Course Descriptions


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

Deeper Investigations of Discovery and Writing

Nature Photography: Investigations in Beauty, Mystery, and Science

Make Nature: Hands-On Scientific Observation with DIY Electronics

Scientific Illustration: Rendering Beauty

The World of Insects: Infinite Variety on a Common Theme




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 15-19 Full Day, $480

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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 15-19 Morning or Afternoon Session, $240
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 15-19 Morning Session only, $240
Deeper Investigation of Discovery and Writing

Rob Balch, English Teacher, Beacon Middle and High School; Teacher Consultants, Hudson Valley Writing Project at SUNY New Paltz

Building on the previously offered course Discovery, Inquiry, and Writing, this class will look to expand and explore the deeper nuances of the writing process as it relates to nature. While certainly ample time will still be spent exploring the beautiful surroundings of Black Rock Forest, special attention will be spent on the writing and revision aspect of this work. As with the first level of this course, students will read and study the works of Henry David Thoreau, Charles Darwin, John Muir, and explorers Lewis and Clark. Students will place increased, specific emphasis on the writing process and the more effective articulation of their individual and collective experiences as we trek through the forest, and a large component of our efforts together will be the sharing of student work with others in this class.

(prior participation in Discovery, Inquiry, and Writing is recommended but in no way should be viewed as required) 

July 15-19 Afternoon Session only, $240


Nature Photography: Investigations in Beauty, Mystery, and Science
Peter Terezakis MPS, Artist in Residence, New York University Associate Arts Professor, Tisch School of the Arts  
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 15-19 Morning or Afternoon Session, $240
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 an increase in soil moisture? How does soil respond to rain? Do the air and ground warm and cool at the same rate? There are new and exciting ways to collect scientific data that gives us novel insights into the natural world around us. In this materials lab, students get hands-on experience working with electronics to explore unseen elements of our natural environment. They will work in groups to assemble, test, program and deploy mini field stations within the Black Rock Forest. Students will work with electronics and program devices to take scientific measurements. Students will also use problem solving skills to change and manipulate their computer code so devices work properly. This class gives students the opportunity to develop scientific questions and find the answers using tools they build themselves. This summer students will acquire valuable new skills that allow them to continue their investigations on their own.
July 15-19 Morning or Afternoon Session, $240
Scientific Illustration: Rendering Beauty
Christina Perez, Illustrator and Designer, B.F.A Savannah College of Art and Design
Black Rock Forest’s breathtaking woodlands and abundance of botanical specimens is the optimum space to create, capture and understand the nuances of botanical illustration. 
In this class, students will be taken back to a time where video and photography were not accessible. This class aims to understand the fundamentals of sketching and how those mechanics are applied to nature/ scientific illustration.  Through discussion and exploration, students will sketch to discover rhythms, composition and function. We aim to create 1-2 fully rendered specimens along with a sketchbook of studies and observations. 
July 15-19 Morning or Afternoon Session, $240
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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. 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 15-19 Morning or Afternoon Session, $240

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