“Nature is the great equalizer for them. They don’t need to read on grade level or remember multiplication facts. They are learning new vocabulary by actually seeing, experiencing, and doing.” – Debbie Miglione
“You need to look at the light coming through the trees, you need to be silent and take in all the sounds.” – Patrick
“I never knew there were so many stars before”
“I went on an overnight trip to Ashokan when I was in elementary school and I will never forget it. It was amazing. We made brooms and horseshoes and took nature hikes and learned so much. It left an indelible mark on me as one of the greatest elementary school…
“Nature has its own sound that no one else can create. Nature helps us humans live our own lives.” – Daniel
“Nothing is the same, the trees, the rocks, the leaves and even the air is clean and fresh, something I do not get at home.” – Tanya
“As someone who works with children I can honestly say that programs like this are rare gems and if I had a say in it I would make it mandatory for all schools to incorporate this experience into the curriculum.” Sheryl Brumer
Since 1967 we have offered quality residential and day programs for school groups. In today’s age of social-emotional and ecological challenges, we are even more devoted to sharing this one-of-a-kind outdoor experiential learning with the young people who will shape the future of our planet.
VISITING SCHOOLS MAY CHOOSE FROM THE FOLLOWING PROGRAMS:
Read all or filter by theme.
This class is designed for 6th graders and up. Students will be placed in a laboratory setting to test the quality of water from various sources located on the Ashokan campus. By making observations and analyzing these samples, students will learn about the natural processes that take place in purifying water. Students will participate in activities including our new Augmented Reality (AR) Sandbox for creating watershed models, as well as our digital microscope to peer into the unseen world. This approach will allow students to have a unique hands-on experience in exploring the macro and micro world which surrounds us all while gaining an understanding/appreciation for accessible drinking water.
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.
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 the Esopus Creek and experience the magic that has attracted so many to this important waterway. Explore the banks of the creek, where wildlife is abundant throughout the year, especially in the spring months. Lucky paddlers may even spot an elusive green heron or find an ancient spearhead washed up on the shore!
Put on your citizen science caps and join our instructors as they introduce the concept of phenology, the study of seasonal plant and animal life, with games and fun activities. Students will observe native plants and pollinators and record information in Ashokan journals, plant rain gardens, work on bank restoration, or build pollinator habitats. Let’s get our hands dirty!
Home to many elusive creatures like beavers, turkeys, 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 droppings and tracks, we’ll actively observe and learn about the inhabitants of the woods, their habits, and their roles in the ecosystem.
Meals are served in our dining hall where students learn to reduce waste and sometimes get a musical visit.
One of the Ashokan Reservoir’s creeks runs through our campus, providing an opportunity to discuss the history and ecology of the watershed, NYC’s main water source. Students will discover the wonders of water system formation, collect and examine aquatic insects and animals, observe the busy beavers, and maybe even catch a lucky glimpse of the bald eagle.
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 local, organic apples into delicious cider using our antique cider press, then head over to our old-time kitchen, where the cast-iron stove will be fired up. Our experts will help ensure students’ cider is pasteurized as they bake an apple crisp using our famous Ashokan recipe—before taking a stroll through the apple trees to learn about the real Johnny Appleseed.
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.
Did your group love our Challenge and Discovery class—but want to step it up a level? This team building course is designed to challenge a group, both physically and mentally, through a variety of fun initiatives. 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 and on an obstacle course in the trees above the forest floor. Students will work on teamwork, communication, and personal and group responsibility as they encounter classic rope elements such as the kitten crawl, the Burma Bridge, and the log crossing—before rewarding themselves with a whiz down the zipline at the end of the course.
An important element of the Ashokan experience, a little down time offers a chance to recharge and have fun together.
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.
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!
Did you know that much of the native flora in New York State is bordering on extinction? Ashokan is determined to help preserve our native plant species and the ecosystems they support. Students can get their hands dirty joining our efforts to restore our native understory.
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, collect water, and gather kindling.
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 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!
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.
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.
Students will be able to get their hands in the dirt during this interactive discovery class. Through log and rock rolling, students will have an opportunity to see decomposers work their magic in the forest floor!
