The Youth Science Discovery Experience (YSDE) is a project-based learning program operated by the National Youth Science Foundation with an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). This enrichment program teams students and teachers with practicing scientists to pursue research projects. The YSDE develops scientific reasoning and creative problem solving skills, balancing focused research with exploratory seminars, case-study lectures, and outdoor leadership opportunities to develop versatile critical thinkers for an innovative future.

While in residence, participants work on research projects in small teams guided by mentoring scientists. Research topics vary and have previously included biology, engineering, hydrology, physiology, energy management, and forestry. At the conclusion of the YSDE, research teams present their findings to peers, staff, and guests in an academic colloquium that emphasizes the need for ongoing research and exploration. Teams also keep online research logs and create their poster versions of their results. The primary research focus of the YSDE is complemented with guest lectures, whole-group problem-solving activities, and informal seminars. YSDE also takes advantage of local scenic areas for outdoor adventure activities, including mountain biking, snowshoeing, hiking, and camping.

The NYSF has a long history of strengthening STEM education in West Virginia, around the nation, and throughout the world. The NYSF also operates the National Youth Science Camp®, a program that has served the nation’s brightest graduating high school students since its inception in 1963, and several other experiential science education programs with regional to international focus. This more than 50-year history has established a network of dedicated scientists and educators to support NYSF activities, as well as invaluable partnerships with organizations like the Canaan Valley Institute (CVI) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). These professional connections, the rich scientific and recreational environment of eastern West Virginia, and the NYSF’s expertise with informal education create a unique capability for impacting students as they begin to make critical decisions that will guide their academic and professional careers.