Last Updated: 7.12.22


Please direct your questions to Tyler Van Fleet, East of Hudson Forestry Program Coordinator at [email protected]

From Forest to Faucet …

… through Friendship

Over 9.5 million New Yorkers enjoy the world’s cleanest drinking water thanks to upstate Watershed forests and communities. The goal of the Green Connections programs is to meaningfully connect students from NYC and the NYC Watershed through personal communication and shared experiences with the world-famous NYC water supply system from forest to tap.

Facilitating exchanges between upstate and downstate students provides a unique opportunity for students to grow academically, social-emotionally and civically by fostering mutual understanding of each other, each other’s ways of life, and the two contrasting, yet interconnected environments in which they live.

In short, our Green Connections programs:

  1. Connect upstate and downstate students to one another;
  2. Connect NYC students to the forested source of their drinking water;
  3. Connect NYC Watershed students to the people who depend on them and their forests for clean water; and
  4. Connect students to their local environments and ways to care for forests and water quality.

We offer 2 program options that differ in their levels of required teacher commitment and grade level focus:

  1. Green Connections LITE and
  2. Green Connections

Green Connections LITE is an easy, flexible way for new participants to start incorporating upstate/downstate student interactions into their teaching. The program supports distance learning between groups of upstate and downstate students.  All interactions are conducted REMOTELY and partner teachers have a lot of flexibility to determine the format, content and frequency of the exchanges.
ELIGIBILITY: 4-12thgrade teachers or non-formal educators working wholly or partially within the NYC Watershed or the 5 boroughs of NYC.

Green Connections is a more structured, multi-faceted, year-long program that facilitates the development of deep connection and understanding between upstate and downstate students. The program involves exchanging 3 rounds of pen-pal letters, learning from an 8-lesson curriculum, going on 2 shared fieldtrips (one upstate, one downstate), and participating in local stewardship projects.
ELIGIBILITY: 4-8thgrade teachers who have attended the Watershed Forestry Institute for Teachers and are working wholly or partially within the NYC Watershed or the 5 boroughs of NYC.


Green Connections LITE students will . . .

  • interact remotely through a flexible combination of physical and/or digital formats;
  • exchange information about themselves, their environments, communities & NYC Watershed learning; and
  • compare and contrast their roles in protecting and conserving clean water in New York.

Green Connections LITE teachers will . . .

  • communicate regularly with their Teacher Partner;
  • get planning & teaching support from the WAC Watershed Educator; and
  • receive $500 per partnership for materials and postage for student exchanges.

Who Can Apply?
4-12th grade teachers or non-formal educators working wholly or partially within the NYC Watershed (East or West of Hudson) or the 5 boroughs of NYC. To confirm your eligibility or to request a Teacher Partner, please contact Tyler Van Fleet, East of Hudson Forestry Program Coordinator, at [email protected].

How It Works

Teacher Partners communicate regularly and work together to plan when and how their students will interact. Participating teachers may apply in conjunction with a Teacher Partner of their choice or they may request assistance with finding a Teacher Partner.

Student Relationships
Teacher Partners may choose to have students interact one-on-one in student buddy pairs, in small groups or as a whole class.

Exchange Content
Content should convey information about students’ lives, environments (both built and natural), and communities. Students are encouraged to exchange questions and answers about one another. Students may also share about their learning related to watersheds, forests and the NYC water supply system and/or other academic topics.

Exchange Format
Partnerships should complete 1-3 exchanges (send, receive, respond) during the school year. Teacher Partners may choose to have students interact via a wide variety of formats, depending on their preferences, schedules, access to technology, etc. Possible options include written letters, “Environmental Exchange Boxes” that contain artifacts (made, found, bought) that convey information about one’s environment and community, photos, email, blog posts, video clips, live video chatting, scientific data, etc.

Role of the WAC Watershed Educator
WAC staff supports Teacher Partner communications through regular email and/or phone check-ins and assistance with planning and scheduling student interactions.

Together, partnerships receive up to $500 to pay for materials and postage used for student exchanges.


To receive funding, Green Connections LITE participants will be required to:

  1. communicate with WAC staff and Teacher Partner at least once every month;
  2. complete at least 1 exchange (send, receive, respond) with their partners; and
  3. document and share the content and format of their exchange(s) with WAC staff;

To Apply
Teacher Partners submit separate applications, which you can download below. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year.


The Green Connections Program will be available again in the 2022/2023 school year. Next deadline to apply is Friday, August 18, 2022 at 5pm.

View the Green Connections flier.

Green Connections students will . . .

  • become pen-pal buddies;
  • go on shared fieldtrips to each other’s local environments;
  • learn about trees, water & the NYC Watershed through a hands-on curriculum; and
  • participate in local stewardship projects, which they share with each other.

Green Connections teachers will . . .