Grab a shovel and leave a lasting thumbprint on Ashokan! Students have been the stewards of our land since the Center’s inception in 1967. In this class, they’ll explore the importance of sustainability, land stewardship, and agriculture. They’re invited to help our naturalists tend to our heirloom vegetable garden and learn how to start their own garden or windowsill system!
After a scenic hike out to our sugar shack, students will learn about the history of maple sugaring and its roots in native and colonial cultures. Our sap men and women will demonstrate how to tap a maple tree— if you’re here at the right time, students can try sap straight from the tree! Finally, they’ll enjoy the fruits of their labor with a maple syrup taste test and maple candy.
Students will interact with nature while exploring the elements and principles of art. Through the use of natural materials, students will cooperatively create a temporary art installation.
Participate in one of the most important scientific studies in the NYC watershed! 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.
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.
Gather around the woodstove 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 Ashokan journal in hand, students can be inspired by the same serene landscape as they create their own works.
We’ll work in teams to make beautiful, functional crafts using the methods and tools of our predecessors. Students will be encouraged to consider the raw materials they’re using—where do the sorghum and handles come from?—and question how the industrial revolution has changed the way we acquire and repair tools today (including the environmental implications).
Find a keepsake to take home with you. We offer stickers, badges, t-shirts, hoodies, maple syrup, hats, ukuleles, and new plush wild animals. This store experience can be a fun experience in basic math and decision making. It is entirely optional.
Put young, helpful hands to work and learn new skills. This experience will change seasonally and depending on the current needs of the campus and could include gardening, removing invasive species or light trail work. This can be a class or take place during Open Rec.
OPTIONAL EVENING PROGRAMS:
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.
Campfire (Evening Program)
Make warm s’mores and enjoy ann hour-long campfire experience with jokes, songs, and stories from the Ashokan staff. Larger groups may split in half, with…
Night Walk (Evening Program)
Use your ears like the deer, step softly like the fox. Observe the forest at night! (After May 15th, special arrangements need to be made.)…
Young Voices for the Planet (Evening Program)
Watch and discuss short films from esteemed author Lynne Cherry’s inspiring series, Young Voices For The Planet as an evening program. The films document the…
Birds of Prey (Evening Program)
Bill or Brian Robinson bring in a number of beautiful and interesting predatory birds (owl, Harris Hawk, kestrel, Turkey vulture, or red-tailed hawk.) While each…
Stargazing (Evening Program – NEW)
Inquire when you contact us about this exciting new evening program option with no additional cost.
Jay Ungar & Molly Mason (Evening Program)
Enjoy traditional music & dancing as Jay Ungar & Molly Mason perform lively and beautiful music on the fiddle and guitar and lead students in…
War of 1812 (Evening Program)
Neil Murray arrives in costume and engages students with a historic perspective on the War of 1812. This is an optional evening program with an…
Let’s Drum! (Evening Program)
Jonathan Duda creates an exciting hands-on drumming and percussion workshop for groups up to 40 students. This is an optional evening program with an additional…
Peter, Paul & George (Evening Program)
Peter, Paul, and George build community through traditional American dance & music. They joyfully engage the group with called dances that strengthen connection. This is…
Civil War Soldier Comes Alive (Evening Program)
Neil Murray arrives in costume and engages students with a historic perspective on the Civil War. This is an optional evening program with an additional…
Reptiles (Evening Program)
Bill or Brian Robinson share reptiles with the group and explain their importance in nature and their varied adaptations. Normally they will bring a large…
New Games (Evening Program)
Ashokan staff lead fun recreational field games. This is an optional evening program with an additional cost of $385.
Skit and Song Night (Evening Program)
Ashokan staff lead the group in a fun night of skits and songs! This is an optional evening program with an additional cost of $385.
One Earth (Evening Program)
Renowned storyteller and folksinger John Porcino regales students with songs and stories. This is an optional evening program with an additional cost of $445.
DJ Dance Party (Evening Program)
Cut loose on the dance floor as the Ashokan staff spins fun dance tunes. This is an optional evening program with an additional cost of…
Town Hall Simulation (NEW!)
A new program led by Ashokan staff, where students simulate the citizens of a contemporary town, where a new change is being debated.
Revolutionary War Soldier Comes Alive (Evening Program)
Neil Murray arrives in costume and engages students with a historic perspective on the Revolutionary War. This is an optional evening program with an additional…