Sometimes the best way to teach curriculum is to leave the classroom and get some hands-on experience.
On Tuesday, some of Rockland County's best and brightest science students traveled to the Piermont Pier to study the Hudson River. These students who are enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Studies and AP Biology left their classrooms behind to get in some field work. They worked along side a number of top scientists to study the health of the Hudson.
"To get the most out of class, we need to get out into the environment and do the experiments," said Pearl River senior Erin Garvey.
Classmate Emily Davan added, "Environmental Studies is a field science and the best way to learn is to get out there and do things ourselves."
It was the ninth annual "Day in the Life of the Hudson River." The event began in 2003 with approximately 300 students participating. Currently over 3000 students are involved and they worked at 65 different sites along the Hudson River from New York City to Troy.
The event is coordinated by the Hudson River Estuary Program of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The day began with a welcome and orientation provided by local coordinator Margie Turrin from Lamont-Doherty.
"Today the Hudson is our classroom" said Turrin. "The data you collect will be used to assess the health of the Hudson River."
Turrin quickly divided the students representing Clarkstown South, Pearl River, and Tappan Zee High Schools into groups that would rotate through five stations during the course of the day. The stations were: fish, coring, chemistry, tides and plankton.
"The study of plankton is new this year," said Teacher Tom Mullane. "The students will collect phytoplankton and zooplankton and look at their samples under stereoscopes."
Students collected deep and shallow water samples and tested them for pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrates, phosphates, alkalinity and salinity.
"It's nice to see the students put their chemistry skills to work out in the field," said McCaffrey.
A group of students from Tappan Zee High School shared the list of fish they caught while seining. They caught striped bass, silversides, killifish, naked goby, perch and eel. All were measured and then quickly returned to the water.
Students from Clarkstown South explained that at the turbidity station they found a large amount of mud, clay, and gravel in the water, a small amount of wood and shells and no sand.
Pearl River students clearly identified their objective at the tides station. They measured the change in current and tide height. They identified a "flood tide" and discussed how the tides are affected by the moon.
"The information the students gathered today will help us manage the Hudson River," said Frances Dunwell, Hudson River Estuary Coordinator. "We will use the data taken today to help make the Hudson River a greater part of the community."
"In the last ten years or so, more people are getting out on the Hudson," said Turrin. "It is more swimable, fishable, and recreational."
Students compared data recorded today with that from past years. Their conclusion was that the Hudson is looking healthier.