Exploring our local ecosystems and how humans influence them has engaged the 6-7s in science class this fall. Tracking the changes occurring at our future pond site spurred many questions, ideas, and curiosities. The 6-7s collected and identifies plant samples, created scientific drawings of the site and plants, and discussed their ideas on habitats as they focused on our landscape. Looking closely at the plants, they analyzed their similarities and differences and discussed how these plants fit into the habitat. The 6-7s began to organize and classify life and were introduced to taxonomic naming and the 6 kingdoms of life.
They questioned “What is good water?” and “How does water quality influence life?” as they contemplated the changes ahead. Using images of riverbanks, creeks, and watersheds, we examined how the multiple uses of farmland, housing, and industry impact water quality. Comparing our local Hudson River Watershed to these concepts, they predicted the health of the Hudson in various locations. They explored the intrinsic properties of estuaries and how organisms are adapted to survive there.
Preparing for the Day in the Life of the Hudson River kept us experimenting in the field and in the classroom. Measuring water properties, gathering weather data, analyzing plant communities, and catching frogs helped set the stage for the activities they’d do at the river. Learning about and testing water samples’ dissolved oxygen levels and salinity levels brought chemistry and collaboration into the mix. The 6-7s reviewed last year’s river data and made predictions about what they’d find this year. They enjoyed sharing their ideas regarding why animals and plants live where they do based on these environmental parameters. Conversations and lessons focused on food webs and plenty of “what if” scenarios were lively.
Our morning at the Estuary was rewarding. While exploring the Hudson’s shore, the students demonstrated their skill with collaborating to collect site data, test the water’s chemical properties, and create observational drawings. We owe much thanks to all the parents who volunteered their time to drive and mentor students! We could not do it without our support. The State Museum Curator of Ichthyology, Jeremy Wright, and their collection technician, Bryan Weatherwax, brought seine nets and a fish shocking vest, volunteered their time to gather fish and educate us all morning. All data was submitted to Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, where they will use it to ascertain the health of the Hudson River. It is available at http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/edu/k12/snapshotday/. The 6-7s’ first hand experiences at the Estuary helped them connect how influential the Hudson is to local ecology and industry.
Analyzing our results afterwards, the 6-7s reflected on their predictions and described why their collected river data differed. Supporting their predictions and results with facts, they discussed weather patterns, pollution, and the basic fact that each day we might find new information!
Brainstorming how human impacts influence the Hudson, they composed thoughtful statements, supported by data that lead them to delve into how pH, salinity, and dissolved oxygen impact living organisms’ bodies. Focusing on plants, animals, habitats and water quality, they generated research questions. Refining the questions into experiments, the 6-7s planned, organized materials, made predictions, and set up their tests. They ran a virtual experiment, testing pH’s effect on macro-invertebrates, to explore organisms’ differing tolerances to environmental factors and how researchers use indicator species to measure water quality.
The 6-7s also created mini lessons on pH and taught their classmates using songs, skits, quizzes, and presentations. As they collect their experimental data, they will also continue learning about ecosystems, taxonomy, and water quality concerns. After data collection is completed, the 6-7s will be creating presentations discussing their experiments and results, and devising an action plan. As the winter trimester begins we’ll continue to document and research the changing patterns in nature and delve into the microscopic level of life.
~Kate Perry, K – 8 Science Teacher