A collection of k-12 curricula, activity guides, and other resources to support hands-on, inquiry-based investigations of the ecosystems and organisms around us. Created by our Education Program in collaboration with Cary Institute scientists.
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Students observe soil samples, talk about where soil nutrients come from, receive a letter from a company that wants to know if dead plants can be used as fertilizer, then develop research questions.
A series of pictures and descriptions identifying common invertebrates found in litter packs.
Students analyze a trial involving a dispute about a composting business, then outline how a Special Investigator could gather evidence to help settle the case.
Students recieve a request to survey animals and their food resources on a local site, then talk about what they already know and how they could find out more.
Scientists make hypotheses at the beginning of any scientific study. A school site consists of both living and non-living things. School sites are designed for humans and human activities. School sites are habitat for creatures other than humans.
Illustration of acids, hydrogen ions, and a PH scale of water sources.
Illustration of how food sources influence Lyme transmission.
Air quality refers to the health and safety of the atmosphere and is determined based on the amount of pollutants in the air. In this dataset, students can explore how air pollution has changed over time in the USA and in New York.
Looking at air temperature records can tell us about the climate of a certain location. In this case, we are looking at Poughkeepsie, a city in the Hudson Valley that is located right near the Hudson River
Common algae found in the Hudson estuary answering: What is it? How big is it? What eats it? and Where does it live?
Living and nonliving elements of a schoolyard affect each other. Questions arise out of scientific experiments that lead to other experiments.
Long term record of annual temperature at Poughkeepsie.
What foods do ants prefer and why might this be so?
Students will know how an aquatic ecosystem works and be able to collect representative organisms, identify the organism and its trophic level, and create a food web of a local aquatic ecosystem.
Students will learn about the habitat and life cycle of stream invertebrates with a focus on how the life history of aquatic invertebrates is connected to the terrestrial ecosystem.
Students will know the relationship between light and dissolved oxygen and be able to predict what will happen when a plant does not receive enough light. Students will know what happens to an aquatic ecosystem when a floating macrophyte is introduced as an invasive species, and be able to design an experiment to test their hypothesis.
Students will know how land use affects water quality and be able to use macroinvertebrates to understand the impact of land use change in watersheds.
Students will know how land use affects water quality, and be able to calculate a macroinvertebrate diversity index to understand the impact of land use change in watersheds.
What factors determine how much water plants lose through transpiration? How do two species differ in the amount of transpiration that takes place from their leaves over the course of 1 week?
Are there differences in the CO2 levels in different areas of the school campus? Does the amount of light affect the plant respiration and CO2 production rate? Is there any correlation between temperature increase and cellular respiration/photosynthesis processes?
After building a basic knowledge of the water cycle and water in their schoolyard, students investigate the water budget of a leaf.
Students will define and classify resources from the Chesapeake Bay watershed in order to describe how each of these organisms interacts.
Do different insect species occur along the edge versus the interior of a forest? Does the total number of insect species differ in different parts of a forest stand?
This dataset contains information on the number of European honey bee colonies, the use of pesticides, and the acres of Bt Corn planted in the USA since 1939.
The incredible wealth of diversity on our planet is something to be celebrated with students of all ages! Any place is an ecosystem, and biodiversity studies can take place in a forest, stream, pond, or even cracks of the sidewalk.
Different areas of the world have varying amounts of renewable and nonrenewable natural resources available. These resources may be utilized in many ways based on human needs. Obtaining and utilizing these resources will have a direct affect on the quality of the environment in a given area
Students will know the concept of biomagnification and be able to explain how biomagnification relates to cadmium levels in blue crabs in the Hudson River.
In this dataset, students can explore the relationship between childhood lead levels, county, and poverty level, and explore how these relationships have changed over time.
Students will know the benefits and drawbacks of drinking bottled water, and be able to compare the quality of their local water source to bottled water.
When we think about the water cycle, most of us think of a diagram with arrows moving from alpine peaks into the big, blue ocean. Unless we live in such a place, this idealized diagram does not teach us where our water comes from or what happens to rain that falls on our neighborhoods. These lessons can also be used to explore your schoolyard water cycle using hands-on activities.
Students will know the benefits of different types of plants in each tidal zone of a tidal marsh wetland and will be able to design a wetland based on specific provided requirements.
Which soil and leaf litter-dwelling organisms live here? How do soil invertebrates vary between different locations - sun vs shade, different types of soil, near invasive plants vs native plants, near a stream vs a meadow, etc.
How did Foundry Cove get to be “the most cadmium polluted site in the world”?
Students will know the origins of cadmium in the Hudson River, and will be able to integrate information from maps and text to describe how and why distribution of cadmium changed from 1975 to 1983.
Long term data from the Hudson River showing both dissolved oxygen and fecal coliform bacterial counts.
Models can be created to represent complex aspects of the real world. Scientists use models to study complex real world situations.
Aerial photographs can aid in determining land use types. Land cover types can be measured by using a grid overlay to aid in determining percent coverage. Students will learn how transition from gaining information from a 3-dimensional model to gaining information from an overhead 2-dimensional view.
