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Watershed Package

an investigation of aquatic ecosystems and the Catskill Watershed (Grades 4-8)

This hands-on dynamic series of classes involves a deep dive into the watershed ecosystem. Through inquiry based lessons, students become citizen scientists by sampling and identifying macro- and micro-invertebrates to determine the health of Ashokan’s watershed. In addition, students learn about The Ashokan Reservoir system which provides 40% of New York City’s drinking water. With tools such as our aerial and underwater drones and AR Sandbox, students get the opportunity to investigate the world of water up close.

Classes & Activities:

– Pond & Stream Investigations
– Hydrology Lab
– Cathedral Gorge Hike
– Canoeing
– You Pick! (Recommendations: Forest Ecology I or II)

Evening Program choices: Reptiles/Birds, Campfire with S’Mores

What you get:

Pond & Stream Investigations

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.

Hydrology Lab – NEW!

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 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.

Choose one more:

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 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.

Evening Options:


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 snapping turtle, an alligator, a legless lizard, and snakes.

Campfire (Outdoor or Indoor) with S’mores!

Enjoy an hour-long full-group campfire experience with warm s’mores, jokes, songs, and stories from the Ashokan staff. In the event of inclement weather we will create a similar experience indoors!

Learning Standards: 3-LS4-3, 3-LS4-4, 5-ESS3-1, MS-LS2-1. MS-LS2-4, MS-LS2-2, MS-LS2-5, MS-ESS3-3, MS-ESS3-4