Urban Park Rangers
The Natural Classroom
For more than 20 years, the Urban Park Rangers have provided programs that have given teachers the opportunity to use New York City parks as outdoor classrooms. New York City parks offer a "natural" opportunity to learn from and enjoy the unique natural and cultural resources in parks.
This exciting series of hands–on program provides an unforgettable experience for students. These programs help students meet Department of Education performance standards and are available in all five boroughs.
There are activities for every season, every educator, and every student. Investigate a salt marsh, explore a piece of history, or learn about New York City’s extraordinary wildlife. At any time of year, you and your students can take advantage of The Natural Classroom.
During the month of September, the Urban Park Rangers are offering free in-school Natural Classroom programs through the Community Parks Initiative to schools in underserved neighborhoods where NYC Parks is investing millions of dollars to enhance programming, maintenance, and community partnership. The Natural Classroom program is a perfect opportunity to introduce your class to the natural environment and New York City’s premier outdoor educators, the Urban Park Rangers. Space is limited. To schedule a program for your class, please call 311 or (866) 692-4295.
What is The Natural Classroom?
The Natural Classroom is a 1 ½ hour program designed to expose the students to the natural environment and different ecosystems of New York City. With each program, you and your students visit a New York City Park and take part in a series of hands–on activities led by an Urban Park Ranger. Thirteen distinct programs are available for students in grades K–8 (see below for descriptions) and can be customized to fit specific needs of each group.
What will I receive?
Each class receives a reusable canvas bag that contains a booklet with pre- and post- visit activity suggestions, a classroom item such as a field guide or replica artifact that relates to the topic and souvenirs for the students.
How do I sign up?
Choose a program from the list below, then call 311 (or 212–NEW–YORK outside of NYC) and ask for the Urban Park Rangers to schedule a visit to a nature center in a park in any of the five boroughs.
Guidelines for the Natural Classroom Program
- The Natural Classroom education programs must be scheduled in advance by calling 311 (or 212–NEW–YORK outside of NYC) and asking for the Urban Park Rangers.
- Programs last approximately 90 minutes, but can be adjusted to fit your schedule. In-school programs last approximately 45 minutes.
- Fee schedule:
- Park program fee: $100
- Park program fee, Title I schools; $50
- Combination program (Park program and in-school program): $125
- Combination program (Park program and in-school program) Title I: $60
- Groups can be as large as 30 students.
- A group of 30 must have a minimum of 3 chaperones, including the Group Leader.
- Students and chaperones should come prepared to take a walk outside and be dressed appropriately for the weather. Programs can be modified to meet your students’ specific interests and abilities; just mention any special requests or needs at the time of scheduling.
- Cancellation Policy:
- Programs take place rain or shine. The Urban park Rangers may cancel a program in the event of severe weather incidents (lightening, thunder, high winds etc.). The program will be rescheduled for the earliest available day.
- If a group arrives more than 15 minutes late without prior notification, the program may be canceled. Please call ahead if there is a problem. Rescheduling is subject to availability.
- If you need to cancel or reschedule a program, please call 212-360-2774 as soon as possible and ask for the Urban Park Rangers.
Climate Change: Adapting in New York City
Climate Change has the ability to affect every living thing on our planet. Discover the difference between weather and climate and come away with a basic understanding of the affects on flora, fauna and landscape. Identify examples of how the City uses parks in the climate change management plan.
TreesNYC: Something Big is Taking Root
This program will germinate an interest in trees in your students. ‘Leaf’ the classroom behind and branch out to the park. Help New York become green and clean.
Urban Raptors: Masters of the Sky
This program will have your students soaring high. Discover their razor–sharp talons, keen eyesight, and hooked beaks. Eagles, hawks, owls and more; discover their world and watch them soar.
Citizen Science: Water Quality Testing
Citizen Science programs promote public involvement in science research projects and interest in environmental issues. Through the ParKIDS NYC website, the Urban Park Rangers are conducting a water quality monitoring project. Partner with the Rangers to collect and test water samples at various locations in all five boroughs.
Botany: Plant Power
Through a comprehensive overview of a plant’s life cycle, students will learn about the life–giving role plants play in urban ecosystems and the diversity of our photosynthetic friends.
Conservation: Keep it Wild
Under the guidance of the Rangers, students will create a conservation assessment of a disturbed natural area. Activities such as vegetation mapping and habitat assessment, as well as recommendations for plant/wildlife reintroduction are included. The work accomplished will contribute to larger–scale conservation efforts in our city parks.
Ecology: The Web of Life
How do hawks, mice, and humans relate? They are all part of a typical food chain in our city parks. Students will learn how living and non–living elements of the ecosystem interact, and ultimately, how human interactions can impact these delicate relationships.
Entomology: Buggin' Out
Insects are the most numerous and most misunderstood residents of city parks. Students will explore the life cycle, anatomy, and fascinating adaptations of these invertebrates, and the vital role they play in the ecosystems.
Geology: Rock Your World
New York has some of the most diverse geological features found within a single city. From the rocky coast of Orchard Beach to the sandy shores of Wolfe’s Pond Park, students can walk backwards through the progression of the City’s geological history.
Ichthyology: A School of Fish
Take your students out of the classroom and into the deep. A lesson in fish anatomy, aquatic ecology, and proper angling techniques precedes a fun fishing activity. Fishing is a popular pastime in New York City; students will learn to do it safely and legally. Freshwater and saltwater options are available.
Ornithology: Parks are for the Birds
Birds live all around us, but how much do you know about them? Students use sights and sounds to identify birds and interpret their behavior. Their findings will be documented in a journal that combines drawings, written observations, and data collection/interpretation.
Historic Houses: Yesterday, Today
Long before a public water system existed and electricity surged through our city, New Yorkers' homes were very different. Students can step back in time at one of our historic sites and discover how people once lived without modern conveniences. Locations include the Little Red Lighthouse, The High Bridge Tower, Ft. Greene and Fort Totten.
Native Americans: Pathways to the Past
New York wasn't always the bustling metropolis it is now, but it did support thriving communities in the past. Native Americans, like the Lenape, inhabited Manhattan Island and were very adept at living off the land. Students discover their history and the relationships they forged with their natural environment.