A graphical overview of the carbon cycle, both prior to human burning of fossil fuels and after.
A brief reading summarizing major changes in the Hudson River watershed, including a discussion of when an ecosystem "bends" and "breaks".
These data come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Battery Park monitoring station in New York City, and cover the years 1856-2014.
Students will know how the climate of the Hudson Valley has changed over the last 400 years and be able to explain these changes.
Wetlands play a vital role in protecting habitats for fish and other wildlife, improving water quality, and creating a buffer for storm surges and floodwaters.
A basic introduction to chloride and salt pollution.
Through field checking a map or photo scientists can come up with a more accurate map of the area studied which reflects change over time. Collaborative efforts can lead to increased understanding of the concepts.
Students will graph Hudson River sea level data from 1970-2015, identify trends in the data, and make predictions about future levels.
Students will use HRECOS to generate graphs of Hudson River water temperature data from the month of July in the years 2010-2016, identify trends in the data, exceptions to the data, and make predictions about possible causes of the data trends.
Students will use HRECOS graphs of Hudson River water temperature data from the month of July in the years 2010-2016, identify trends in the data, exceptions to the data, and make predictions about possible causes of the data trends.
Students will analyze historic sea level data, sea level projections, climate projections, coastal flooding projections, and NYC action plans. They will make comparisons among the data and predict the preparedness of NYC to withstand sea level rise.
Students will know how increased carbon dioxide levels affect temperature and be able to graph and interpret data that demonstrates this relationship.
What colors are different kinds of insects attracted to and why might this be so?
What are the limiting factors to the rate of photosynthesis? How is the flux of carbon in an ecosystem affected by sunlight? Does sunlight exposure affect grass biomass in a given area?
A background reading on conductivity.
Students do a controlled experiment to culture microbes living on items they collected outside.
The central investigation of this unit helps students answer the question "Where does the stuff living things are made of go after those organisms die?" Throughout the unit, students grapple with the notion that matter is neither created nor destroyed, but it takes different forms as it cycles - as part of a living thing at one point in time, then as part of the non-loving environment at another
Students will be able to define a population of dandelions and understand why distribution and abundance of individuals is important.
Incorporating secondary data into ecology can provide students with a way of supporting their claims from smaller research projects and connecting their work with the real world. In addition to providing units that include secondary data, these materials also highlight the ecological nature of science by providing lessons that focus on key habits of mind to help students think like an ecologist.
PCBs. in the Hudson River.
Students will learn about salinity in the Hudson River Estuary and graph changes in salinity across time and space. They will collect diatom samples and compare diatom communities from their sampling site with salinity levels.
Students will collect diatom samples and compare diatom communities from their sampling site with salinity levels.
Groups from Manhattan to Troy collect a variety of river data including salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and fish abundance.
Students work in groups to create displays that show what happens to a dead leaf over time.
In this module students learn about microbes as decomposers, develop experimental design skills, and apply their knowledge to a variety of everyday situations.
Is there a difference in the decomposition rates between areas above and below ground? Is there a difference between the decomposition rates measured in the field and the woods? What other factors hasten decomposition besides microfaunal action?
Litter was collected from two marsh plants: Phragmites australis (common reed) and Typha angustifolia (cattail). Microbial productivity was measured for both bacteria and fungi.
Students will examine the shape and size of seeds, know how those differences relate to seed dispersal and be able to compare the trade-offs of those differences.
How does dissolved oxygen enter into aquatic ecosystems? What controls its presence? Why do we need to be concerned about it? Students will read about the basics of dissolved oxygen and the ways in which it can be measured.
A dataset from the Hudson River showing dissolved oxygen changes over 24 hours.
This dataset shows dissolved oxygen changes over seven years in the Hudson River, clearly showing the differences in seasons (both temperature and dissolved oxygen). Data was collected near Kingston, NY.
Students will know how to design an experiment to test how a pond ecosystem changes over time due to an invasive mollusk and be able to develop a testable hypothesis, create the experimental set-up, collect data, and carry out the experiment.
Students will know how to answer the question, “Are fish more contaminated from different locations in the River?” and be able to provide evidence to support their answer.
Students will know how to answer the question, “Are fish more contaminated from different locations in the River?” and be able to provide evidence to support their answer.
In order to help students understand the connections between water and air pollution through the concept of watersheds and airsheds, as well as understand the impacts of their decisions on human health and the environment, we have developed a game that allows middle and high school students to become decision makers in a hypothetical county.
Students will be able to discuss habitat needs and feeding habits of specific macroinvertebrates and understand connections that exist between the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem.
Students evaluate the environmental, political and economic consequences of their actions, and grapple with the difficult nature of making environmentally sound choices.
Students evaluate the environmental, political and economic consequences of their actions, and grapple with the difficult nature of making environmentally sound choices. Agriculture version.
Students will know the effects of deforestation on an ecosystem and be able to use data to explain ways that deforestation impacts a stream.
Ecosystems are defined as all the organisms along with all the components of the abiotic environment, interacting together as a system, within specific spatial boundaries. The Hudson's ecosystem is connected by the streams, rainfall, runoff and seepage to the forest, atmosphere, and groundwater systems that are in its watershed and airshed.
