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 through any of New York City’s nature centers, which are staffed by Urban Park Rangers.
There are activities for every season, every educator, and every student. Choose a program. 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.
What is The Natural Classroom?
Ten distinct programs are available for students in grades K–8 (see below for descriptions). Programs can be customized to fit specific needs of other age groups. With each program, you and your students visit a New York City nature center and take part in a series of hands–on activities led by an Urban Park Ranger. In colder months, a Ranger can visit your classroom (in conjunction with a separate park visit).
What will I receive?
When you sign up, you’ll receive a colorful, information–packed handbook with classroom activities to use before and after your student’s visit to the park. The handbook also describes the hands–on activities planned for your students during their visit.
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.
- All programs are subject to a $100.00 materials fee. City of New York/Parks & Recreation is a Department of Education sole source vendor. Vendor number: CIT 045.
- Groups can be as large as 30 students.
- A group leader and at least one other adult must chaperone a group.
- Students should come prepared to take a walk and be dressed appropriately for the weather. When scheduling a program, ask if there are additional guidelines.
- Programs can be modified to meet your students’ specfic interests and abilities; just mention any special requests or needs.
- If a group arrives more than 15 minutes late without prior notification, the program may be cancelled. Please call ahead if there is a problem.
- If you need to cancel or reschedule a program, please call 311 (or 212–NEW–YORK outside NYC) as soon as possible and ask for the Urban Park Rangers.
- If you need to contact a Ranger on the day of the program, call 888–NY–PARKS and have the borough Ranger Supervisor paged.
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. Sponsored by bp.
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 by creating a journal that combines drawings, written observations, and measurements.
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 natural 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.
Explorers: Way to Go!
Signs and landmarks, sometimes even computers and satellites, help us navigate our way to our destinations. Before modern technology existed, more simple methods were used. Students will learn the art of orienteering, finding one’s way using only a compass and a map. Limited special program slots including rock climbing and canoeing are available upon request (additional fee applies).
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 all historic houses, as well as the Little Red Lighthouse, the High Bridge Water Tower, 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. Come learn all about their history and the relationships they forged with their natural environment.