Mission & History
Our mission is to teach, inspire and build community through shared experiences in nature, history and the arts.
Located in the storied Catskill Mountains adjacent to the Ashokan Reservoir, the primary water source for New York City, The Ashokan Center is the oldest outdoor environmental education organization in New York State. Our bucolic 385-acre campus is comprised of fields, forests, trails and streams and features a number of historically significant structures including Turnwood Covered Bridge (1885), the original Marbletown Schoolhouse (1817), and the Winchell Farmhouse (1780).
To achieve our goal of teaching, inspiring and building community, we conduct residential and day programs for students and teachers of all ages in the following areas: Natural Science including Watershed Studies and Ecology, Living History, and Team Building.
Other programming includes our renowned week-long overnight Ashokan Music & Dance Camps, concerts, dances, and visual art exhibitions.
In 1967, the first outdoor education programs to be presented in New York State were offered at the Ashokan Field Campus. Over the decades, numerous schools have developed an ongoing relationship with Ashokan–returning again and again to participate in hands-on learning experiences that make important connections between nature, science, history and the arts. Over the years, the curriculum has grown beyond traditional outdoor education to include community building, living history and natural science.
The Center has also established a connection with a growing group of organizations that call Ashokan home. These include Ashokan Music & Dance Camps, led by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason since 1981, the Northeast Blacksmiths Association, and others.
In 2008, a historic and forward-looking partnership was established between the Open Space Institute, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Ashokan Foundation. During the same year, the Ashokan Field Campus was transferred from SUNY New Paltz to the Ashokan Foundation, a New York State 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization. At the time of this transfer, the Ashokan Foundation launched an ambitious effort to replace its aging creekside buildings with new sustainably-designed facilities. This $7.25 million project concluded in late 2012 with the unveiling of a new 200-seat performance hall, classroom spaces, dining halls, and lodging for 150 guests.
Today, in addition to being a retreat and conference venue, The Ashokan Center hosts a variety of family-friendly community events including the popular Summer and Winter Hoot concerts, Maple Fest, the Fall Family Fun Festival, musical performances, dances and lectures.