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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!

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

Schoolyard Ecosystem Explorations

Cary educators visit your classroom to introduce and set up an inquiry-based project that complements 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.

To schedule a schoolyard visit, please contact our Education Program Leader, Ashley Alred, at

Program Offerings:

Butterflies & Moths: Exploring the Wonders of Variation (grades 3-5): In this lesson that weaves together science and art, students observe physical traits of butterflies and moths at the group, species, and individual level. Students set up field investigations to observe specific traits and come to understand their ecological functions. Artistic expression enriches the entire experience.

*Note: This program works best as a two-day visit over the course of a few weeks (the first day to set up ‘bait stations’ and the second as a follow-up investigation).

Water on the Move! (grades k-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.

Hotspots: Tracking Lyme Disease in Upstate New York (grades 6-12): Our Lyme ecology education programs build on current and historical Cary research to debunk "tick myths", help students understand why Dutchess County is a hotspot for tick-borne diseases, and share strategies for future disease prevention. Participants use animal track plates and animal camera footage to study small-mammal movements through the Cary forest and learn how disturbances in habitat and mammal communities can contribute to the spread of Lyme disease through human populations.

*Note: This program works best as a two-day visit over the course of a few weeks (the first day to set up trail cameras and the second as a follow-up investigation).

Program Fees

Each schoolyard visit is scheduled for either 45 minutes or 90 minutes of instruction with Cary educators.

1 class for 45 minutes: $100; $50 for each additional 45-minute class on the same day

1 class for 90 minutes: $150; $75 for each additional 90-minute class on the same day

Please reach out to our Education Program Leader, Ashley Alred at, to schedule a visit. If these costs are prohibitive for your school, please contact us to explore options.


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.