Youth Group Programs

Hands-on learningFrom toddlers to high school seniors, the Dyken Pond Environmental Education Center has programs that emphasize the principals of natural science, hands-on experience and place-based education.

Our programs are designed to meet Next Generation Science Standards, and we are  guided by our mission to instill our visitors with a permanent sense of wonder, respect and connectedness to the natural world in which we all live.  We guage our success in terms of questions asked, surprised faces and return visits.

We are passionate and talented educators who enjoy working collaboratively with teachers and youth group leaders to tailor our lessons to fit your agenda. Please contact our program coordinator at 518 658-2055 or to let us build a program to best fit the needs of your group. A sample of our youth activities:

Small Group Programs Designed for Scouts, 4-H and Home Schooled Youth:

These programs are suited to a total group size of 15 or less. Small school groups, home school groups, scout troops, 4-H clubs, or youth groups may select from the following programs. Lessons will be geared to the age and project requirement needs of your group.


Choose a general theme of animal adaptations, classification, identification, habitats, or behavior to be addressed during an interpretive hike. You may also choose to study one animal in particular including bats, birds, beavers, or another of your interest.   Make an animal tracking booklet or a plaster track.

Know Your Trees

Hike on trails through deciduous and coniferous forests. Learn to identify 10 trees and create a collection book.


Through games and activities learn “what makes a bird a bird” and about bird adaptations. Go on a bird hike and begin or add to your bird journal. Create a birdfeeder out of recycled materials or build a bluebird nesting box.


Learn about these fascinating night hunters, and dissect a real owl pellet to find out what they eat.

Pond Study

Collect, identify and compare insects and amphibians using aquatic sampling nets. Discover some of the complex interactions that exist in the aquatic ecosystem. If desired, the program can be structured to focus on one of the program descriptions listed below, including lifecycles or aquatic ecology.

Five Senses Adventure

Students will develop a sensory interest in nature while on an interpretive hike that uses the outdoors as a teaching catalyst.

Life Cycles

Explore plant and animal life cycles. Program may include a pond study and/or an interpretive hike. Depending on the season and your preference, emphasis will be placed on amphibians, pond insects or plants native to Rensselaer County.


Compare deciduous and coniferous communities found at Dyken Pond Center; using an increment borer, collect basic information on the growth patterns of trees. Other measuring tools may be used to collect data on height and diameter of trees. All data collected will be interpreted by students.


Identify parts of a plant and their function. Individual plants will be identified and the concept of plant communities explored.  Hike through forest, bog, and swamp habitats.  Learn why one plant community is different from another.

Fishing and Aquatic Ecology

Begin with a pond discovery to find what fish eat. Learn or practice casting on our field. Next try your luck and fish in Dyken Pond.

Recycled Paper

Learn about the paper wasp, and make a colorful piece of recycled paper to turn into a card, notebook or ornament.

Night Hike or Day Hike

Day hike would be of a length and difficulty to match your group’s ability.  Choose to focus on a seasonal theme such as spring wildflowers, summer bird walk, fall foliage or wildlife tracking. Night hike is by the light of the full moon. Optional: Finish either hike with a campfire at the lean-to.


Learn about minimum impact camping, build your own campfire and make smores, or bake with a Dutch oven (additional materials fee may apply).


If you can hike, you can learn to snowshoe. A guide will lead you along the Center’s trails. Snowshoes are available to borrow from the Center.

Canoeing and Kayaking – Ages 12 and up

Learn and practice basic paddling skills in our boats. Paddle with a guide along the shores of Dyken Pond.

Nature Arts and Crafts

Use seasonal natural items to create fun crafts and beautiful works of art including: fish prints, milkweed angels and natural inks and dyes. Call for details.

Outdoor Living Skills

Choose from these skills: map and compass, GPS, fire building or shelter building.