How do populations change in the Hudson River ecosystem, and how do these changes affect the larger ecological community? Using video, data, and hands-on investigations, students will explore how food webs and the abiotic resources and conditions of the ecosystem have changed in response to the zebra mussel invasion. This case study allows students to understand community level changes, which they can then apply to other systems.
Students will understand variability in the abundance of American eels (Anguilla rostrata) in tributaries of the Hudson River by comparing data from different locations over time.
Students write predictions of how a proposed change to their study site would affect the organisms that live there.
Students will know the difference between a pulse and a press event with regards to eutrophication and be able to graph the growth of algae over time.
Students will know the history of nutrient loading in the Hudson River, the consequences, and be able to recommend ways to reduce the levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in the future.
A short overview of the process of eutrophication.
Are there differences in rates of evaporation in shaded, forested areas versus full sun, open field areas? If there are differences in rates of evaporation, what could be some possible causes or factors affecting these differences?
Students will know how the zebra mussel has changed the Hudson River ecosystem and be able to explain how a biotic change affects the abiotic conditions in the Hudson River.
Students will know how to answer the question, “How likely is it that a striped bass caught near where the students live on the Hudson River will be above the FDA supermarket standard of 2 ppm?” and be able to provide evidence to support their answer.
Students will know how the water cycle has been altered by humans using local data.
Students prepare for and do an outdoor investigation of soil in areas where plants and other landscape feature differ, then use their findings to think about plant and soil connections.
Students will know how the zebra mussel invasion affected the food web of the Hudson River and be able to explain at least two connections within the food web that were affected using evidence from provided graphs.
Students will be able to discuss the life cycles of common macroinvertebrates and use data to compare macroinvertebrate larval abundance to adult numbers and make inferences.
These data show water quality levels for dissolved oxygen and fecal coliform bacteria at Manhattan.
These data show the fecal indicator bacteria (Enterococci) and rainfall amounts at five sites along the Hudson River.
Students design and carry out indoor or outdoor investigations to learn more about animals' feeding interactions.
From 1999-2015, researchers and students aboard the sloop Clearwater tracked the populations of over 100 aquatic macroinvertebrate species - mostly fish and crabs - in the Hudson River using trawl nets. This dataset shows how species density and diversity have shifted over time, and how these shifts vary based on location.
These data show the populations of Atlantic silversides, blue crabs, ctenophora (comb jellies), striped bass, banded killifish, pumpkinseed fish, spottail shiners, and sunfish compared to dissolved oxygen (DO) in the Hudson River.
Students sort items into food and non-food categories, then play a game to get enough food - nutrients and energy - to support six ecosystem organisms.
Through a game and outdoor investigation, students compare the behavior of animals in different areas of the schoolyard and experience an authentic ecological research method. The collect and display their data in appropriate graphs in order to examine the factors that influence an animal's ability to survive.
Freshwater tidal wetlands are a unique ecosystem of the Hudson River estuary, and these lessons will help students understand their importance along with some of the challenges due to a changing climate.
Students will interpret geological maps, identify the permeability rates in different glacial deposits, and be able to infer which local townships can best benefit from residential wells.
The glass eel is the juvenile life stage of the American eel. This is a simplified dataset created from the full data collected by the Eel Project.
Students will know how the zebra mussel invasion has changed the Hudson River and be able to use graphed data to explain the history of these changes.
Students complete their work for GROW by working in groups to create advertisements that teach the public about nutrient cycling, and GROW's research and products
Researchers at the Cary Institute set up sample plots on the Cary Institute grounds in Millbrook, NY. Researchers searched the following substrates within the plots: live trees, dead trees, leaf litter, and rocks.
A fact sheet about Gypsy moths
Students recommend who GROW should hire as a scientist after reviewing three job applications.
Wastewater enters the Hudson River from point sources including municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants, combined sewer overflows, urban storm water, and tributaries of the Hudson River such as Fishkill Creek.
Students will know how the pollution in the Hudson River has changed over time, and be able to explain the consequences of these changes.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collects temperature and precipitation data from around the world and displays it on their Climate at a Glance website.
An overview of the history of wastewater in New York, including historic newspaper articles from the 19th century.
Students will know at what level of salt concentration aquatic organisms are affected, and be able to explain the results of an experiment to determine these levels.
Students will understand how the invasive water chestnut plant impacts the Hudson River differently from the native water celery plant and be able to explain these impacts based on a series of graphs.
Students will know what level of salt concentration affects aquatic plants and/or animals, and will be able to explain the results of an experiment to determine these levels.
Students will know what level of turbidity affects aquatic organism, and will be able to explain the results of an experiment to determine these levels.
Students will know how to estimate flow in a river or stream, and be able to explain how how Hudson River flow is expected to change as predicted by global climate change models.
This is a collection of lessons from the Hudson Valley Ecosystem that allow students to explore different aspects of their local environment by analyzing and interpreting data. In these activities, students work with datasets in a scaffolded format to learn more about their local ecosystem and increase their confidence and skill in working with data.
