There are many ways in which Bard students can participate in real authentic scientific research.
You can work with Bard professors, and you don’t have to wait till your senior year to do it! You can do it over the summer, within the BSRI (Bard Research Summer Institute) program; during the year (by either shadowing other students in the lab, taking formal for-credit projects, or just honing your techniques in your spare time), or in some cases over the Winter break. The best way to learn about current research opportunities at Bard is to look at individual web-pages of each professor (they are listed on the Faculty page), read some of their recent publications, as well as some of the recent senior projects in the program, and then talk to professors personally.
You can also arrange research opportunities through Bard. Read this page for details.
Finally, you can find external research opportunities on your own, and Bard faculty will be happy to provide you with letters of recommendation. Check out this page for a nice (but not exhaustive) list of sites that post summer research positions.