  • communicate regularly with their partner teacher;
  • get planning & teaching support from the Program Coordinator; and
  • Receive $5,150 per partnership for fieldtrips.

Who Can Apply?
4-8th grade teachers working wholly or partially within the NYC Watershed (East or West of Hudson) or the 5 boroughs of NYC. To confirm your eligibility or to request a Teacher Partner, please contact Tyler Van Fleet, East of Hudson Forestry Program Coordinator at [email protected].

How It Works

Green Connections Partner Classrooms—including both students and teachers—maintain regular contact with each other and with the Program Coordinator throughout the year. Teacher Partners coordinate to pair-up student buddies, schedule buddy communications and trip dates, and confirm basic trip logistics (preferred activities and locations, transportation options, available chaperones, etc.). At the required Green Connections Annual Kick-off meeting, Teacher Partners meet with one another and the Program Coordinator to plan the year’s activities and address any questions.
Participating teachers may apply in conjunction with a Teacher Partner of their choice or they may request assistance with finding a Teacher Partner.

Learning Outcomes
Participating students gain rich experiences in another culture and natural environment and learn:

  • essential information about watersheds, and specifically, the NYC watershed;
  • the components of the NYC water supply system and how these components interact to provide clean, drinkable water;
  • ways that forests impact water quality;
  • ways that people impact forests;
  • actions that people can take to protect forests and water quality.

Teacher Partners facilitate a year-long student buddy friendship. Buddies exchange at least three communications with each other, beginning with hand-written letters. Students remain with their buddies on field trips, sharing these experiences and showing their local environment to each other.

Watershed Curriculum
Throughout the school year, each teacher will complete a selection of eight engaging lessons (provided and self-curated) designed to teach students about the NYC watershed and water supply system, including how people and forests impact water quality.

Partner Classrooms go on one fieldtrip in the fall and one in the spring. New Teacher Partners collaborate with the Program Coordinator to identify trip options, create schedules, and reserve buses and programming. With WAC approval, repeat Teacher Partners may coordinate trip logistics and plan schedules independently. Fieldtrip experiences are designed to bring students’ watershed learning to life. They offer an opportunity to meaningfully connect students with NYC’s urban environment; the forested watershed environment that supplies NYC’s drinking water; and each other. On these trips, students may visit each other’s schools, get a first-hand view of a drinking water reservoir, learn about water quality from a boat, study a nearby stream, tour a maple farm, volunteer to help protect forests and water quality, and more.

Stewardship Activity
Sometime during the school year, each classroom will do a stewardship activity related to forests and water quality. The purpose of this experience is to help students connect with and care for their local environment. The Program Coordinator will assist with planning these activities, which may include tree planting, stream or park clean-ups, etc.

Role of the Program Coordinator
The Program Coordinator is responsible for facilitating successful classroom partnerships and fieldtrips.  The Program Coordinator supports Teacher Partners through all aspects of the program, from creating fieldtrip schedules to conducting 1-2 classroom visits to deliver lessons from the curriculum. New Teacher Partners receive extra support.

Together, partnerships receive approximately $5,150 worth of funding, which must be matched dollar-for-dollar with in-kind goods and services (e.g. teacher/staff/volunteer hours, supplies, etc.) or cash (from any source). The Program Coordinator reserves and pays for the school or charter buses, the cost of which has been approximately $3,000 for both trips in recent years. Partnerships also receive up to $2,150 for non- bus fieldtrip expenses (e.g. program fees, meals, safety-related items or supplemental transportation), paid as a reimbursement at the conclusion of the program. 
Each Title 1 school may request an additional $100 of funding to help pay for meals and/or safety-related items for their trips.  This additional funding must also be matched dollar-for dollar with in-kind goods and services or cash, but is paid prior to the first field trip. 


To receive funding, recipients of the Green Connections grant will be required to:

  1. demonstrate a 1-to-1 funding match;
  2. record and provide requested documentation for program activities in a timely manner;
  3. complete an online pre- and post-program Teacher Partner survey;
  4. ensure students complete pre- and post-program student learning assessment activities in the classroom;
  5. communicate with the Program Coordinator and Teacher Partner at least monthly;
  6. schedule 1-2 classroom visits with the Program Coordinator;
  7. engage students in 8 lessons from the Green Connections curriculum;
  8. complete at least 3 rounds of correspondence between student buddies; and
  9. conduct 2 joint fieldtrips (one to an upstate watershed location and one to NYC).

At the discretion of WAC, up to $2,150 of funding reimbursement may be forfeit by participants who do not complete these minimum requirements. Teachers failing to meet these requirements will also be unlikely to receive funding in the future. If at any time a Teacher Partner thinks they may have difficulty meeting program requirements, they should contact the Program Coordinator to discuss options and opportunities as soon as possible!

To Apply
Teacher Partners submit separate applications, which can be downloaded below. One round of Green Connections grant funding is awarded each year with application deadlines in early August.