Students will know how sea level rise may impact a local freshwater tidal marsh, and will be able to explain the changes to vegetation types.
How does the Hudson River ecosystem respond to different types of changes over time? Are these changes permanent, and how will the ecosystem respond?
Students will know how an invasive species has changed the Hudson River food web and be able to explain the impact of the zebra mussel on the food web over time.
Overview of what lives in the Hudson River.
An overview of the Hudson River watershed.
A map depicting the story of PCBs in the Hudson River.
Long term record of the temperature of the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie.
These data show the annual average water temperature for the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie, NY from 1946-2012.
Students will use data to create a scatter plot by hand and be able to understand the importance of replication and the intrinsic link between variability and the conclusions that can be drawn from data.
Students will identify Hudson Valley rocks and be able to explain why the rocks came to be as they are in each place.
Students will know some of the major changes that have taken place in the Hudson River watershed and be able to determine what has caused these changes using graphs, tables, and maps.
Hurricanes are a type of tropical cyclone or severe tropical storm. These catastrophic storms can produce significant thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, floods, and wind gusts exceeding 155 miles per hour.
Hurricane Irene caused extensive flood and wind damage as it traveled across the Caribbean and up the East coast of the United States. Using data from the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observation System (HRECOS) you can track the storm and its effect on the river.
Using data from the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observation System (HRECOS), you can track the storm and its effect on the river.
Data collected at Wappinger Creek on the grounds of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies during a major storm event, plus storm event data from another local stream (Red Oaks Mill) and the Hudson River during a hurricane (Hurricane Floyd).
Hydrofracking is a gas production technique where the natural gas is extracted from rock deep underground using a cocktail of water and chemicals (fracking fluid), injected with high pressure. Students explore the effects of hydrofracking using secondary data and first-hand investigations designed to help them understand how salt pollution impacts ecosystems function.
Hydrofracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a gas production technique where the natural gas is extracted from rock deep underground using a cocktail of water and chemicals (fracking fluid), injected with high pressure. There are a number of ecological concerns related to this practice, including an increase in turbidity due to infrastructure development for the wells and reduced streamflow due to water withdrawals for the fracking process. In this unit, students explore how fracking might affect turbidity levels using secondary data from streams in Arkansas and a first-hand investigation on turbidity in a pond microcosm.
Students will understand the process of hydrofracking and will be able to use a short article to explain the benefits and drawbacks, focusing on turbidity.
Students will understand the process of hydrofracking and will be able to use a short article to explain the benefits and drawbacks.
Students will know how to recognize variability in hydrofracking data, and will be able to make an appropriate graph of a selected variable in Excel or by hand.
Students will know how to recognize variability in hydrofracking data, and will be able to make an appropriate graph of provided turbidity data.
Students will know how the hydrofracking fluid affected the health of the trees and soil in the forest, and will be able to explain the drawbacks of flowback water with respect to ecosystem health.
This dataset shows the stream depth, conductivity, discharge, and temperature of the Wappinger Creek. Looking at abiotic factors such as stream temperature, stream depth and conductivity can indicate the health of the stream as well as the surrounding land.
Students will know that removing an invasive plant can have a variety of impacts and be able to explain some of these impacts using evidence.
Students will know that the presence of humans has an impact on soil communities in their schoolyard.
Students will know the factors that change dissolved oxygen levels and be able to design an experiment to test their ideas.
Is an invasive as tasty as a native?
Students propose how dead plants disappear over time, then examine mold, and talk about microbes as decomposers.
Students will know how dissolved oxygen enters water and be able to explain at least two variables that affect the amount of dissolved oxygen in water.
Students will know why we call some species invasive and be able to discuss several traits that are common among many invasive species and be able to explain the effects of at least one invasive species on ecosystems in the Hudson Valley.
Students will know the major changes that have taken place in the Hudson Valley and will be able to use aerial photos to describe major trends.
Students will be able to explain phenology, and explore how the phenology of mayflies in local stream changes over time
Students will know the components of the Hudson River ecosystem and be able to give several examples of ways that living and non-living things interact in the Hudson River.
Students will know what lives in the Hudson River, and will be able to create a food web drawing to represent the organisms living in the river. They will also know that the Hudson River food web is changing in response to the zebra mussel invasion, and will be able to make predictions about how native organisms will be affected by this invasion.
Photos and descriptive information about common invasive plants found in and around Dutchess County, NY.
Students will investigate whether there are more native or invasive plants and how herbivory affects both types of plants in their schoolyard.
Students will learn how and why invasive species have such large ecosystem impacts and how they have changed the Hudson River. This unit includes a more in-depth investigation of three species: zebra mussels, water chestnut, and common reed.
Students will know that aquatic communities change composition based on vegetation types and be able to explain the differences.
A general overview of invasive species.
Organic matter that is washed onto the shore, or "wrack," is an important part of shoreline ecosystems because it provides habitats for macroinvertebrates and nutrients for both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
Students will know how tides affect plant community distribution and nutrient uptake in a freshwater tidal wetland and will be able to investigate their ideas through a field trip to the wetland.
Students will know how land use affects water quality and be able to compare water quality in two different aquatic ecosystems.
