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Schoolyard Programs

Grades K-12

At the Cary Institute we believe every place is an ecosystem. This program allows students to explore and investigate an ecosystem that means a lot to them – their schoolyard!

Schoolyard Ecosystem Explorations

Cary educators visit your classroom to introduce and set up an inquiry-based project that compliments your curriculum, individual schoolyard, and time constraints. Students take on the role of field scientists as they generate and investigate hypotheses about their schoolyard ecosystem based on their own place-based knowledge. Recent questions we've studied with students have included:

  • "Which mammals live in our schoolyard, and how might they contribute to the spread of Lyme disease?" (Grade 7, 9-12)
  • "Does student foot traffic in the schoolyard affect the distribution of worms?" (Grades 2, 6) 
  • "Which bait do ants prefer?" (Kindergarten) "Are dandelions in different life cycle phases on the hill and the flat section of the schoolyard?" (Grade 1) 
  • "Do different types of insects live in the forest and field habitats of our schoolyard?" (Grade 4) 
  • "Which tree species grow in the school forest plot?" (Grades 9, 12)

To find out more information about scheduling and customizing a program that fits your needs, contact Ashley Alred at

Investigating Your Schoolyard Water Cycle

Grades 3-12

When we think about the water cycle, most of us think of a diagram with arrows moving from alpine peaks into the big, blue ocean. Unless we live in such a place, this idealized diagram does not teach us where our water comes from, or what happens to rain that falls on our neighborhoods. In this program, the local water cycle goes beyond evaporation and condensation to become local and significant as students participate in mini water investigations in their schoolyard that illustrate the many pathways of water in your local neighborhood.

Program Cost

1 class (45 minutes)

  • $100
  • $50 for each additional 45-minute class on the same day

1 class (90 minutes)

  • $150
  • $75 for each additional 90-minute class on the same day

If these costs are prohibitive for your school, please consider contacting us about working together to apply for a science program grant.