Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom

Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom 

The mission of Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom is to provide experiential learning opportunities, and to promote academic achievement, environmental literacy, and lifelong relationships with the waterways that define our communities. 

The Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom uses two programming venues for students, as well as adults, in the Finger Lakes. 

  • We feature educational cruises and internships on Cayuga Lake aboard the MV Haendel, a 45-foot, commercially licensed vessel operated by Ithaca Boat Tours, LLC.  This collaboration serves approximately 2000 students, from 5th grade to college, annually. 
  • We also provide equipment, programming and coordination for “Trout in the Classroom” at schools throughout the region.  Students manage aquatic ecosystems through the school year, raise fingerling trout, and release them to local streams during spring expeditions.

As a Project Partner of the Center for Transformative Action, our goal is to offer platforms for learning and exploration that would otherwise not be available or affordable for regional schools and community organizations.  In order to remove financial barriers for our clients, we provide scholarships to cover the cost of programs on a sliding scale.  We rely on private foundations and grant programs, as well as private donations from our community, to maintain our Community Access scholarship fund. 

The Floating Classroom was established following the adoption of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection Plan, and operated from 2005-2014 as a project of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Inter-Municipal Organization.  Since its inception, the Floating Classroom has been guided by a volunteer committee, according to the following values:

  • Community:  We prioritize community concerns and local resources. 
  • Local Learning:  We focus on local ecosystems and community services.
  • Direct Experience:  We emphasize active, hands-on learning opportunities.
  • Equal Access:  We provide opportunities regardless of culture or income.    
  • Citizen Science:  Program participants generate and share useful data. 


Bill Foster, Program Director: Bill grew up in Ithaca and holds a BS in Environmental Engineering (Cornell '87). He with his family in 2004, and has spent time working with the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network and Cayuga Nature Center. His first experience with the impact of environmental education and community equity occurred in urban Philadelphia during his work with the US EPA.  Since then, he has engaged in youth education and outreach in both urban and rural settings, including New York City and the Catskills region.