Black Rock Forest

Browning has been a member of Black Rock Forest Consortium since its inception in 1989. The consortium now comprises about a dozen public and independent schools, Columbia University, New York University, City College, Barnard College, and leading scientific institutions, such as the American Museum of Natural History, the NY City Dept of Parks and Recreation, and Central Park Conservancy.

Browning’s use of the forest has expanded over the years and students in each division of the school use the forest for daytrips and overnight visits.

Encompassing over 4,000 acres in the Hudson Highlands, near Cornwall, NY, Black Rock Forest has become a vibrant ecological field station with over 300 scientific publications stemming from research conducted in the forest since the consortium was formed.

Browning’s use of the forest has expanded over the years and students in each division of the school use the forest for daytrips and overnight visits. The facilities at Black Rock include a lodge with the capacity to house up to sixty people on overnight visits, and a very well equipped Science Building with classrooms and lab spaces available for use by member schools. Recent additions of solar panel arrays, geothermal heating, and plans for a micro hydro turbine expose students to sources of alternative energy.

Black Rock Forest has a bank of remote data sensors logging an array of real-time data such as temperature, precipitation and CO2. Plans for the Virtual Forest on the consortium website will make this data more readily available from school classrooms, enhancing students’ pre and post visits to the forest.

Browning uses trips to the forest not only for studies in science, but also as a rich environment for creative and descriptive writing, in addition to art studies. Above all, the forest remains Browning’s best resource for keeping our students connected to a pristine slice of the natural world.

Browning Class Trips

Grades 2 and 3
In their first trip to Black Rock Forest students in Grades 2 and 3 explore the forest on a hike around the Upper Reservoir, completing a scavenger hunt for plants, animals and rocks. They practice their measurement skills on small trees and creatures while examining the diversity of life in a small 1 square meter plot. View photos.

Grade 6

On this Art and Science Department collaboration, students examine patterns in nature and camera framing strategies.  They also perform a biodiversity survey of square meter plots, counting the different types of living things found. On a hike of Mount Misery and the Hill of Pines students explored vernal ponds (formed from rainwater), important sites for many amphibian young and found frog eggs and salamanders. They noticed the decrease in tree height with increasing altitude mainly due to fluctuating groundwater levels. View photos.

Form I

Form I students explore the Upper Reservoir, using waders and seining nets to catch and study invertebrates, salamanders and fish. On this overnight trip they learn about the green building features of the Forest Lodge and Science Center, including geothermal heating, solar panels and composting toilets. In small groups, students create forest artworks out of natural materials, inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworthy. View a gallery of student forest artwork here. The trip includes a hike of Mount Misery, campfire songs and s’mores. Students stay overnight at the Forest Lodge and the next day travel to Storm King Art Center, where they view the monumental sculptures on that rural landscape, which include works by Goldsworthy, Maya Lin, Alexander Calder and Roy Lichtenstein, among many others.

Form III

On this two-day trip each Form III student performs his own scientific research on some aspect of the forest. As the culmination of the Spring Trimester biology research process each student focuses on a part of the forest and uses a variety of tools to collect data for analysis. View photos.