Our new theme packages each unfold a story through interconnected learning experiences.
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Did you know that without houseflies there would be no chocolate? Explore the myriad of creatures (insects, birds, bats, and more) that pollinate flowers and keep ecosystems thriving.
This inquiry-based program is designed to help students slow down, observe and interact with the natural world around them and get creative! It is also an opportunity to connect this process as part of a deeper study or science investigation. Nature journaling inspires students to sharpen their powers of observation through their senses. They draw, paint, and write about what they observe in order to help them understand the form and function of various living and non-living organisms.
Biomimicry is a practice that learns from and mimics structures and strategies found in nature to solve human challenges. It offers an inspiring and compelling way to help students grasp scientific concepts and engage them in collaborative problem-solving. Embedded in biomimicry is experiential learning, innovation, systems thinking, and addressing engineering problems. Ashokan offers a number of ways to introduce your students to biomimicry while supporting student instruction toward the goals of the NYS Science P-12 Science Learning Standards.
Just downstream from the Ashokan Reservoir, a vital source (40%) of NYC’s drinking water, The Ashokan Center is the host of many aquatic systems for students to explore. Students become citizen scientists by collecting biological samples from our ponds and streams to investigate the health of our freshwater ecosystems. Through observation and identification of the organisms found, students can form and test hypotheses about the health of the Ashokan aquatic ecosystems.
Students will venture into the lab to assess the water quality of aquatic systems found on campus. Through observation and analysis of water samples, students will learn about the natural processes involved in purifying water. Students will participate in hands-on activities, creating virtual watersheds using our Augmented Reality (AR) Sandbox and studying otherwise unseen organisms through our digital microscope! This unique class combines technology and science to encourage a deeper understanding of hydrology. (Designed for 6th grade and up.)
Hike through an old Eastern Hemlock forest along the Esopus Creek and explore the natural and social history of the region! The trail passes relics of the recent and prehistoric past, including a 19th-century water mill, a 130-year-old covered bridge, and a glacial gorge, before it ends at a 80-foot waterfall—the walls of which reveal rock layers that are millions of years old.
Paddle on the Esopus Creek and experience the magic that has attracted so many to this important waterway. While navigating the waters with friends, students practice cooperation and communication to explore the wondrous habitat and get close with the wildlife the creek attracts. Whether it is seeing the fish swimming below the surface or the birds flying high across the sky, the experience is always unique and one that students will surely remember!
Home to many elusive creatures like beavers, bobcats, and bears, Ashokan is one of the best places in the Catskills to find traces of our animal neighbors. From feathers and bones to scat and tracks, we’ll actively observe and learn about the inhabitants of the woods, their behavior, and their roles in the ecosystem. We may even find nests and other homes animals create in burrows and tree cavities. Students learn what to look for in the environment to discover evidence of their favorite species, turning any walk into an exciting wildlife expedition!
Not far from the foundation of Ashokan’s original blacksmith forge are two fully functioning blacksmith shops. Sparks will fly as students use ancient tools to hammer iron into a fire poker, trivet, or plant hanger under the guidance of our master craftspeople (and help their classmates by pumping the bellows or hauling coal). Students will discuss concepts such as industrialization, renewable vs. nonrenewable resources, and the role of blacksmithing in colonial life.
Press locally grown apples into delicious cider using our antique cider press and learn all about its amazing history in our country. Each student will have a chance to participate and work the press and taste the results. Students will learn about the history of apples in NYS and the importance of cider as a daily beverage in the 17th and 18th centuries in early America.
Travel back to a simpler time on the Ashokan Homestead, where students are embraced as members of our homestead family. We expect everyone to earn their keep! Contribute to daily life at our beautiful hand-built cabin by learning to cut roof shingles, firewood, and wall beams with tools of the era, or huddle around the fireplace and bake gingerbread in the Dutch oven.
Work as a team to solve a variety of fun and purposeful challenges that cultivate trust and cooperation among the group. Designed to de-emphasize competition, these activities encourage creativity, spontaneity, and imagination, along with communication and leadership skills.
This team building course is more advanced than Challenge and Discovery, designed to challenge a group, both physically and mentally, through a variety of fun initiatives and ground-level elements. As a team, the group will be given the opportunity to practice effective problem-solving and communication skills in order to reach the final goal.
Challenge yourself on an obstacle course in the trees above the forest floor. Students work on their teamwork and communication skills while practicing personal and group responsibility as they encounter diverse elements along the course, such as the kitten crawl, the Burma Bridge, and the log crossing. The course culminates with a thrilling ride down our zipline!
Vocalize with guest instructors who know how to help you connect your musicality and feeling to your breath. This program is available as part of the Fiddles in the Forest experience. Watch the video.
