Environmental Education


Through our environmental education programs, we work to increase community awareness, involvement and youth development by promoting access to and knowledge of our urban environment. We invite participants to experience and take responsibility for their community and its natural resources, as we provide fun outdoor activities that engage children and adults alike. Our education programs are developed with the specific needs of each set of participants in mind, and many of our programs are free to the public. We have opportunities for classroom teachers and after-school programs, community groups, and teachers. We also offer public workshops and internships for high schoolers and college students.

Descriptions of our standard workshops on the urban environment, street tree care, and park stewardship are below. Descriptions of our public recreational programs are below, and a listing of upcoming events is here. For more information email info@lesecologycenter.org with the subject line “Environmental Education Request.” Please include the age and number of participants, the workshop in which workshop you’re interested, and potential dates in your email.

Classes & Workshops

Stewardship Education

In a city as large as New York, the environment can sometimes feel far away. But take another look at the hardy street tree on your block and recognize the important role our urban environment plays in keeping New York clean and green! Your school or community group can help us care public open space around the Lower East Side. We will teach your class or community group about open space preservation and maintenance, wildlife habitat creation, urban gardening, and street tree care. These programs are mainly offered March – November.

Please fill out a workshop request form for more information.

Street Tree Care

Street trees have long been neglected as essential components of a healthy urban landscape. Recently, though, they have retaken their rightful place as strong pillars of ecological significance – providing fresh oxygen for crowded neighborhoods and creating rare permeable surfaces that absorb rain water and reduce runoff. Join our education director to learn how to care for street trees and how your school or community group can adopt and care for the trees in your neighborhood. You will learn about the benefits of having trees in your neighborhood, how they reduce air pollution, beautify, and increase business. You will also learn how to plant native species in tree pits for water retention and beautification, aerate a tree pit, apply compost, and request free street trees for your block.

*We may be able to hold this workshop at your school.

Park Stewardship

Our public greening opportunities can be adapted to fit the needs of your school or community group. Please contact us to find out ways that you can participate in neighborhood greening in and around local parks! During these stewardship events, you might weed, plant native plants and bulbs, apply compost and woodchips to garden beds or take part in other restorative measures protecting the hardworking green spaces in our city.

Urban Ecology

Our Urban Ecology workshops offer opportunities for students of all ages to explore a variety of topics related to the natural world of New York City. Our hands-on lessons are designed to meet common core learning standards and can be adapted for a variety of ages or special needs. Field trips to East River Park are offered March through November and in-class presentations are offered year-round.

Please fill out a workshop request form for more information.

Animal Adaptations (Pre-K-2)

Discover the animals that make New York their home, and the amazing adaptations they have to survive in the wild. After a short walk around the park to spot animals in their natural habitat, come indoors to visit our Environmental Learning Center, where students can view and touch animal specimens and get a hands-on experience with one of our resident reptilian friends.

East River Ecology (Grades K-12)

Explore the estuary ecosystem of the East River. Participants are exposed to vocabulary and fun facts about the estuary while learning about the history of our local ecosystem. Students will discover their own impact on the estuary by looking at sources of pollution and performing water quality testing. Students will also have the opportunity to get hands-on with the estuary organisms in our oyster cages and contribute to a citizen science project.

Urban Biodiversity (Grades K-8)

Students explore East River Park to discover the surprising number of plant and animal species that make our city home. They will catch insects, find native plants, and observe birds in order to learn about the dynamic trophic (food web) relationships between these creatures in the urban environment. While discussing their observations, students will be encouraged to consider how humans impact biodiversity and how these concepts apply to ecosystem interdependence and stability. This trip can be adjusted in focus to fit your curriculum needs. 

Our Sewer System and the Urban Water Cycle (Grades 5-12)

Combined Sewer Overflow – or CSO – occurs when wet weather overwhelms the City’s sewage treatment process, and results in approximately 27 billion gallons of untreated wastewater being discharged into the estuary yearly. While experts consider CSO pollution to be the leading threat to water quality in the estuary, it is of particular concern to the wide range of waterfront users that work, learn and recreate right where CSOs happen. The Urban Water Cycle invites participants to explore and contrast the urban water cycle and the natural water cycle, and to learn where New York City gets its drinking water.



*We may be able to hold this workshop at your school.

Water Quality Monitoring (Grades 5-12)

Water Quality Monitoring exposes participants to the important role of the estuary along with the impact that human activities have on this aquatic habitat. The Water Quality Monitoring curriculum walks participants through vocabulary that pertains to the Estuary, describes how each component of water contributes to the health or pollution of the Estuary. Participants then try out different ways of measuring the physical and chemical properties of water pollution in the East River.

Public Programs

We strongly believe that the best way to become an advocate for open space is to engage with the urban environment often, and in fun and engaging ways! We offer a number of free public recreation programs that offer residents opportunities to get out on the waterways and explore the East River as a natural environment right on our doorstep. Our programs, on the waterfront and around the city, develop community knowledge of and skill development focusing on natural resource and community open space stewardship. Join us for our kayaking, fishing, street tree care, bird counts, and other public programs! Our programs are offered throughout the year and most are free. Click here for a list of upcoming education events. Click here for a list of upcoming stewardship events.


Our fishing clinics offer a unique opportunity for the general public to fish while learning about the habitat and functions of the Hudson River Estuary. Participants learn more about estuary health, flora and fauna, pollution sources and prevention, health risks associated with eating fish, and how they can reduce their impacts on the Estuary. Free fishing clinics are held throughout the summer to catch-and-release fish at the banks of the East River.


Our public greening programs focus on open space preservation and maintenance, wildlife habitat creation, and urban gardening at East River Park. Community street tree days are held through the Lower East Side from May to October, focusing on improving the function and health of street trees as water absorbing points and naturally beautiful parts of our cityscape. Our public greening programs increasingly work in tandem with our efforts to bring green infrastructure to New York. For more information about green infrastructure, click here.


Through our partnership with the NYC Compost Project, which is hosted here at the Lower East Side Ecology Center in Manhattan, we offer compost education and outreach to interested members of the public. Please visit our compost information page for more information, including details of our public workshops on indoor and outdoor composting, and the Master Composter Certificate Course.

Please submit this form to request a workshop either in East River Park or in your classroom and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you!