt. Lemon. We walked around examining our surrounding and learning more about what is north of our homes. We later started brain-storming ideas about our project. However, unlike most research projects I was able to choose and me and my team chose something that is in the talk with one of the funniest project I have ever done. Our group leader was the funniest coolest chilliest scientist I have ever met. So with that has all been said, I guess you can say this was the coolest interim week trip yet.



Today we awoke to a hearty breakfast. My group and I hiked out to a plot we set up yesterday to test. We strode out to a glade filled with decaying logs and scurrying critters. In due time, the sun warmed up and the results came flowing. WE were testing soil, trees, and even the wind. WE then frolicked to our other plot to test the same ting. The difference was direction the hill was slanted towards the north or the south. We collected that data in sandwiches of cold-cuts and fresh vegetables. After devouring our sandwiches we analyzed our data. Once we had shared our data with our fellow peers we took to making a poster. WE drooled and sweated, shacked and slept until finally we had a tablet of scientific effort. Exhausted and mentally drained we stumbled to the learning center with hope for dinner filled with pleasant surprises.





“We have done lots of lit stuff @ SkySchool. We hiked about 7 miles a day and experimented on lots of thing. I loved waking up to the sweet smell of nature and it was very beautiful. I saw many animals and so many insects. My favorite part was getting to watch the sunset. It was extremely beautiful! The stars were lit + I learned lots about the constellations! I had fun overall! I even got to search 4 ants and test them. I’m glad I came though I wouldn’t go just volunteering. I didn’t like hiking up hill, or how everyone was so overprotective. The food was also good. “

– T


“At SkySchool for the past three days I have had the pleasure to learn about plants, soil insects and so much more as a hands-on experience. I have worked primarily with Noelle and making a presentation in her field with her help. It has been a mind opening experience from hiking during the day to exploring the stars at night through a giant telescope. It has been interesting and fun getting to work with young PhD aspiring people interested in science. I always thought I was never good at science and thought it was boring until now.”

– K


“I wasn’t expecting a vacation but maybe I wasn’t expecting what was coming. It was days packed with a full schedule. There were lots of challenging activities but it was a great alternative to being in the classroom. We hiked and experienced the outdoors while conducting a science experiment on the behavior of ants. We did astronomy without the bright Tucson lights bothering us, giving us an opportunity to see so many galaxies and planets we would never see in the city below. It was strenuous work but it was a fun time at the same time. So tired at the end of the day, we fell asleep right as we fell in bed. Another great addition was the cold weather. Overall, it was a good educational experience.”

– L


“SkySchool is a great place to learn about soil, plants, insect behavior, and the stars in space. I experienced about soil. We compared soil near from trees, and far from trees. Sometimes you would see an earthworm inside the soil. I also learned about how some plants are different by their color and size. Some plants change color depending on the season. Some smell different, like some can smell minty. In the insect behavior I learned on how some insects can be scared and they run away. We found a huge ant pile. They were all worker ants. I also learned that some insects can be under stones or big rocks. From a cool big telescope, we saw Mars, and a mini-dipper. A few stars changed colors. It can get cold sometimes at night. Learning at SkySchool is awesome! J”

– S


“This week I have stayed at SkySchool. We did a lot of super fun things and learned some new information. We went on hikes, looked at the nights sky, found new things, enjoyed cool mountain air, and overall had a great time. We found an interesting plant, known as goosegrass, that has tiny hairs. It sticks to animal fur, as well as clothes. One night, we looked through binoculars and the telescope at the sky. Up on the mountain, you can see so many more stars and constellations than you could in the city. We got to see Mars, the 7 Sisters, Andromeda, and a lot of other cool things. We also got to see the moon rise, which looked really beautiful that night. When hiking, we got to sit on a rock overlooking the valley and Tucson. At night, we got to take a night hike, and saw the city lights. We also saw some birds and other small wildlife, such as squirrels. We looked at some really cool rocks and minerals, such as mica. Overall, I had a fantastic time and enjoyed spending time with (and meeting) people. I loved being in nature and staying here. I hope to come back soon!”

– A


“Day 1: When we arrived at SkySchool we met up with our groups and met our mentors. After that we took a hike, so we can start brainstorming ideas for our projects. After lunch we hiked back to the meadow and we played a REALLY fun game of predator and prey. After that we got to have a quick break back in our dorms. When we got back we got to do rotations to learn more about what the other mentors do. After rotations we had DELICIOUS food. After that we learned about science illustrations, and we got to try to draw a science illustration. After that we did a night walk and it was SO pretty. That was the end of Day 1.

Day 2: We first ate breakfast. Then we split off in our groups and we tried to figure out what we were going to do for our project. After we figured it out we collected some rocks, and then hiked up to the fire lookout where we ate lunch and collected mica for our project. We had to hike back to the learning center and start making our pigments. We did that till dinner time. After we went up to the telescope to look and learn at stars. It was SO pretty. After that we went back to our dorms and played apples to apples. Then I went to sleep.

