Summer Educator Retreat 2016

Join us in Sapsucker Woods for an enriching professional development experience!


View the video with all footage taken during the 2015 retreat.


You know it's truly summer when you see a Scarlet Tanager in Sapsucker Woods. Photo by: nebirdsplus(Flickr)

You know it’s truly summer when you see a Scarlet Tanager in Sapsucker Woods. Photo by: nebirdsplus(Flickr)

While the kids are off at camp, you can head to the woods too! This summer, from July 13-16, migrate to Sapsucker Woods and join the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s education team for a four-day BirdSleuth retreat in beautiful Ithaca, New York.

This retreat will highlight best practices and the latest engaging resources that will revitalize your educational program. Learn how to spark kids’ science interest, support inquiry projects, and connect young people to their local environments, while meeting NGSS standards, STEM goals, and youth development objectives.  Join us and you’ll get inspired, gain confidence and new ideas, and find networking opportunities with other education leaders from around the country!

Sapsucker Woods is lovely in the summer. Come take a bird walk with us and use your new Celestron binoculars!


As a retreat participant, you will:

  • receive hands-on training and experience with BirdSleuth activities and curricula;
  • learn how to use the Cornell Lab’s citizen-science programs, online field guide, and digital library as educational resources for K-12 learning;
  • practice bird identification and learn about bird biology through bird walks led by local bird experts;
  • meet and interact with the scientists and staff that make the Cornell Lab of Ornithology a world-renowned institution, including a behind-the-scenes tour;
  • brainstorm and create with other bird-loving educators from around the country;
  • receive two curriculum kits and a pair of high-quality Celestron® Nature DX 8×32 binoculars to take back to your program. (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology listed these as one of the best binoculars to use within their price range!)

Everyone will receive our new Habitat Connections kit. In addition, you’ll choose between two other kits to customize your take-home package, either Most Wanted Birds (especially for classroom teachers) or Nature Detectives (designed for out-of-school-time educators).


Enhance your knowledge of birds through field guides, online resources, listening to researchers from the lab, and working with your peers.

Who should attend?

Educators who would like to learn more about BirdSleuth activities and how to encourage inquiry-based learning, STEM, and citizen science in their programs will enjoy this retreat.  We’ve crafted an experience that will be perfect for classroom teachers, afterschool leaders, and environmental educators, especially those who teach students in grades 3-8. In addition to choosing the BirdSleuth kits most appropriate for your site, we will have breakout sessions to give you the opportunity for a “customized” experience. Educators of kids in grades pre-K through 12 have raved about their retreat experience!


Participants have the option to receive 3 CEUs (Continuing Education Units) from Cornell University for participating. More information will be given out at the workshop. There is no additional charge for this service.

Logistics, Travel, and Lodging

Use your creativity to create your own bird!

Location and Time

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is located in Ithaca, NY. Please note, we have just been informed that the local airport (Ithaca Tompkins County) will be closed during July for resurfacing. Syracuse, Elmira, or Binghamton Airports are each about an hour away from the lab.

Registration will be from 10-11am (Wednesday, July 13th). The workshop will begin promptly at 11am and conclude Saturday (July 16th) at 11:00 am.


Dorm Option

A block of rooms is reserved for retreat participants at Ecology House, a Cornell University dorm. Each room has two extra log twin beds and a private bathroom. A single (1 person per room) is $87.00 per person per night plus tax, while a double (2 people per room) is $61.00 per person per night plus tax. There is an additional one time $32.00 registration fee per person.

Parking is available in the lot directly outside of Ecology House at an additional fee of $6.00 per day plus tax. You will need to purchase your parking permits in advance through the Ecology House registration page. Parking permits are non refundable unless you cancel prior to 2 weeks before the start of this program.

To learn more about Ecology House amenities and to book your room, visit the Ecology House registration page.

Hotel Option

A block of rooms is reserved for retreat participants at the Courtyard Ithaca hotel for the 2016 retreat. The rate for Wednesday and Thursday night is $143 per night plus tax. The rate for Friday is $219 plus tax. The last day to book these rooms at these rates is June 22, 2016.

To book rooms at the Courtyard,  guests must call (585) 586-3121 ext. 270 to speak with Belinda DeRoo, the in-house reservation specialist. Be sure you specifically mention the Lab of Ornithology BirdSleuth room block set up at the Courtyard Ithaca Airport / University located on Thornwood Drive. Belinda can be reached Monday – Friday, 8:30AM – 5:00PM, or will return voicemails left after business hours during this time frame.

Shared room arrangements between attendees may be possible. Please email and we will do our best to set you up with a roommate. More information about places to stay and things to do is available at


Explore Sapsuckers Woods up close and become familiar with engaging activities you can do with your young learners.

 Cost and Registration

Workshop costs are being supplemented by grant and sponsor funds. The registration fee is $475, which includes:

  • Two BirdSleuth kits ($160-170 value)
  • Delicious meals and plenty of snacks during workshop hours. All meals from lunch Wednesday to breakfast Saturday are included. Also included is the annual picnic on Friday night in a gorgeous local state park. You may bring a guest to the picnic for a small extra charge.
  • Hands-on training, tours, and bird walks (most led by Cornell Lab experts!)
  • A pair of binoculars ($120 value)


Cost holding you back? Here are some funding ideas:

First, think about how your Retreat experience will benefit your students, your colleagues, your curriculum, and your community when you return. How many people will you reach? How will you measure your results? How big will your impact be?

  • Crowdsource your fundraising efforts.  Consider creating an Indiegogo or Donors Choose project that connects your BirdSleuth Retreat experience to your classroom.  Include your travel expenses in your project budget.
  • Research local funding sources. 
    • Start with your school:  Consult with your principal, district  curriculum supervisors, development officer, or PTA advocate.  What  professional development initiatives are underway or being planned in your district that could  dove-tail with BirdSleuth?
    • Think about Bird Clubs and Environmental organizations: Reach out to local business (such as Wild Bird Stores) and organizations in your community.  Offer to do presentations at bird clubs, Audubon or nature centers, Rotary, and garden clubs in exchange for funding.
We are excited to announce that BirdSleuth’s Educator Retreat 2017 will be held in Peru! Learn more here. BirdSleuth is dedicated to providing exceptional professional development opportunities and exemplary resources for educators.
Migration Obstacle Course: get up and moving with this exciting activity that both you and your students will enjoy.

Migration Obstacle Course: get up and moving with this exciting activity that both you and your students will enjoy.

We challenged educators to be like a bird and build their own nest. They quickly learned it's no easy task.

We challenged educators to be like a bird and build their own nest. They quickly learned it’s no easy task.