Students will know how the application of road salt impacts water quality and be able to discover the different sources of salt as well as the amount of time that salt stays in the aquatic ecosystem.
Students will know how the sewage levels in the Hudson River have changed over time, and be able to explain the consequences of these changes.
Students will know how to test for turbidity in their local stream and will be able to explain whether their stream is contaminated by turbidity.
Students will know how to test for salt pollution in their local stream and will be able to explain whether their stream is contaminated by salt.
Students will know how to test for salt pollution in their local stream and will be able to explain whether their stream is contaminated by salt through first-hand investigations.
Students will know how to test for salt pollution in a water sample and will be able to explain whether their sample is contaminated by salt.
Students will decide whether their local stream or the larger Hudson River are healthy, using chemical and physical characteristics, and be able to collect data to support or negate their hypotheses.
Students collect data about the "seed rain" in the their schoolyard, while also learning to identify trees and seeds in their schoolyard. This data can be collected over months or year to analyze and compare data on seed production over time.
A simplified key to common pond invertebrates of the Hudson Valley.
An alternative to leaf pack sampling for macroinvertebrates is using the kick netting technique. Kick netting does not require any advance preparation or stream visits. The kick netting technique is also useful if leaf packs are washed away or dislodged and contents are no longer present in the pack.
Students learn that there may be a range of land use activities in any given watershed and we can use aerial photographs to determine the relative proportion of different land use practices in a large area.
This protocol requires that leaf packs are assembled and placed in the stream 3-4 weeks before data collection takes place.
Does decomposition vary in different places? Do large soil organisms (e.g., worms) speed up decomposition?
The Cary Institute's Environmental Monitoring Program provides information about current conditions and long-term trends.
The DEC collected a variety of fish in the spring, summer, and early fall when eggs, larvae, and juveniles are more plentiful. This dataset shows their results for tomcod, striped bass, rainbow smelt, and American shad.
A fact sheet about the bacteria that cause Lyme disease
This dataset will allow you to explore connections between tick populations, their mouse hosts, and the acorns that feed the mice.
In this dataset, students can explore how the prevalence of Lyme disease has changed over time in the Northeast.
Macroinvertebrate data collected from the East Branch of the Wappinger Creek
Aquatic macroinvertebrate photos.
A basic overview of invertebrates found in an aquatic ecosystem.
Students make food chains for their study site organisms, and learn food chain terminology.
Students make food webs of their study site, then trace how a change in one population could affect other populations within the web.
Students will know how their schoolyard is used by different people throughout the day, and will be able to create a map showing these patterns.
The series of lessons that comprise this unit are intended to take students from direct observations of their schoolyard to interpretation of air photographs of their schoolyard. As steps along the way, students create a three dimensional model of the school site based on their initial field observations. They then make an "air photo" of this model and analyze land cover types from this. In this way, they learn first hand what an air photo is, and begin to develop the skills of land cover classification and quantification from something that they've created themselves. Finally, they analyze a real air photo of their school site, identify land cover types, try to quantify these, and ground truth them through field reconnaissance.
Long term record of maximum annual temperature at Poughkeepsie (air).
Number of Mayfly nymphs (larvae) in the East Branch of the Wappinger Creek.
Students will understand how variation in data and sample size help us to make a claim. Students will learn to use "hedging language" in discussing results.
Long term record of minimum annual temperature at Poughkeepsie (air).
Mosquitoes play an integral role in the spread of diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, West Nile fever, and encephalitis.
This unit introduces students to the ecosystem concept using the Hudson River ecosystem. Students learn about both the biotic and physical history of the Hudson River ecosystem, including its geology, tides, and watershed. This unit's focus is on the characteristics and historical drivers that primarily shaped the Hudson River ecosystem before European settlement. Changes after European settlement are explored in the following unit "The Hudson Valley: A Social-Ecological System."
This unit integrates ecology and evolution by focusing on the story of Foundry Cove, where thousands of pounds of cadmium waste were dumped from the 1950s through 1970s.
Students will know that environmental changes act as a selection filter and be able to explain these processes using the example of cadmium resistance in Foundry Cove mud worms.
Students will understand the effect of "nature preserve" size on the diversity and abundance of organisms protected within the preserve.
In this dataset, you can explore how trends have changed related to milk production and sales in New York over time, as well as compare the environmental impact of milk production vs. apple production.
An overview of nitrogen pollution, focusing on nitrate-nitrogen, the compound most commonly tested with school kits.
Students will know where nitrogen exists and in which forms, and will be able to draw a diagram showing the movement of nitrogen in ecosystems.
Student collect data about their schoolyard, neighborhood and town to estimate the amount of water that runs off these places into a nearby stream.
Students visit thier study site to look for animals and clues about their food resources. The next day they process their findings.
Students create stations with interpretive labels that teach others about signs of animals and what they eat.
Dissolved oxygen (D.O.) is an important measure of water quality and can be used to predict information about the local community of organisms.
Healthy aquatic habitats usually have dissolved oxygen levels at or above 80% saturation. Most fish and other organisms cannot live below 30% dissolved oxygen saturation, which is considered hypoxic.
