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Field Trips

Cary Institute educators would like to engage your K-12 students in the world of ecology!

Use the natural curiosity of schoolchildren to teach basic ecosystem concepts during mini field research investigations and guided walks at our 2,000 acre ecological research site.

Greetings, Educators! Please email Ashley Alred ( with spring 2023 field trip or schoolyard program requests by March 1st.

Stream Ecology

Come visit our living laboratory: the Wappinger Creek! Visitors experience the creek firsthand through stream chemistry testing, biotic sampling, and more.

Stream Life Cycles (Grades K-5): Learn about the life cycle of macroinvertebrates that hatch in streams and emerge on land as adults. Students will spend time searching for larvae in the Wappinger Creek and investigate tools for studying adult macroinvertebrates like mayflies, caddisflies, and mosquitoes.

Water Life (Grades 6-12): Help us collect data on macroinvertebrates, which are small aquatic animals that play an important role in the stream food web and are used as water quality indicators. Students will participate in ecological research as they collect, identify, and then compare these organisms from two different habitats within the Wappinger Creek.  

Salt Pollution (Grades 6-12): Road salt is one of the most pervasive and abundant pollutants in local streams. Students will learn about the effect of salt on aquatic ecosystems, test water quality in the Wappinger Creek, and learn about salt pollution research that Cary Institute scientists have been working on for the past 25 years.

Ecosystem Discovery Walk

Younger students (suggested for grades k-3) are challenged to use all of their senses to discover their local landscape through a guided walk on our trails. 

Students will also participate in mini-investigations that use their natural curiosity to explore basic ecosystem concepts such as food and interaction webs and the living and non-living components of an ecosystem.

This program can be structured to enhance your current science curriculum. Recent Ecosystem Discovery walk topics include: decomposition, butterflies and moths, water cycle, stream life, and eco-scavenger hunts.

Program Fees

Each field trip is scheduled for 3 hours of instruction with Cary educators. Most groups also choose to stay for an extra 30 or so minutes to eat lunch at our outdoor picnic tables. The program fee is $175 for ≤30 students. We can accommodate larger groups depending on staff availability for an additional 50% fee (maximum 60 students).

Two programs for younger students, Stream Life Cycles & Ecosystem Discovery Walk, have shorter 2-hour ($125) and 1.5-hour ($100) options.

Chaperones and teachers are not charged for attending. A minimum adult to student ratio of 1:15 is required.

Please reach out to our Education Program Leader, Ashley Alred, at, to learn more about program rates. If our costs and/or maximum participant number are prohibitive for your school, please contact us to explore options.


What do I need to bring?

Not much! We provide all science supplies and writing materials, but students should remember to wear appropriate clothing for outdoor field investigations. This usually includes sneakers/hiking boots, a spare change of clothes, and a jacket. There is always a chance that students can get wet and/or muddy! Field trip organizers will receive a letter outlining trip logistics well in advance of their visit. Many groups bring picnic lunches to enjoy during or after their program.

Should we bring chaperones and other guests?

We welcome teachers and chaperones and require that classes come with at least 1 adult per 15 students. We request that chaperones go out in the field with the class - it’s wonderful (and encouraged) for chaperones and teachers to be actively engaged with the students!

Our group is coming on a bus. Can we drive on the Taconic Parkway?

No! The Taconic Parkway does not permit commercial vehicles or buses unless authorized under an agreement with the NYS Department of Transportation. The Taconic Parkway is closely patrolled by NYS troopers, and buses traveling on the Parkway are likely to be ticketed. 

Education Programs at Cary

All of our programs promote outdoor, scientifically valid, educational experiences for K-12 students, scout troops, and other groups. Each program was developed to support New York State Learning Standards. Pre- and post-visit lessons for each program are available. 

All of the Cary Institute Education Programs are part of our Ecological Literacy Program.  We are currently conducting educational research in student learning.  All programs may be subject to pre- and post-assessments that will be used in our research efforts.