ecology camp campers 2012

Eco-Discovery Camp

Our goals during our summer Eco-Discovery Camp are to:

  • use children's natural curiosity and enthusiasm for the outdoors to help them understand important ecological concepts,
  • create an open space where campers can ask and answer their own scientific questions,
  • expose campers to the field of Ecology,
  • support children as they develop confidence in their ability to use science to understand and positively impact the world.

Bugs, Bacteria, and Beyond:
The Little Creatures that Rule the World!

Did you know that Iowa State entomologists estimate that the ratio of insects to humans on Earth is 200 million to one? Or that a single gram of soil can contain up to 50,000 types of bacteria (Nature News 2008)? This year our Eco-Discovery campers will hit the trails to investigate the fascinating "miniworld" of insects, fungi, and bacteria.

We'll learn how to find and study living things that often go unnoticed, but amaze us when we take the time to observe their extraordinary diversity. Throughout their week of field exploration we hope that campers will realize that "bugs" may be small, but they play mighty roles in ecosystems as decomposers, nutrient fixers, pollinators, predators, and more!

ecology camp campers
2015 campers

How do campers spend their week?

At the Cary Institute's Ecology Camp, children have a unique opportunity to experience ecological science with our skilled ecology educators and research scientists. During Eco-Discovery Camp, children entering grades 2-7 explore the hills, valleys, ponds, and streams of our 2,000-acre Dutchess County campus. Throughout each 1-week session campers conduct scientific investigations, learn about the natural history of the area, and participate in team building activities.

Each year the camp has a different theme, allowing our many returning campers to have unique experiences year after year. Past camp themes have included: Limno-explorers (2012), Life cycles (2013), Decomposition (2014), Stream Pollution (2015), and Nature's Structures (2016).

Visit the camp Flickr photo gallery to see just how much fun our campers have!

ecology camp campers
2015 campers

How old are campers, and how big are the sessions?

Each week of camp will have a maximum of 12 campers and will be dedicated to either younger campers (entering grades 2-4) or older campers (entering grades 5-7). In addition, two educators with extensive experience in ecology and education will teach each week. We're also fortunate to have a high school-aged Eco-Leader volunteer helping with camp each week.

Eco-Discovery Camp for 2nd -4th graders runs from 9am to 3pm, Monday through Friday, with a late pick up (4pm) option available. For 5th – 7th graders, the camp day runs from 9am to 4pm. This year, the second week is a pro-rated four day session due to the July 4 holiday. Each week of camp follows the same program, and therefore campers may participate for one session only.

Can campers attend multiple sessions in one summer?

Unfortunately, demand is so high that we are only able to invite each camper to attend for one session per summer. In addition, each week of camp follows the same program, and therefore campers may participate for one session only. We typically fill each session to capacity, so be sure to reserve your preferred week early. However, middle school students are invited to participate in both our Eco-Discovery camp and our Art + Science course.

How much does it cost?

Our one week sessions cost $260 and $300 for younger and older campers, respectively.

Late pick-up for younger campers (4pm) –  $50/week

Refund Policy

Withdrawal from camp prior to June 9, 2017 refunded total fee less $25.00 for administrative costs. No refund for any reason after June 9, 2017.

Camp Scholarships:

Through the generosity of community members and local foundations, we are proud to offer a limited number of scholarships to families who could not normally afford to send their children to camp.

To be eligible for a scholarship students must qualify for free or reduced lunch, as outlined by federal income eligibility guidelines. Scholarships are awarded on a first come, first served basis. Typically our scholarships are all awarded by the end of April.

Please return the application form to Shelly Forster via email ( or mail (2801 Sharon Turnpike, PO Box AB, Millbrook, NY 12545).

Scholarship application >

For more information about scholarships, contact Shelly Forster at 845-677-7600 ext. 303 or

What about older campers?

Eco–Leaders Program

Our Eco-Leaders Program is for students entering grades 8-12. Each Eco-Leader assists educators during one Eco-Discovery camp session while also leading their own activity and assisting in data collection. This is similar to a junior counselor program, and includes a required training session prior to camp.


Art + Science Program

Middle and high school students are invited to participate in our weeklong Art + Science program. Students will spend the week exploring Cary's field, forests, and streams through the art of scientific observation and will create a beautiful field book of ecological discoveries.


For more information about the Cary Institute's Ecology Camp, contact Shelly Forster at (845) 677-7600 ext. 303 or via email at

Related Files

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

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