What is GALS?

GALS is a summer science program in the Pisgah National Forest for 8 high school girls.  Over the course of 13 days, girls will learn ecology, earth science, and chemistry through exploring their surroundings with scientists from Duke University.  This program is offered free of charge to motivated girls.  GALS provides girls with the unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience in science and experiential education while immersed in a supportive community of peers.

GALS strives to cultivate a passion for environmental science, develop leadership abilities, enhance critical thinking skills, and promote teamwork in each participant.  The program consists of formal scientific instruction, informal environmental investigation and experimentation, and small group discussions – all while backpacking through the beautiful Pisgah National Forest.  In addition to engaging in science, girls participate in discussions on environmental ethics and have opportunities for environmental journaling, reflection, and art.  Girls are encouraged to push themselves outside their comfort zones and to try new activities, while simultaneously gaining self-awareness and self-confidence.  While the entire team consists of 8 girls, every night we will break into smaller groups for reflection activities and leadership development.

A typical day will consist of wake-up, breakfast, and breaking down camp.  We will then hike 6-8 miles, with stops along the way to learn about our surroundings, conduct experiments, and eat lunch.  Once we arrive at the next campsite, we will set up camp.  We will then continue experiments and engage in team building activities until dinner.  After a scrumptious meal cooked on our camp stoves, we will have time for evening reflections and leadership development.

 Cost & itinerary

This program is free for all participants.

Day 1: Students arrive for the beginning of GALS.  We will spend some time getting to know each other and checking our gear before heading out for our first night at a campground.

Days 2-6: We will embark on our first backpacking trip.  Students will engage in scientific exploration while backpacking through Pisgah National Forest.  During this section of the trip, students will learn about the scientific process and engage in small group projects.

Days 7-12: We will continue scientific exploration on a second backpacking adventure in another section of Pisgah National Forest.  During this section of the trip, students will engage in individual projects.

Day 12: We will head out of the woods and back to Durham, and students will finalize their individual projects.

Day 13: Students will deliver presentations of their individual projects to parents, guardians, and friends.

Program dates

GALS will be held on June 11-23, 2017.  Pick-up and drop-off will occur at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.  Parents, guardians, and friends are encouraged to attend the student presentations on June 23 at Duke University.


Duke Outing Club has generously lent us any necessary gear – including raincoats, rain pants, backpacking packs, tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and stoves. You will not have to purchase anything extra for your child to participate in GALS.

Selection process

Girls will be selected to participate in GALS based upon motivation, interest for science, and a team spirit.  No previous backpacking experience is necessary nor are grades the determining factor.  Participants are not restricted to North Carolina residents; any girl can apply, as long as she can provide her own transportation to/from Durham, North Carolina.  Preference is given to girls who have not had similar previous opportunities.  Participants who have completed Duke University’s Environmental Science Summer Program are encouraged to apply.  Applications consist of a questionnaire and 2 letters of recommendations.  Applications will open in December and close on March 10.  Girls will be notified of selection by April 15.