Using sediment cores collected from deep below the surface of seas and lakes, scientists can analyze things like macrofossils, temperature, pollen, and more from thousands of years ago.
Students will know how the climate of the Hudson Valley has changed over the last glaciation and be able to explain these changes.
This dataset provides data on PCBs in four species of Hudson River fish collected from various locations in the Hudson over 10 years (2001-2011).
The Hudson River has one of the highest levels of PCB pollution of any river on the East Coast. In this module, students will learn about the history of PCB's in the Hudson, how PCB's get into the fish we eat, and what has been done to remove PCB's from the Hudson River. Students will also gain experience analyzing data by exploring how levels of PCB's vary over time, location, and between different species of fish. There are separate versions of the lessons that are appropriate for middle school and high school students.
Students will know how soil compaction affects water infiltration and will be able to design and carry out a simple experiment to test their ideas.
A short reading about pollution that causes a change in pH of aquatic systems.
Understanding how human activity influences the Hudson is a prime concern for the maintenance of the river, especially as the human population grows.
Students can learn about pollution caused by phosphates.
Which ground dwelling insects live in this area?
Students work in groups to design a fair test that will yield information for GROW, then review each others plans and decide on a final design.
Students will evaluate available resources in order to create and maintain a native species environment.
Students work in groups to rank four sites according to their suitability for planting shrubs, then independently complete a diagram showing a nutrient cycle for the preferred site.
A basic overview of pollution, focusing on the Hudson River watershed.
Students will know how Hudson River tomcod evolved resistance to PCBs and be able to critically compare the way different news outlets choose to tell a scientific story.
Includes the major groups of living things in ponds, and a short discussion of eutrophication, along with the importance of detritus.
Students will gain data indicating how frequently the different areas of the schoolyard are used.
Does the amount of precipitation that reaches the ground differ between open field areas and forested areas? If so, what processes are involved that may influence the amount of rainfall, or throughfall, that reaches the ground?
Students become familiar with what animals and animal signs to look for outdoors, then practice field research skills and methods.
Using data from the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observation System (HRECOS) you can look at how primary productivity changes daily and over the growing season.
Students will know how to map puddles on their school property and investigate what lives in the puddles.
Basic microbe and bacteria ID guide for students.
Students will be able to observe the environment around them and formulate questions based on their own observations.
Students make and process final observations of their plants, graphs and discuss their data in groups, compile the whole class data, discuss conclusions, then write letters to GROW.
The Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System (HRECOS) is a network of real-time monitoring stations along the Hudson River. This network includes several stations from the New York/New Jersey harbor up to Schodack Island.
Students will know that plants use oxygen underwater and be able to design an experiment that will test this question.
There are many monitoring sites along the Hudson River. These sites collect data, such as barometric pressure, precipitation, relative humidity, air temperature, surface water temperature, wind direction, and wind speed.
The annual Riverkeeper Sweep is a day of service for the Hudson River. In 2016, a select number of sites began to classify and count each piece of trash they pick up.
These data show the salinity (salt) levels at seven sites along the Hudson River.
The Cary Institute has been involved in a long-term study to monitor the increase of sodium chloride in our local stream over the last 25 years. While sodium is less of a problem for organisms, chloride can be more harmful. Unfortunately, chloride levels have increased in local streams throughout our region, and in many parts of the country, as municipalities treat increasing numbers of roadways with salt during the winter months. Sodium chloride accumulates in groundwater over time, and is released into streams even during the summer, when groundwater plays a crucial role for supplying water flow. So, despite the fact that salt is spread in the winter, it is a problem all year, and if current trends continue, many parts of the northeast will have streams with water that is unfit for human consumption and is toxic to freshwater life within the next century (Kaushal et al, 2005). In addition to being a compelling environmental story, testing for conductivity as a measurement for chloride is relatively easy for students with a PASCO or Vernier probe, and samples can be taken from water bodies and stored conveniently for testing at a later date.
Students will know how salt pollution gets into groundwater, and be able to explain what happens when salt is applied to the ground/roads using data.
When scientists do a 'budget' of a water source, it helps to think of a bank account. You want to know how much goes in, and how much goes out, of your bank account.
Students will understand the different aspects of pollution and be able to explain why salt pollution is a problem. Students will know that changing the abiotic factors of an ecosystem affects the organisms living in the ecosystem, and will be able to explain at least two ways in which salt affects organisms from different ecosystems.
Students will know how streams become polluted with salt using first and second hand data, and will be able to make a prediction about future chloride levels in their local watershed stream.
Studying ecosystems can be done everywhere, and you don't need a lot of materials to do so! These lessons and investigations will support you in your efforts to get students outside, studying their own backyard using simple methods and materials.
Students will know how much water enters and exits their school building, creating a water budget and be able to understand how land cover affects the water that enters the school campus.
This unit aims to increase students understanding of schoolyard tree biodiversity, and engage students in thinking about local forests as dynamic, exciting systems. The curriculum also encourages students to develop and test claims comparing different forest types.