Learn traditional fiddle tunes and techniques on the fiddle, viola, cello, or bass from our talented guest instructors. This program is available as part of the Fiddles in the Forest experience. Watch the video.
What would you do if you were lost in the woods or stranded on an island? Learn basic survival skills and wilderness safety concepts in this fun, hands-on class. With the guidance of our survival experts, students work together to enact survival techniques, prioritize needs, brainstorm prevention measures, build a functional shelter, and gather kindling for a small fire.
In our real schoolhouse built in 1817, our talented staff—in costume—play the part of the strict School Master or Marm, using 19th-century texts and lessons to offer insight into the lives of schoolchildren 200 years ago. This entertaining class facilitates discussions about old and new education models; students will leave with a deeper appreciation of their rights.
In this classic archery class, students learn the history of archery along with the necessary rules, safety procedures, and archery techniques before hitting the range and letting the arrows fly. With a variety of fun targets, kids and adults alike are certain to have a blast at the Ashokan archery range, challenging themselves to improve their power, precision, and accuracy with a bow and arrow while cheering on others to do the same!
Students will become citizen science detectives and investigate the cause of the disappearance of Ash Trees in our area. After using a variety of tools and scientific methods to explore and collect data from existing trees, students will learn how to use evidence to develop conceptual understanding of invasive species and their dramatic impact on the ecosystem in New York State.
During this active inquiry based activity, students will closely investigate, explore and contrast specific forest and meadow ecosystems. They will determine the difference between biotic and abiotic evidence and the conditions required to support life. As a result of these investigations, students will develop a deeper understanding of ecosystems and the interconnectedness between living organisms.
After a scenic hike out to our sugar shack, students will learn about the history of maple sugaring and its roots in Indigenous and colonial cultures. Our staff will demonstrate how to tap a sugar maple tree in order to sustainably harvest sap from our sugarbush. Inside the shack, students will learn all the steps involved in turning that sap into a sweet maple syrup. Finally, they’ll enjoy the fruits of their labor with a maple syrup taste test and enjoy jackwax candy!
Students will interact with nature while exploring the elements and principles of art. Using inspiration from artist Andy Goldsworthy and their imaginations, students will cooperatively create a temporary art installation using natural materials. (click here to see his work).
Participate in one of the most important scientific studies in the Catskill watershed, an essential part of NYC’s water supply system! Equipped with professional water testing supplies, and with the region’s largest reservoir in our backyard, students can work as citizen scientists as we monitor water chemistry, turbidity, riparian vegetation, bank stability, macroinvertebrates, and the physical properties of the Esopus Creek. Students are exposed to a number of scientific methods of measurement to study water quality in the field.
This area’s geography, proximity to NYC, and pristine environment made it the perfect place to build the Ashokan Reservoir, but its construction was not without controversy. Students will learn about the natural and social history of the site, use maps to identify the range of the watershed, and gain a deeper understanding of the reservoir’s impact on land, animals, and people.
Step into the wilderness to learn about the great naturalist writers of the 19th century and their victories in environmental protection. Thoreau, Muir, and Catskills-born John Burroughs sought the peace and inspiration that can only be found in the woods; with their Ashokan journal in hand, students can be inspired by the same serene landscape as they create their own works.
Students work together to make beautiful, functional crafts using colonial methods and tools. They will learn about the raw materials they’re using and question how the industrial revolution has changed the way we acquire and repair tools today (including the environmental implications). Each student will go home with a deeper appreciation for handmade crafts!
Heighten your coordination and focus by synchronizing sound and movement as a group. This program is available as part of the Fiddles in the Forest experience. Watch the video.
Ashokan staff lead fun recreational field games. This is an optional evening program with an additional cost of $385.
Before breakfast, students have the opportunity to participate in an instructor-lead morning ritual such as a short hike, tending to the barn animals, or writing in their journals.
Meals are served in our dining hall where students learn to reduce waste and sometimes get a musical visit.
An important element of the Ashokan experience, a little down time offers a chance to recharge and have fun together.
At the end of each meal, we work together to weigh our food waste and learn about composting. This is a fun part of every school’s visit.
During Open Rec time, you may choose to add an activity like beginner Ukulele lessons with our fun staff instructor!
Kids are grouped by age and gender into the clean, comfortable bunk rooms. Bunk supervisors, who reside in the bunkhouse with the students, read communally to the students before bedtime and are responsible for the students until pre-breakfast activity the following morning. This is a wonderful and memorable part of the Ashokan experience for all students, many who have never slept away from home before.
Teachers choose evening programs (in advance of their class’s arrival to Ashokan) that will complement the day programs. Some are presented by visiting instructors; historic re-enactors, music & dance leaders, and animal specialists. Ashokan instructors lead other evening programs like night walks, skits & song night, and campfire. Click photos for more details.