Day 3: We finished making our pigments. We then had to swatch on the pigments to our arms. When we were done with that we walked down to the learning center to take photos of our arms. Then we walked over to the meadow and played games. After an hour we went back to the learning center to take photos of our arms again. After that we got to eat lunch. After lunch we observed the photos and we took a survey with all the colors to get our data. Then we got to have a quick break back at our dorms again. When we walked back to the learning center we started to make our poster. When we finished our poster we practiced our presentation. When we were done we got to go back to our dorms for 40 minutes. When we got back to the learning center we ate dinner and presented our projects.

My SkySchool experience was so much fun. I learned a lot and it was really interactive. Thank You Sky School!”

– M



“So far, SkySchool has been a blast. We have hiked all over Mt. Lemmon and seen some incredible places. One of my favorite times was eating lunch on the cliff in front of the fire watchtower. The views aren’t only incredible in the day, but at night they are equally as dope. We checked out amazing stars and planets through telescopes and spotted constellations with a laser pointer. Sunsets are also amazing up here. Although hiking is tiring, it is fun. We have also played predator prey, a game that simulates real life situations with stealing resources from a predator, and hiding as prey. Tonight we are presenting our research projects that we have been conducting throughout the week. Different groups are all asking different questions. We then had to go through the whole scientific process acting as if we were professionals doing it. All in all I have had a great time and I’m sad to be leaving tomorrow morning. “

– S


“The instructors from the U of A I thought were very fun, nice, and knowledgeable about many subjects including the one they majored in. Also the presentations from each of the instructors were very cool and interesting.”

– J



The Pollinator Posse

At School Sky, we researched the relationship between plant diversity and pollinator diversity. We observed the wild geranium which is a purple flower native to Mt. Lemmon. We saw many types of bees, flies, beetles, ants, wasps, and butterflies that landed on the flowers. Our team did not find a correlation between plant diversity and pollinator diversity, but we did find an increase in abundance pf pollinators in areas with more plant diversity. It was a really cool experience and we learned a lot about the Sky Islands and about pollinators.

We’re the Schist, Don’t Take Us for Granite

Over the past few days we have hiked, viewed Tucson from a new perspective, looked at rocks, looked at more rocks, and looked at even more rocks. One overzealous group member, known for his crisp, blow dried pants, REALLLLLLY enjoyed using the hydrochloric acid on the limestone, and watching the resulting CO2 bubbles fizz. We collected our own samples, boiled some rocks and did a lot of chemistry, hiked and almost lost a member or two, but loved living life on the edge. The trip was insightful, knowledgeable, and we learned a lot while still having fun. In short, IT WAS LIT!!!!!!!!! PITTS PITTS PITTS PITTS PITTS PITTS PITTS PITTS PITTS PITTS!!

We were continually entertained by the musical stylings of one group member, and his closing Sky School song is below for your enjoyment!


50 rock was fun to be-gin,

And now I’m back here to do it a-gain,

On day one it was time to see-e,

What this year’s trip had in store for me-e,

I gotta new crew and we don’t give a schist,

Don’t take us for granite we da best there is, we

Rock, and we are on a roll,

We gonna study some rocks since we’re a geo patrol,

Vic and Victor Cara Marlon

Ariana Rodrigo,

And don’t forget me and Shelby,

Now time to put on a show.


Cause we don’t give a schist,

Don’t take us for granite,

We gonna rock this study,

We’re gonna fricken grand slammed it,

We’re independent researchers,

Workin as a team,

This is the story of Ryan and the schist,

Sky school 2016.

V 2

Day two came around a-and so,

It became time to gear up and go,

We sat on a cliff with a bril-i-ant view,

And made a hy-pothe-sis fresh and new,

We gathered some samples of rocks and minerals,

We tried to keep’em pure to avoid var-ia-bles,

Got granite limestone Micah schist quartz and feldspar,

And a nice piece of gneiss,

Had to hike pre-tty far,

And while granite that night was pretty rough,

I’m a scientist and that makes me tough.


Cause we don’t give a schist,

Don’t take us for granite,

We gonna rock this study,

We’re gonna fricken grand slam it,

We’re independent researchers,

Workin as a team,

This is the story Ryan and the schist,

Sky school 2016.

V 3

This morning marked the start of day 3,

We boiled our samples in order to see,

The heat ca-pa-ci-ty of each one,

Then we finished the project,

Had a lot of fu-un,

This trip fricken rocked,

It was such a blast,

But our time up here at sky school’s

Slippin way too fast,

Tomorrow morning we gotta pack up and go,

So I guess its time to finish up this show


We don’t give a schist,

Don’t take us for granite,

Don’t try to mess with us,

Cause I wont stand for it,

We’re independent researchers and we are a team,

and we’re all geological machines,

cause we light up the scene,

Cause we don’t give a schist,

Don’t take us for granite,

We rocked this study,

We fricken grand slammed it,

We’re independent researchers,

And we are a team,

This is the story Ryan Stagg and the schist,

Sky school 2016.

Adventures at mt. Lemmon

This is The Bushwhackers aka Small Bladders reporting!

