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The Natural Classroom: People, Place, and Parks

Ranger talking to kids at a Rangers' Wilderness Survival program

Make your city your outdoor classroom with the help of the Urban Park Rangers and The Natural Classroom: People, Place, and Parks! This exciting series of hands-on programs lets you explore the natural world of New York City’s parks with your students.

The Natural Classroom Curriculum

Each park in our city is one-of-a-kind and shaped by its natural features, the plants and animals that live there, and the communities it serves. Your students will have fun exploring these unique urban spaces through active and engaging place-based learning experiences that highlight real-world examples of concepts, ideas, and content learned in the classroom. Students will investigate the diversity of parks and green spaces in New York City, how these spaces make life better for New Yorkers, and how NYC Parks cares for parks and recreational spaces.

The Natural Classroom is designed for students in grades K-8.

Program Benefits

Urban environmental education experiences such as The Natural Classroom have been shown to advance academic achievement, build character, promote wellness and good health, cultivate environmental stewardship, and foster community and ecological resilience.

The use of experiential and inquiry-based teaching strategies in The Natural Classroom accommodates students of a variety of ages and developmental abilities, helping them grow their understanding of the role urban parks play in the resiliency of the city, and how students can care for parks in their community. We hope these experiences will inspire students’ transformation into active park advocates.

Request The Natural Classroom

Want to request The Natural Classroom for your students? Here's what you need to know:

  • The Natural Classroom programs last approximately 1.5 hours, but can be adjusted to fit your schedule. In-school programs last approximately 45 minutes.
  • Programs must be scheduled in advance.
  • Students and chaperones should come prepared to be outside for the duration of the program.
  • Groups can be as large as 30 students, with at least 3 chaperones, including the Group Leader.
  • In order to provide the best possible student experience, your group may be divided in two during your visit.

Review the programs and guidelines described below, and click the button below to visit The Natural Classroom request page. Be sure to include your school and potential topics of interest. A Ranger will review your request and be in touch with you shortly.

Request Now

Program Descriptions

Five distinct programs are available for students in grades K-8 and can be customized to fit the specific needs of each group. The content covered during your visit may vary depending on the park, day, or time of year. If you have a specific topic you’d like your program to discuss, just let us know! Just mention any special requests or needs while you are scheduling the program. These programs help students meet Department of Education performance standards and are available in all five boroughs.

Plants

This program introduces students to the diversity of plants and trees in New York City and the vital ecosystem services they provide. Students are introduced to how NYC Parks cares for the city’s green spaces and how they can get involved. Site-specific activities help students explore topics including:

  • Growth and life cycles
  • Roles of plants in the urban environment
  • Human impacts on urban plants

This program includes content covered by previously offered Trees and Botany programs.

Urban Wildlife

This program introduces students to the diverse world of birds, invertebrates, fish, mammals, and reptiles with whom we share New York City. Students are introduced to how NYC Parks supports biodiversity and manages wildlife, and how they can take an active role in protecting biodiversity. Site-specific activities help students explore topics including:

  • Growth and life cycles
  • Behavior and adaptations
  • Classification
  • Habitats

This program includes content covered by previously offered Entomology, Urban Raptors, Ornithology, and Ichthyology programs.

Ecosystem Highlights

This program gives students a first-hand learning experience with a local, readily apparent ecosystem. Programs are offered in parks that best represent the ecosystem of choice: woodland/forest, waterbody, wetland, shoreline, field, or meadow. Site-specific activities help students explore the unique qualities of these systems, including:

  • Plant and animal communities
  • Relationships and food webs
  • human impact

This program includes content covered by previously offered Ecology and Climate Change programs. This program is not available at all sites.

Geology Highlights

This program gives students a first-hand learning experience with the significance of geological features apparent at select park sites. Site-specific activities help students explore topics including:

  • Rock and soil formation
  • The influence of topography and larger geologic features on culture and history present in the parks and green spaces

This program is not available at all sites.

History Highlights

This program gives students a first-hand experience with the study of sites and structures of historic significance in parks across the city. Site-specific activities help students explore topics including:

  • Historical events, people, and communities that have shaped our city and Parks
  • How students might represent their own legacy to future generations

This program includes content covered by previously offered Historic Houses, Forts and Native American Pathways programs. This program is not available at all sites.

Guidelines and Policies for The Natural Classroom Program

  • Fee schedule:
    • In-school or park program fee: $100
    • In-school or 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
    • Adult program fee: $250
  • Cancellation Policy:
    • Programs take place rain or shine. The Urban Park Rangers may cancel a program in the event of severe weather incidents (lightning, 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.

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