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Small Watershed Ecology Assessment Project

Watersheds, the land area draining into a single body of water, can be considered a basic unit of the landscape that determines water availability, movement, and quality. When students study watersheds, they learn in a personal way about the importance of water, and how land use affects surface and groundwater.  

Prepared by staff of the Education Program at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, SWEAP introduces middle and high school students to their local land and water environments.  The SWEAP materials and activities assist teachers in guiding their students as they compare the ecology of three small watersheds with different land uses (e.g., agricultural, forested, developed).  Students learn about the factors that determine the quantity and quality of water flowing from any watershed, and the impact this has on aquatic ecosystems.  The project also includes a strong emphasis on local land use history and the impacts people have had on the natural world.  Thus, the materials contribute to state education requirements for teaching science with a problem-solving, community-based approach.

The four school districts in the project serve students in communities crossed by the Iroquois natural gas pipeline (Arlington, Dover, Hyde Park and Millbrook), which was a condition of the grant obtained from Iroquois' Land Preservation and Enhancement Program. It is hoped that the project will ultimately reach beyond Dutchess County and provide a model for other teachers, environmental education centers, or community members interested in watershed ecology education. The materials are flexible and will support teachers in conducting anywhere from a single exercise to an entire 2-3 week study of watersheds.

Funding: The Iroquois Gas Transmission System's Land Preservation and Enhancement Program The Berkshire-Taconic Foundation,  Horseshows in the Sun, The Millbrook Tribute Garden, The Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquarium Grant Program administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for the Natural Heritage Trust.  

Project Directors:

Ana Ruesink

Alan R. Berkowitz

Kathleen Hogan

Project Teachers:

David Grover, Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School, Hyde Park, NY

Paul Kenny, Dover Junior/Senior High School, Dover Plains, NY

Maribel Pregnall, Arlington High School, LaGrangeville, NY

Trish Tomaseski, Millbrook Junior/Senior High School, Millbrook, NY