All day yesterday we pretty much bushwhacked. That means going off trail and climbing through the terrain to find springs and collect data. We didn’t find a spring, but we did fall a lot and get a lot of splinters. We also took some quiet time to enjoy nature, which was very rewarding.

The third night some of us finally slept through the whole night (except for some people who stayed up super late playing mafia and just talking about life). Some of us also went on the sunrise hike at 5:30. It was super pretty.

This is our last day, and we’re both happy and sad to leave. We want to come back soon!

Flowing Wells – Day 3 morning – Starlight Perspectives

Last night was the first time we ever saw the physical form of a galaxy along with 4 other objects. It really provided us with some new perspective.  We also got to see the telescope used for the Catalina Sky Survey, and Carson answered all our questions about near earth objects (mostly informed by the movie Armageddon). Everything and all the things were so indescribable (and it changed Gabe’s life).

For our project we are looking at mistletoe infections. Because we are pretentious, we wrote a haiku:

Under mistletoe

We collected data points

Today we model


Flowing Wells Day 2 – Afternoon

Silent Falling Tree (SFT) (Pronunciation: SfffffftttttT)

We are from Flowing Wells High School, here at Sky School. Within our group, there is Mushroom (our teacher back in Tucson), Shrugs, Mulch, Sly, Lichen, Gimpy and Sandy Clay Loam (our Sky School Instructor). Today, we wandered around a bit and made observations to get us thinking about what questions we could ask for our research projects. With all of the fallen and dead trees around us we saw lichen and moss and wanted to make our experiment to have something to do with those! After approximately 10 minutes of heated debate we finally decided to study the amount of moss versus lichen on burned and fallen trees. After going up to the fire lookout on Lemmon Rock we found different parts of the mountain that had different fires that we could use as our study sites. Our first area of choice was a location that had been burnt in the Aspen Fire of 2003. This site is near the ‘Ravens’ a popular climbing boulder and was located on a south-facing slope, an important characteristic to note for our study. Once we got there, we had much dispute about how to set-up our plots. Eventually it was settled. Mulch paced out 25 steps, using a compass to make sure he was walking a straight line. We assigned different jobs, who would look out for lichen or moss or count fallen, burned logs. So far, we found that 3 out of the 18 logs had lichen but no moss, which isn’t supporting our hypothesis. Tomorrow we go to the Bullet Fire of 2002, and the inquiry continues.

Flowing Wells Day 2 – Morning

It takes a true student to be bold

Sky School’s really cold

Sky School has been fun

The trip has been full of really stupid puns

The rocks up here are gneiss

Too bad we’re sleeping with mice

The hanta virus makes me think twice

That junk messes with your brain

It’ll make me go insane

I saw a lot of rocks with feldspar

This trip definitely won’t lower the bar

Later were gonna see a sky full of stars

This trip will help us go really far

That stir-fry really tore us up

I think the boys dorm has just blown up

Predator-prey got real

All those resources we steal

Afterwards we were one girl down

Like Tim Tebow, we had to take a kneel

For all that skin did peel

We didn’t want any blood on the field

Our sick addiction to our phones has been tested

For our Wi-Fi use has been arrested

Nature doesn’t care that we protested

For the partial moon that we saw was only crested


Started from the bottom now we’re up here

Four hours on the bus with no fear

Sky stars and sun seem so near

The air is better up here

Flowing Wells Day 1


“Look at us, we’re Rapping”
We succinctly observed some sandy soil
Mica shines bright like aluminum foil
Meadow Loop hike put us through turmoil
The fiddle heads of ferns had quite the coil

Along our way, we came across some Ponderosa Pine
On the trail the soil was MIGHTY FINE
The scenery was quite divine
But in the end we hope to DINE.

We are intrigued with counting tree rings
We listened as the blue bird sings
We heard the waters of the springs
We cannot wait until the dinner bell dings

We measured the colors of the plants
Becki got stung by a bunch of ants
It’s so cold, we put on pants
When the food arrives we will truly dance

Ecoflow represent: Flowing Wells High School

Our first day at Sky School was rad. We learned so much, including: palm trees are a type of grass, not trees, and about photosynthesis and the adaptations in leaves that prevent water loss. On our way up the mountain, we investigated the effect of altitude on plant area density. We weren’t able to come to a sound conclusion about the plant area density study, because the diversity in plant area regimes yielded very different plant area densities. Also, making our experiment unbiased proved difficult. We made our measurements unbiased by tossing a rock behind our backs, and making a 10’x10′ sampling quadrat where the rock landed. We then counted the number of plants that we found inside of this area. We excluded grasses in our sampling (which includes palm trees, see above).

On our hike around the Meadow Loop, we examined different types rocks and soil colors, watched cute chipmunks and squirrels, and did a questions exercise. It was observed that the squirrel did a small dance move on a fallen log when we were discussing it’s tail. We took some unknown plant samples back to the station for identification (unfortunately, we lost the sample before we could get it identified).

Tomorrow, we are looking forward to more hikes, establishing our experiment, and collecting some more data.


Go team Ecoflow