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Outdoor Education

NATURE IS THE GREAT EQUALIZER

BE SILENT

MEMORIES LAST A LIFETIME

SENSES AWAKENED

NOTHING IS THE SAME

RARE EXPERIENCES

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 the following themes:

Hydrology Lab- NEW!!

Hydrology Lab- NEW!!

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.

Pre-Breakfast Activity

Pre-Breakfast Activity

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 to Cathedral Gorge

Hike to Cathedral Gorge

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.

Adventure Canoeing

Adventure Canoeing

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!

Native Plants & Pollinators

Native Plants & Pollinators

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!

Animal Tracks & Traces

Animal Tracks & Traces

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.

Dining Hall

Dining Hall

Meals are served in our dining hall where students learn to reduce waste and sometimes get a musical visit.

Aquatic Ecology

Aquatic Ecology

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.

Blacksmithing

Blacksmithing

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.

Cider Pressing

Cider Pressing

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.

19th Century Homestead Journey

19th Century Homestead Journey

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.

Team Building Level I: Challenge and Discovery

Team Building Level I: Challenge and Discovery

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.

Team Building Level II

Team Building Level II

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.

Ropes Course

Ropes Course

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.

Free Rec Time

Free Rec Time

An important element of the Ashokan experience, a little down time offers a chance to recharge and have fun together.

Fiddle Music for Orchestras (Fiddles in the Forest only)

Fiddle Music for Orchestras (Fiddles in the Forest only)

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.

Food Waste Challenge

Food Waste Challenge

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.

Ukulele

Ukulele

During Open Rec time, you may choose to add an activity like beginner Ukulele lessons with our fun staff instructor!

Native Plant Restoration

Native Plant Restoration

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.

Survival

Survival

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.

1817 Schoolhouse Experience

1817 Schoolhouse Experience

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.

Archery

Archery

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!

The Longhouse

The Longhouse

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.

Forest Ecology I: Forestry Forensics

Forest Ecology I: Forestry Forensics

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.

Forest Ecology II: Ecosystems Exploration

Forest Ecology II: Ecosystems Exploration

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.

Forest Ecology III: Decomposer Discovery

Forest Ecology III: Decomposer Discovery

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!

Gardening & Permaculture

Gardening & Permaculture

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!

Maple Sugaring

Maple Sugaring

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.

Nature Art

Nature Art

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.

Water Quality Assessment

Water Quality Assessment

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.

Watershed Study

Watershed Study

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.

Writer's Cabin

Writer’s Cabin

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.

Tinsmithing and Broom Making

Tinsmithing and Broom Making

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).

Ashokan Store

Ashokan Store

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.

Stewardship Service Learning Opportunities (SSLO)

Stewardship Service Learning Opportunities (SSLO)

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.

Body Percussion (Fiddles in the Forest only)

Body Percussion (Fiddles in the Forest only)

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.

Singing

Singing

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.

Folk Dance (Fiddles in the Forest only)

Folk Dance (Fiddles in the Forest only)

Strengthen community while finding joy in traditional circle, square, and contra dancing. This program is available as part of the Fiddles in the Forest experience. Watch the video.

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)

Night Walk (Evening Program)

Birds of Prey (Evening Program)

War of 1812 (Evening Program)

Let’s Drum! (Evening Program)

Peter, Paul & George (Evening Program)

Reptiles (Evening Program)

New Games (Evening Program)

One Earth (Evening Program)

DJ Dance Party (Evening Program)

Click photo to meet our 2020-21 outdoor educators.

2020MRainwaterSpringStaffSmall
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Sample Day at The Ashokan Center

Sample Day at The Ashokan Center

Arrive:When a student steps foot on The Ashokan Center’s beautiful campus, instructors are waiting to help them unload their luggage. The instructors then lead the new group to an opening circle where they take turns introducing themselves and sharing a fun fact. Afterwards, the instructors help the students move into their bunkhouse and prepare for their first meal. On each arrival day instructors meet with teachers to gather pertinent medical and behavioral information. During this time, the students enjoy an orientation meeting.

Pre-Breakfast Activity: 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. (45 minutes)

Program Classes: Instructors lead 1.5 hours long classes with students. One class is offered on arrival and departure day, 3 classes are taught on day 2 of trip. Instructors are responsible for one group of 8 to 12 students at a time.

Meals: On a rotating basis, instructors act as “Instructors of the Day.” These instructors are responsible for running all meals that day, making announcements to the student body and overseeing set-up and cleanup of the dining hall. A game involving measuring food waste and discussing composting introduces ideas and concepts of sustainability.

Open Recreation: This (supervised) block of time allows students to have social and self-care time. Activities include playing in our athletic field, resting in the bunkhouse, journaling in our inspirational woods or pastures. The teachers supervise the bunkhouse and the rec field is supervised by Ashokan instructors. Open Recreation is 45 minutes to 1 hour long.

Evening Program: Teachers choose evening programs (in advance of their class’s arrival to Ashokan) that will complement the day programs. On occasion, Ashokan instructors are responsible for running an evening program. This includes night hikes, skits and songs and campfires.

Night Reading and Bunk Supervision: Ashokan instructors supervise the students at night in the bunkhouse. Bunk supervisors, who reside in the bunkhouse with the students, read communally to the students before bedtime. If you are bunk supervisor for the night, you are responsible for the students until pre-breakfast activity the following morning. Instructors can expect to act as bunk supervisor at least once a week.

Friday Meetings: At the end of the week the entire program staff comes together to debrief the week. Feedback is recorded for next year’s trip and the following weeks school and schedule is discussed. This is also a chance for instructors to give “shout-outs” to co-instructors.