Thinking about the flow of matter and energy with students is one of the key ways of exploring ecosystems. In these lessons, students construct their own understanding of ecosystems through investigations in their schoolyard, developing ideas about ecological processes and functions
Students will draw what they see. Students will work to include locations of different features on a schoolyard as seen from a side view.
The lessons in this unit provide methods for students to carry out three investigations to ask questions about differences in the land cover types for three important dimensions of the schoolyard ecosystem:
The unit culminates in a final lesson where students have the opportunity to pursue topics they identify themselves. This can be set up simply as an open inquiry opportunity, or as a way of pursuing specific whole-schoolyard questions that might have surfaced during previous inquiries.
Do seed eaters have preferences for specific kinds of seeds? What factors determine preferences for different seed types? Do preferences change in different habitats or micro-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.
Students learn that soil is a complex mixture of rock, organic material, and water, along with air spaces. Through soil testing and map reading, they learn that soil composition varies from site to site depending on the underlying rock type, overlying vegetation, time, topography, climate, and chemicals carried by water percolating through the soil. Lastly, students understand that soils in a watershed affect the chemistry and quantity of water as it percolates through them.
Students will know the connection between land use and permeability, and be able to use data from a classroom activity to explain this connection.
Students will know the importance of soil as a water filter, and be able to discuss how the composition of the soil impacts its ability to filter pollutants.
Data show a 123-year record (1885-2008) of first arrival date of select migratory birds in Dutchess County, NY.
Students hear a story of a scientist who studies microbe decomposers, then plan and take a trip outside to collect items for culturing microbes.
Storm chemistry data collected at the Wappinger Creek on the grounds of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
Samples were collected from the East Branch of the Wappinger Creek on Cary Institute grounds in Millbrook, NY.
Looking at abiotic factors such as stream temperature, stream depth and conductivity can indicate the health of the stream as well as the surrounding land.
The Stream Ecology Unit (YES-Net) enlists students as scientists as they collect data on the numbers and kinds of aquatic insects found in local streams. This unit is unique in that it focuses on collecting long term data about the changes in the populations of macroinvertebrates. Students gain skills in field work and identification of these critters and have the opportunity to explore and interpret trends in their data as well as data collected by others. In addition, the field trip is surrounded by classroom lessons that teach key concepts such as the effect of abiotic and biotic factors on stream ecosystems, food webs, and data analysis and exploration.
Student will compare macroinvertebrate diversity and abiotic conditions in stream riffles and pools.
These "biology briefs" provide a line drawing of common aquatic macroinvertebrates, plus information on their feeding habits. This is useful for having students create a food web.
How do urban areas affect runoff? What happens to streams when it rains, both in urban and in rural areas? This brief article provides and overview of the answers to those questions.
Students will learn how to design a good investigation and the concept of a fair test. They will learn how differences in land cover type may lead to difference in ecosystem (biological, physical and social) features, and how biological, physical and/or social features of an ecosystem can be inter-related.
Students will know that mud worms at Foundry Cove evolved cadmium resistance and be able to explain how the scientists verified that cadmium-resistance is an inherited trait.
Which insects live on grasses and bushes in fields and lawns?
Students will know how temperature affects dissolved oxygen and be able to create a graph showing this relationship.
Students will know how temperature affects aquatic organisms' metabolism and be able to graph data and interpret results from an experiment examining metabolic effects.
Photos of commonly found invertebrates in leaf litter.
Students test factors that promote the growth of microbes, then use their findings to make compost.
Students design and set up model waste disposal systems that will help biodegradable plastic bags decompose
Students will understand the different aspects of water quality and be able to use water quality test kits to practice testing for pollutants.
A fact sheet about ticks
A fact sheet about chipmunks
In this module students will learn how land use has changed in the Hudson River watershed, both in geologic history and in more recent times in response to human pressures. Lessons include using paleoecology to understand change since the last glaciation, and using macroinvertebrates as an indicator for ecosystem health as it relates to land use.
Using data from the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observation System (HRECOS) you can look at the impact of drought in the Hudson River by comparing two years with different PDSI scores.
Students will know how Foundry Cove became the most cadmium-polluted place in the world and will be able to explain the impact on the ecosystem.
A fact sheet about oak trees
Using aerial photographs Land Classification to determine what covers the schoolyard Land cover percentage (Building on skills from “Candyland Elementary School Land Use” lesson)
A fact sheet about mice
Photos and descriptive text of life in a freshwater tidal marsh.
An overview of how the tides change in the Hudson River estuary.
Students will know how tides affect the Hudson River and be able to create a graph showing a two-day pattern of tides in the river.
Who is walking around our schoolyard?
Air pollution from traffic can be a major problem in many parts of the world. This dataset examines how traffic congestion and associated pollutants are related to the demographics of the populations that live near traffic.
If you think of precipitation as the rain above the tree canopy and throughfall as the rain below the canopy, then plotting the two together gives you an idea of how the canopy is altering the chemistry of the rain.
Do different tree species occur along the edge versus the interior of a forest? Does the total number of tree species differ in different parts of a forest stand?
Students will know how turbidity and hydrofracking are connected, and will be able to explain the impact of hydrofracking with respect to ecosystem health using data.
