Tech Brings Hudson River into Student Homes
Educators seine for fish in the Hudson River estuary for students to identify in a series of virtual activities.
Teamwork and technology are keeping the New York’s Hudson River estuary alive for students, teachers, and caregivers in 2020. This fall, the Day of the Life of the Hudson and Harbor field education program connected thousands of children to the Hudson River Estuary and New York Harbor through a series of vibrant educational resources, videos, and safely-held live programs.
Now in it’s eighteenth year, this event is a collaboration of the Hudson River Reserve, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC), the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, and dozens of environmental education organizations throughout the region. Since its inception in 2003, the program has helped more than 56,000 students and educators explore their local estuary.
“Day in the Life is often the first time our students are exposed to the environment outside the classroom, and they are able to learn about what is in their own backyard,” says Janet DeStefano, a teacher in the Newburgh City School system. “When they are provided hands-on experiences with the Hudson River, they become stewards of the environment.”
This year’s program was designed to support students unable to go into the field due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 35 partner organizations helped to compile an online data set on water quality, weather, fish, and other aquatic life in the Hudson River and New York Harbor. Three interactive videos—narrated by professionals and educators from waterfront communities and available on YouTube—bring this data and the day’s adventure into the schools and student homes. The videos are designed to help students identify fish and compare the diversity of sites and conditions in New York Harbor, the lower estuary from Yonkers to Newburgh, and the upper estuary from Poughkeepsie to Troy, with a special glimpse of the Adirondacks!
“This year, our older students were excited to mentor younger peers who participated for the first time in Day in the Life,” says Grace Sanvictores, STEAM educator at Hudson Montessori School in Jersey City. “Our upper elementary students enjoyed creating ‘how to’ videos for their younger friends that show them how to use scientific instruments to measure different parameters of the Hudson River. They also were excited to digitally meet the partners who recorded what is happening on their side of the river. They were all very curious about the different fish caught that same day!”
Day in the Life of the Hudson and Harbor encourages students to have a “hands-on” experience with the estuary and discover it for themselves—even if they’re unable to visit the field.
NYSDEC, Lamont Doherty, and other partners provided extra support to teachers this year with pre-trips and post-trips that put the videos in context for students at home and in the classroom. These programs introduce students to the estuary before they access the videos, and help them discover the wonderful diversity of sites and stories they can explore online.
“Even though many schools can’t have the same field experiences as in past years, Day in the Life partners are excited that these online resources can be used beyond the event itself,” says Chris Bowser, education coordinator at the Hudson River Reserve. “It’s a great opportunity for the many voices of environmental education to reach more students than ever.”
“Any student anywhere can look at these videos and explore their estuary,” he adds. “They can see what their estuary looks like and understand that it ranges from a waterfront park in Albany, to a beach under the Brooklyn Bridge, to a creek in Duchess County, and into the East and Harlem rivers.”