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Teacher Information

Resources for Educators and Youth Leaders

Today's educators hold the awesome responsibility of showing youth that their actions today affect tomorrow, the main principle in environmental stewardship.

Educators learning in a pond
Educators learning in a pond

The Bureau of Environmental Education's goal is to promote wise stewardship of our natural resources. Because educators play a critical role in guiding our youth, training and providing resources to those educators is very important.

Check out Conservationist for Kids!.

Environmental Education Centers

The two Environmental Education Centers (EECs) operated by DEC across the state offer a number of environmental education opportunities to educators, including formal teachers, youth leaders, homeschooling parents, and Scout leaders.

These centers are excellent places for field trips, have environmental educators on-site who lead guided lessons, and offer workshops to guide the educators on how to incorporate environmental education into their curricula. At Five Rivers EEC there is an extensive teacher resource center that houses information about many environmental topics.

Connect Kids to Parks Field Trip Grants for Schools & Youth Programs

school kids at 5 Rivers
Does your school qualify for a free transportation grant?

DEC's environmental education centers and fish hatcheries are participating in the NYS Parks Connect Kids Field Trip Reimbursement Grant Program. This grant program, funded by the Environmental Protection Fund, provides statewide funding for costs up to $80 per student (and $160 for Special Education students).

Eligible Organizations include public schools, county/city/town/village youth bureaus, schools for the deaf and/or blind, and BOCES programs. Select not-for-profits providing after-school, extracurricular, and summer youth programs may also be eligible.

Grants refund field trip costs including transportation, program fees, entry fees, and/or pavilion fees. Schools, youth bureaus, or afterschool programs pay for services first and are then reimbursed their expenses after the trip. Chaperones that drive separately will not be refunded for any field trip expenses.

For more information, to apply, and the current eligibility & grant info, visit the NYS Parks website (leaves DEC's website).

Lesson Plans and Kids Activities

Staff at the centers have put together a fantastic collection of educator lesson plans to bring students out into nature and nature into the classroom. The lesson plans are grouped by age/grade and then by topics, including: animals, recycling, and water. They have also created a collection of activities for kids to do while exploring outside, crafts to create, and how to make a nature journal. And kids can visit the Kids GO (Get Outside) page for information on wildlife in New York, the activities to do while exploring outside, and to learn more about the Symbols of New York State.

Invasive species curriculum for Middle School (Grades 6-8) tied to NYS P-12 Science Learning Standards. Using the scientific process, students working in groups will develop a research poster focusing on invasive species. The curriculum covers a two-week timeframe, includes a guest speaker, field work, and summary poster session.

In addition, educators at the NYSDEC Hudson River Research Reserve offer hands-on, science-oriented, field-based programs for middle schools, high schools, and post-secondary classes at the Norrie Point Environmental Center. Distance learning (videoconferencing) programs are also available.

The Hudson River Estuary Program's interdisciplinary lessons use the river as context to build understandings and skills required by state standards and tests. Teachers may use the lessons to create a stand-alone Hudson River unit or pick and choose from among them to support study of English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.

I FISH NY has lesson plans available dealing with fishing, fish, and aquatic science. Lessons and activities include a lesson plan, background information, accompanying handouts, and supplemental activities that can be used for assessment.

The Understanding Black Bears curriculum provides inquiry-based learning about black bear biology and natural history, bear behavior, population management, and living in bear country for students in kindergarten to 8th grade. A Teacher Quickstart overview and Correlations to the Common Core make it easy to use Understanding Black Bears curriculum in your classroom. This is a partnership between NYSDEC, Untamed Science and state wildlife agencies in New Jersey, Arkansas and Florida.

Food Waste Warrior Teaching Tools (leaves DEC's website) developed by the World Wildlife Fund, provides K-12 lessons, activities, and resources to teach the planetary impact of what we eat and the food we throw away.

K-5 Food Waste Curriculum (leaves DEC's website) developed by Purdue University teaches students how food waste impacts the environment and how they can reduce food waste in their own lives.

Summer Environmental Education Camps

The NYSDEC runs four environmental education camps across the state. The week-long overnight camps are open to children ages 11-17. Schools and organizations, as well as parents, can sponsor a child for a week at camp. Make sure to visit the camps website for more information on this great opportunity to connect children to nature.

Camper during an eco challenge
Campers during an eco challenge

Green Schools

At schools across New York students, teachers and staff are making a difference in their communities with programs to recycle, reduce waste, save energy and conserve resources. Besides the long-range benefits of good environmental stewardship, green policies help schools and universities provide healthier surroundings for their students and staff. More information on Green Schools.

America Recycles Day

The Division of Material's Management's Recycling Program celebrates New York State/America Recycles Day every November 15th. Their For Teachers page offers a PDF file of a 36-page activity booklet detailing lesson plans and different recycling day activities for students to partake in promoting recycling. The page also has a recycling crossword puzzle.

Technical Data and Reports

Various DEC Divisions provide technical data and reports on a range of environmental subjects. Many of these reports give basic information on environmental problems and the steps being taken to mitigate and alleviate the problems. This information could be helpful with lesson plans and helping students find resources for research projects.

Also, there is the New York's Open Data Portal (leaves DEC's website), that brings together local, state and federal data into one place. You can search the site's datasets by specific state agency, location or subject, or explore featured datasets. Educators can use this data to create real-world problems for students to solve, or even have students create maps and charts with some of the data. The NY Open Data Portal also houses all of the state apps for mobile devices.

All New York State schools and youth organizations have access to ArcGIS online because of special agreements between ESRI (ArcGIS's parent company), New York State, and the White House. For more information about the ArcGIS access for schools and youth groups, visit ConnectEd (leaves DEC's website).

More about Teacher Information:

  • Workshops for Educators - The Department offers several professional development workshops for teachers and youth leaders: Project WILD, Aquatic WILD, Project WET, Flying WILD, Growing Up WILD and Project Learning Tree.
  • Environmental Education Lesson Plans - developed by DEC environmental educators for students preK-12th grade
  • Day in the Life of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River - A Day in the Life of the Lake Ontario- St. Lawrence River (LOSLR) watershed will give students from across the region an opportunity to learn about the health of their local environment, how what they do on the land upstream impacts downstream waters and habitats, and what they can do to help take care of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
  • Teaching About the Hudson River Estuary - Resources for educators, students and families to learn about the Hudson, including outdoor programs, lesson plans, posters, education centers, exhibits, interpretive signs, and descriptions of key river issues.
  • I FISH NY Lesson Plans - lessons on fishing, fish and aquatic science
  • Green Schools - Schools across New York are recycling, reducing waste, saving energy, conserving resources, preventing runoff pollution and working to eliminate toxic materials. In addition to the long-range benefits of good environmental stewardship, green policies help schools provide healthier surroundings for their students and staff.
  • DEC Poster Contests - Various poster contests run by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation