21st Century NATURE Lab

The 21st Century NATURE Lab program is a collaboration between NATURE Lab, the City School District of Troy and the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. 

We have offered a series of STEAM based arts and science workshops for middle school students. Beginning in the Fall of 2018, we’ve gone virtual this summer to accommodate the pandemic.

21st Century NATURE Lab’s  Summer ’20 session is Nearby Nature Explorers: Urban Ecology with All Your Senses! Our students will take a Sensory Survey to begin, with activities including Tree Walk, Sound Sit, Temperature Check, Water Wander, Smell Saunter, Moss Meander and more! Learning Objectives for Sensory Survey:

  • Students will explore ways to use their five senses to observe and record “nearby nature” on their block or other location close to home.
  • Students will be introduced to the idea that nature isn’t just something faraway, outside the city, but rather everywhere around them, right outside their door (and sometimes even inside) and always nearby!
  • Students will build their observation and recording skills through paying close attention to their own local habitat.
  • Students will receive a basic introduction to a range of urban ecology concepts like the urban forest, the heat island effect, noise pollution, the benefits of urban biodiversity, humans as ecological agents, etc.

Students will explore and collect in their local habitat, and create a Nearby Nature Map!

NATURE Lab Educators

21st Century NATURE Lab Summer 20:

Ellie Irons
Ellie Irons

Ellie Irons is an artist and educator based in Brooklyn and Troy, New York. She works in a variety of media, from video to workshops to re-wilding experiments, to reveal how human and more-than-human lives intertwine with other earth systems. Her recent work focuses on plants, people and urban ecosystems in the so-called Anthropocene. She is a cofounder of the Next Epoch Seed Library and the Environmental Performance Agency. Irons received her BA from Scripps College in Los Angeles and her MFA from Hunter College, CUNY in New York. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Electronic Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she is researching the intersection of socially engaged art, community science, and urban ecology as a means for envisioning and enacting multispecies solidarity in the face of climate chaos.

Erin Blanding is a Sanctuary Summer 20 Intern, working on the radio blog Peoples’ Science featuring scientists of color (in collaboration with Kathy High) and as assistant educator with 21st Century NATURE Lab Summer Program. Erin is a Biology major at Duke University. She is a Benjamin N. Duke Scholar: scholars are students from The Carolinas who excel academically, engage their communities, & aspire to become leaders at Duke & beyond. She has  been an intern of the Young Innovators Program in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and Institution for Innovation, and a Borlaug Scholar, researching food security and malnutrition in Fii. She is the Communications Special & Media Relations Coordinator for the Duke-Mitchell-White Black Culture Living Learning Community.


The 21 st Century Community Learning Center is an after-school program for students at Doyle Middle School in Troy. The 21 st Century program allows students to expand their horizons. The program is a great place to do homework, meet people, and discover new interests. CEO works with 21st Century to encourage families to learn and grow together.

The 21st Century Programs at Troy City School District are a part of the New York State Education Department and the United States Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21CCLC) grant.  21CCLCs help student meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math; offers a broad array of enrichment activities that can compliment their regular academic programs; and offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children.

Troy Middle School 6th Grade Enrichment Program:

Our program offers programming for students Grade 6-8.  The goal is to provide academic enrichment through learning disguised in our number of “clubs” offered to the students. Clubs change several times throughout the year, but they focus on arts and crafts, culinary arts, music, recreation, science, technology, engineering, project-based learning, and youth development opportunities.