50 Years of Environmental Education at Frost Valley

The 2019-2020 school year marks the 50th anniversary of Frost Valley’s School Programs Department. When it was first started, it was known as Environmental Education (EE). The EE program started in 1969, with Bill Devlin as its first director. Around this time, Frost Valley was making a lot of adjustments in order to winterize camp, and make a comfortable environment for year-round programs. 

Bill Devlin sought the expertise from others in fields related to EE to develop the program, and the first Frost Valley EE Manual was published in 1972. Contributors included the Ashokan Campus Center, who graciously shared information already found in the pages of their own manual. Staff from Phoenicia Elementary shared ideas and contributions from their own EE handbook, which was prepared with school staff for a Frost Valley field trip in 1971. Dr. Harry Thompson, the director of Outdoor Education at Nassau Co. BOCES contributed information and handled the publication of the manual. Many others, including Frost Valley staff members and school teachers provided valuable program materials to the manual.

The EE curriculum created at Frost Valley was in some ways different from what we offer today. Many activities were offered by the camp, and early manuals suggested activities that schools could do on their own as well, utilizing the natural resources that FV offered. 

By 1970, state and federal EE initiatives were being made, and the Environmental Education Act became the first piece of legislation designated specifically for the EE community. An excerpt from the legislation: “The Congress of the United States finds that the deterioration of the quality of the Nation’s environment and of its ecological balance poses a serious threat to the strength and vitality of the people of the Nation and is in part due to poor understanding of the Nation’s environment and of the need for ecological balance; that presently there do not exist adequate resources for educating and informing citizens in these areas…”

The document also provides a definition of EE: “…the process of dealing with one’s relationship with their natural and manmade surroundings, and includes the relation of population, resource allocation and depletion, conservation, transportation, technology, and urban and rural planning to the total human environment.”

A closer connection to the environment was and is still considered to be imperative for the health of our country, and in turn, the world. Environmental Education creates meaningful connections through hands on experiences. Testing water quality, observing ecological balance, and participating in activities that create a deeper understanding of human to human relationships are all important parts of the EE curriculum that are unique to educational programs that take place in the out-of-doors.

Frost Valley is proud of its 50+ years of engaging schools in the tri-state area and beyond in Environmental Education. Many schools have come for years or even decades, and new schools are added every year. Thanks to thoughtful donors who believe in our mission, Frost Valley is able to provide scholarships to schools and groups that wish to participate in this program. If you would like to help school children experience and appreciate the natural world, visit www.frostvalley.org/donate to give today or reach out to our Development Department to learn about all the ways in which you can make a difference.


Anna Morelli

Anna has been working at Frost Valley since 2008. She began as a Program Instructor for Environmental Education, as well as Group and Family Retreats. She started managing Frost Valley's historical archives as a side project and is now the camp's full-time Historian.

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