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A part of the USDA Forest Service Children's Forest Network

Forest Conservation Corps

A Rensselaer County Teen Summer Program

Rensselaer Youth Outdoors is announcing a FREE environmental education summer program for teenagers aged 14-16.  The program will combine recreation and education experiences while teens work on valuable conservation projects protecting Rensselaer County's parks, waters, and natural resources.  

The Conservation Corps program seeks to:

  • Promote conservation, education, and community service

  • Educate, train, and develop the value of respect for others and the environment in young people

  • Provide worthwhile work and community service experiences for young people in a nature setting

Thank You!

Thank you to the 35 youth who participated in the 2019 Forest Conservation Corps.  Your dedication and enthusiasm have made a huge difference to our partners and the Rensselaer County community. 


Congratulations on becoming Forest Conservation Corps Alumni!

Upcoming Events

Check back soon for more events.


Rensselaer Youth Outdoors at a Glance

Students Question, Explore and Discover Nature

Rensselaer Youth Outdoors is a network of partners that introduces and engages the children and families of Rensselaer County in the wonder, science, and adventure of nature in an effort to create a healthier, more sustainable community in an increasingly complex world.

Students Question, Explore and Discover Nature

            Haley shrieked with excitement as she peered at a thumb sized predacious diving beetle in her net. “What IS that?!”, students asked.  That spark experience fueled a discussion about water quality, a topic that’s hard to teach in a classroom.  It’s all part of a pilot program in a few Rensselaer County schools to teach curriculum through rich outdoor experiences. 

            “Our students loved collecting and finding living things in the pond.  It was amazing.”, said Jennifer Brown, a third grade teacher at West Sand Lake, after a field trip to the Dyken Pond Environmental Education Center.   


What We Do

Making A Difference

These Schools are Taking it Outside!

Averill Park and Berlin School districts have partnered with RYO on a new, two year pilot program to get more children investigating and connected with the outdoors.  During the Spring of 2018, third graders investigated fish ecology, animal adaptations and the water cycle in class and during field experiences at Grafton Lakes State Park and Dyken Pond EEC.

Working in Partnership to Get More Kids Outside!

Teacher Training

Continuing Education workshops and classes give classroom teachers the tools they need to bring place based environmental education into their classrooms.

Schoolyard Naturalist Teacher Kits

Thanks to a generous grant from the USDA Forest Service, the following classroom kits are available for loan to all Rensselaer County teachers.  The kits are geared towards K-8 students.   Please contact us to borrow one today! 


The trees we walk by every day can transform into fascinating, year-round outdoor labs!  This kit includes lesson plan ideas,  class sets of tree identification guides, hand lenses, tree cross sections and measuring tapes.  We’ve also included a few non-fiction books to inspire further investigation.    


This kit encourages students to focus on the fascinating ‘backyard birds’ that share our schoolyard and neighborhood habitats.   In addition to a variety of lesson plan ideas, we’ve included class sets of kid friendly bird guides, feathers, binoculars plus a few fiction and non-fiction books.  


From the tiniest sidewalk crack to the slightly overgrown lawn, it’s hard to find a place where insect life doesn’t abound!   This kit includes lesson plan ideas, class sets of bug boxes, sweep nets and common insect identification guides, plus a few fiction and non-fiction read aloud books.


From the Private Eye Website The Private Eye is a program about the drama and wonder of looking closely at the world, thinking by analogy, changing scale and theorizing.  This kit includes the 'Private Eye' curriculum guide, activity sheets and a class set of jewelers loupes. 


Working in Partnership to Get More Kids Outside!

The average American child spends 7 hours a day in front of a screen and less than 10 minutes a day playing outside. We’d like to reverse that trend!  Research shows that getting people into the outdoors and bringing the outdoors closer to people increases access to opportunities for physical activity, reduces stress, fosters community and social relationships, and improves air quality. 1

Rensselaer Youth Outdoors (RYO) was born when concerned schools, parents and organizations joined hands across the Rensselaer Plateau in an effort to get more children and families out exploring and protecting nature in their backyards. 


RYO is a network of partners that introduces and engages the children and families of Rensselaer County in the wonder, science, and adventure of nature in an effort to create a healthier, more sustainable community in an increasingly complex world.  Our current partners include Grafton Lakes State Park, Dyken Pond Environmental Education Center, Rensselaer Plateau Alliance.  Additionally, representatives from Siena College, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Children's Museum of Science and Technology, various Rensselaer School Districts, and the USDA Forest Service - Northern Research Station assist in advising and implementing RYO programs.  Interested in becoming an RYO partner?  Contact Amanda McCreary, Rensselaer Youth Outdoors Program Coordinator, to learn more.

Rensselaer Youth Outdoors Partners

Dyken Pond Environmental Education Center

Grafton Lakes State Park

Rensselaer Plateau Alliance

We receive funding from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program (NYSCPP) and New York's Environmental Protection Fund, as well as the 'Northern Research Station, Forest Service, USDA', Ann Allen Cetrino Family Foundation, Kelly Family Cuidiu Foundation, NYS Connect Kids to Parks Program, and the Friends of Dyken Pond.


Contact Us

PO Box 790, Averill Park, NY 12018

Program Coordinator

Amanda McCreary