Course Descriptions


Animals + Elements: AGRISCULTPURE

Biodiversity Blitz: From Ambystoma to Zygoptera

Cold Blooded Creatures: A Course in Field Herpetology

Discovery, Inquiry and Writing: What it means to be an Authentic Explorer

Nature Photography: Investigations in Beauty, Mystery, and Science

Make Nature: Hands-On Scientific Observation with DIY Electronics

The World of Insects: Infinite Variety on a Common Theme

Animals + Elements :  AGRISCULPTURE Camp
Amy Lewis Sweetman, Founder and Owner of AGRISCULPTURE an environ-metal sculpture studio on a working Hudson Valley dairy farm.
Journey through Black Rock Forest with AGRISCULPTURE Amy – exploring 5 topics of the natural world over 5 days.  First we examine Landscape – grounding ourselves within Nature – discovering the Forest, the Mountain and the Pond.  The next four days cover Birds, Animals, Insects/Reptiles and we conclude with a super fun session on Imaginary Creatures.  Honing the skills of scientific observation and field sketching the first half of each day, students will create 3d sculpture in the second half of each day - honing the skills of creative collage, translating what they learned from Black Rock into a physical take-home craft made of foraged, recycled and natural materials.  No prior artistic experience necessary.

July 13-17  Price:$375  (back to top)

Biodiversity Blitz :From Ambystoma to Zygoptera
Dr. Terryanne Maenza-Gmelch, Senior Lecturer, Barnard College
Explore the forest to examine as many species as you can:  reptiles, amphibians, insects, birds, plants, mammals, fungi and more.  Interesting creatures can turn up in unexpected places.  Last summer over 300 species were identified and observed and we hope to beat that number this summer! We will hike in wetlands, stream ravines, ridge tops, meadows and the forest while examining the amazing biodiversity in this part of planet Earth.   Students will participate in ongoing scientific research at the forest: surveying birds by sight and sound along an elevation transect; capturing, measuring, weighing, and releasing painted turtles for the turtle project; and identifying and counting invertebrates in a deer exclusion experiment. Students will also engage in daily art projects and cook with wild edible forest fruits and ingredients from our local farm. Participants will leave with an understanding and appreciation of the forest ecosystem, training in plant and animal survey methods, and a clear vision of the benefits of biodiversity and how to protect it on a personal and global scale.


July 13-17 Price: $375

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Cold Blooded Creatures: A Course in Field Herpetology
Arianna Kuhn, PhD candidate, City University of New York Graduate Center and Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History
Black Rock Forest, with its diverse habitats, is home to 34 different species of reptiles and amphibians. Students will apply field techniques used by biologists to find and catch reptiles and amphibians. In particular we will be setting drift fences in the forest and turtle traps in ponds. Ultimately students will learn how to identify the reptiles and amphibians of the forest using a dichotomous key, as well as learning about their ecology, behavior, and how to collect and analyze data for scientific research. Data that will be collected will include body measurements (e.g. shell measurements of turtles, body length of snakes, etc.), sex, location, and other important information at the time of capture. With this information students will be able to address questions about population demographics and habitat selection of the different reptile and amphibian species.
July 13-17 Price: $375
Discovery, Inquiry, and Writing- What it means to be an Authentic Explorer
Rob Balch, English Teacher, Beacon Middle and High School; Teacher Consultants, Hudson Valley Writing Project at SUNY New Paltz
The beautiful, natural surroundings of Black Rock Forest is the perfect setting for this exploration and discovery based class, where students will  experience what it means to truly discover the natural world around them. In addition to hiking extensively throughout the forest, students will be introduced to the travels and writings of explorers and naturalists Charles Darwin, Lewis and Clark, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and others. They will also construct their own nature journals in which to chronicle their experiences, sketches, and other noteworthy moments of observations and inspiration. Students will learn about the environs of Black Rock Forest- the peaks, valleys, streams, and reservoirs- all seeing how these unique, integral elements are part of the larger whole, as they hike, write, read, sketch and reflect their way through the week to come to a better understanding of the wonderful world of nature.
July 13-17 Price: $375
Nature Photography: Investigations in Beauty, Mystery, and Science
Zoe Kennedy, Science Educator M.A. in Education,  B.A. in Art and Environmental Science- NYU   
Informed by its geology, Black Rock Forest’s beautiful woodlands, sky, and bodies of water are home to many interconnected forms of life.  There are also many historical markers of man’s impact on the land which have different stories to tell.  
Through demonstration and experimentation, students will learn about the mechanics of human vision, replicate some of the discoveries of optical physics, and how to better use their cameras to discover stories of nature and man which are often hidden in plain sight!   
By discussing, experimenting, and observing, students will document their discoveries of nature and create a web-based record of their findings for others to follow.  
From a cell phone on up, students must provide their own digital camera.
July 13-17 Price: $375
Make Nature: Hands-On Scientific Observation with DIY Electronics: Build Your Own Forest Field Station
Jeremy Hise, Systems Professional and Environmental Biologist, B.S. Columbia University
Are trees bigger during the day or night? How long does it take for a tree to respond to rain? How do scientists design, build and test technology-based tools for making scientific observations? In this workshop-oriented materials lab, students get hands-on experience answering those questions and more. They will acquire new skills including designing electronic circuits, programming, soldering and breadboarding – skills that are directly applicable to other electronics-based programs. They will also utilize the scientific method to form hypotheses, develop their own technology-based methods to make scientific observations, analyze results and discuss their findings with fellow future scientists.  During the week, students get to design and build their own personal electronics project, which they can take home with them. Note: this class takes place largely in the lab
July 13-17 Price: $375
The World of Insects: Infinite Variety on a Common Theme
Dr. Julian Stark, Associate Professor of Biology, CUNY/Queensborough Community College and Research Associate in Invertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History
In this class, students will be introduced to the fascinating world of insects. We will discuss how insects evolved, learn about their bizarre body parts and characteristics, survey the diversity of the different types, and explore how insects interact with other forest animals. The class balances time in the classroom with field investigations and laboratory work to analyze what was found in the field.  Collection techniques will include several types of traps which will be emptied and the data recorded over the course of the week.  We will also maintain live specimens in the lab for the duration of the class, to examine insect behavior in detail.  Students will learn how to collect, preserve, and identify (to Order) specimens, and will make a 10-20 specimen collection box to take home upon the completion of the class.  
July 13-17 Price: $375

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