Students set up experiments to test the effects of compost tea on plant growth, learn about plant development, then monitor their experiments for 3-5 weeks.
When people think of ecology, they usually imagine studies out in the country. The next thing they think of is studies involving the relationship of plants and animals to one another. They also imagine studies that show how organisms relate to the physical environment -- air, water, and soil. People and cities usually don't come to mind when ecology is mentioned.
Teaching about the water cycle can be made more realistic and valuable for students by incorporating what they know about water-where it comes from, what happens to it after they use it, and what problems are associated with its use. When students study watersheds, they learn in a personal way about the importance of water, and how land use affects surface and groundwater.
Trapa is a floating invasive species that was introduced to the Hudson River. Vallisneria is a submersed (underwater) native species in the Hudson River.
This reading includes basic ecology of the water chestnut, along with information about the invasion of this plant in the region.
Students will know how a water chestnut bed impacts dissolved oxygen levels across space and through time and will be able to use graphs to explain these changes.
Data from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies showing the change in dissolved oxygen in response to water chestnut.
Describes how the water cycle has been altered due to human actions, focusing on land use changes.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has a network of real-time monitoring stations located along many waterways in New York State.
The toxification of the Hudson River has had a dramatic impact on the health of the river's ecosystem as well as the ability of people living along the river to use and enjoy it. With increasing human population in the last one hundred years, the Hudson has endured high levels of raw sewage, loading of nutrients, and the accumulation of pollutants such as PCBs. In this module, students learn how to monitor a local waterway for changes in water quality, and how the Hudson River has changed over time due to pollutants including nitrates, phosphates, and salt.
Provides a chart that students can use to remind them of the "normal" ranges for common water quality parameters.
Students will explore where water exists inside and outside of their school and create a class bar graph of their data.
Students use topographic maps to determine watershed boundaries and better understand how watersheds are delineated.
Students will know how water flows around their school and will be able to explain how permeability and pollution within a watershed affect water quality.
Students generate a list of local land use activities and consider how these activities may affect local water quality and quantity.
Students read about the Hudson River watershed.
Students will investigate the physical and chemical parameters of a waterway, discuss the impact of different types of land cover, and use data from Wappinger Creek collected before, during, and after a storm to examine the effects of storm water on a small stream.
Students will know how a stream changes during and after a storm and be able to create and/or interpret graphs demonstrating these changes.
Students will hypothesize how a storm event might change the physical and chemical characteristics of a local stream and be able to collect data to support or negate their hypotheses and communicate these results to others.
Students will know how a large storm affects the flow of water in streams and be able to create a graph that explains their answers to this question.
Students will know how plants are able to remove nitrate pollution, and will be able to compare differences in nitrate uptake by aquatic or terrestrial plants.
Students will know the functions of wetlands and will be able to explain at least one function performed by wetlands.
Students brainstorm and share what they already know about wetlands, and sketch a simple tidal marsh diagram with vegetation zones and appropriate organisms.
Students will know how temperature changes impact organisms and ecosystems and be able to discuss several climate change-related impacts on the Hudson River ecosystem.
All scientific maps need to be verified by fieldwork (exploring the schoolyard). Field checking is the process of verifying a land use map by physically checking the schoolyard. The accuracy of the map can be improved through the knowledge gained by field checking.
Students trace water through the community, and understand how filtration, gravity and microbes clean wastewater.
Students will know how to answer the question, “Are some fish less harmful to eat from the Hudson River than others?” and be able to provide evidence to support their answer.
Students plan, prepare, and present an exhibition of their work to an audience.
Students' central challenge is to determine the food web of a local site. By investigating a familiar area, such as their schoolyard or a neighborhood park, students see their everyday environment as an ecosystem of which they are part.
A dataset containing various sources of salt pollution for the watershed of the East Wappinger Creek in Millbrook, NY. Different student groups become experts on different parts of the dataset.
Dataset representing wildlife encounters recorded by trail cameras during the late summer and fall, 2015-2016. [Location: Cary Institute, Millbrook NY]
Students will know which characteristics of maple seeds help them travel farther and be able to explain why is this important.
Students will identify abiotic characteristics of pools and riffles in a stream and analyze, interpret, and display data they collected on during their field trip to Wappinger Creek
Compare the number of earthworms living in different parts of a study area by forcing worms to the surface using a non-lethal irritant (hot mustard slurry!). Youngsters try to explain differences based on environmental conditions they can observe - soil conditions, ground cover and local physical conditions.
Students will learn how different elements of the schoolyard ecosystem are linked, how scientists compile data and search for patterns and relationships, and how these relationships can be described.
Students will learn about the zebra mussel invasion and zebra mussel ecology.
These data are part of a long-term record from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, showing the change over time of different components of the Hudson River ecosystem in response to the zebra mussel invasion.
Zebra mussels were first detected in the Hudson in 1991. By 1992 they had spread throughout the freshwater and slightly brackish parts of the estuary.
Zebra mussels were first detected in the Hudson in 1991. By 1992 they had spread throughout the freshwater and slightly brackish parts of the estuary and had a biomass greater than the combined biomass of all other consumers.