A Day in the Life of the Hudson

This Thursday, students in our 1-2 and 8th grade classes spent the day on the Hudson River as a part of the annual A Day In The Life of the Hudson event. Our 8th graders led our 1-2s through various scientific data collecting stations focused on aquatic life, current speed, water clarity, and dissolved oxygen. Art teacher Claire Sherwood enriched our studies with an art lesson in realistic drawing of fish, and lower school science teacher Leiana Hawkins demonstrated how to conduct a home-fashioned salinity test. Combining science and art in this interdisciplinary, place-based experience is exactly what a progressive education filled with purposeful action is all about.
1-2 students rotated through various learning stations on the river bank while our 8th graders took on the role of science teachers. Leading up to the event science teacher, John Sherry worked with them to master one of the four water testing stations. The younger students rotated through the stations and learned about aquatic life, current speed, water clarity and dissolved oxygen. Each group was accompanied by a teacher and parent volunteers, who we were thrilled to have back in action for this first field trip of the year.

The fish identification station always elicits shrieks from both enthusiastic and squeamish students alike. There are always a few students who simply cannot pass up the experience to get up close and personal with their learning. This year, Parker 8th grader Lennox was excited and nervous to lead students through this station. Having never touched a fish before, he was intentional about practicing with Leiana so that he didn’t startle or drop a fish when students came to his station. Another 8th grader, Lyla, boldly followed in the footsteps of our fearless DEC volunteer and gave her fish a smooch.
Meanwhile, at another station, three 8th graders led younger students through a test to measure the dissolved oxygen in the water. Students have the opportunity to hone their skills of data collection and scientific observation by analyzing water samples collected from the Hudson. This year, Parker 8th graders kept younger students captivated with their explanation of how oxygen molecules put on their “rain coats” to protect them from pollutants in the water.
The station measuring current speed is always a perennial favorite. This year, Parker 8th graders named and decorated oranges with faces, much to the delight of our 1-2’s. Our younger students were encouraged to cheer as loudly as possible as an orange was thrown in the water, and then the whole group ran along with the orange to measure its rate of travel downstream.
At the final station, our 8th graders taught the 1-2s about turbidity, or water clarity. Using a large tube filled with water, Parker 8th graders invited each student to peer down into it and determine whether or not they could see a black and white discus at the bottom. At first, none of our 1-2s could see the disk. However, after slowly lowering the water level in the tube, the 1-2s were excited to see the disk eventually become visible. Our middle schoolers explained the importance of measuring turbidity as an indicator of water quality.
Participating in A Day in the Life of the Hudson gives students the tools to act as knowledgeable stewards of our natural resources. The scientific work Parker students do here ignites a love for the environment. Students become advocates for clean water from an early age as they see the importance of their own contributions to the state-wide study. The data they collected will be entered on to a DEC website, and it will be possible for them to compare it to other locations data from the day. Place-based learning, active, interdisciplinary, applied to the real world, and fun! It was a wonderful morning.