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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.
Scientists draw conclusions based on data collected. Conclusions made by scientists are often used to support a recommendation to engage in a specific action. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
Students will know how the climate of the Hudson Valley has changed over the last 400 years and be able to explain these changes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Students design and carry out indoor or outdoor investigations to learn more about animals' feeding interactions.
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.
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
A fact sheet about Gypsy moths
Students recommend who GROW should hire as a scientist after reviewing three job applications.
Students will know how the pollution in the Hudson River has changed over time, and be able to explain the consequences of these changes.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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, one of which relates to the potential impact of water pollution from the release of waste water into the environment. Since the fracking fluid mixes with water underground that has high levels of chloride, when it returns to the surface it retains this high level of chloride. Spraying this fluid as a means of de-icing has occurred in some areas, while in other places the waste water is discharged into surface waters or even sprayed in natural areas. In this unit, students explore this idea 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A fact sheet about the bacteria that cause Lyme disease
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).
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. Surprisingly, a species of mud worm became resistant to the chemicals within a very short period of time, illustrating the principles of evolution through a local story. By using non-fiction articles and readings along with hands on activities and graphic organizers, students will explore the events at Foundry Cove, how the resistance developed over time, and the larger consequences for the Hudson River ecosystem. The culminating lesson asks students to explore the evolution of resistance to PCBs in Hudson River tomcod using popular media articles.
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.
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.
Students will know how the climate of the Hudson Valley has changed over the last glaciation and be able to explain these changes.
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.
Students can learn about pollution caused by phosphates.
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.
Students become familiar with what animals and animal signs to look for outdoors, then practice field research skills and methods.
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.
Students will know that plants use oxygen underwater and be able to design an experiment that will test this question.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
Ask students to get out a blank piece of paper, and imagine the Hudson River. Ask them to draw a map of all the things within that ecosystem, and all the things that contribute to keeping that ecosystem healthy. These maps are to guide the teacher in understanding student preconceptions and will be used again during the lesson. The teacher should move around the room during this time to view the students’ maps, in order to find out what students know and what type of information they are lacking. Most students have little knowledge of what actually lives in the river, although they will likely provide the visible organisms in big categories such as fish and birds.
Lay out a number of items at the front of the room that could be alive or not. You can vary these items depending on their availability; items such as Mexican jumping beans work well to pique a students’ interest. Have students make a list of the things they think are alive, those that aren’t, and those that were ‘once alive’. Then, they should get into groups and debate the placement of the items on their lists, attempting to convince the other students to change their minds. When students have discussed for a few minutes, they should be encouraged to come up with characteristics that can distinguish between something that is ‘alive’ and something that is not.
Bring the class back together and ask for their answers to the alive versus not-alive question, and see if the class can come to a consensus on which items are alive and which are not. This works well if you ask students to vote in groups; it is easier to count their answers to the alive/not alive. It is also interesting to ask the students to arrange the items on a continuum from alive to not alive.
Students should now have a sense of the complexity of life and of defining it! Encourage students to think about how things change when a flower is picked, or an animal hibernates, or a plant becomes dormant. Sometimes it is difficult to decide what is alive and what isn’t. Scientists have come up with a few traits that all living things seem to share: have cells, require the use of energy (metabolize), reproduce, evolve and adapt, respond to stimuli, and maintain homeostasis (maintain stable internal environment). Sometimes educators include growth and development as a characteristic, but this can also be included in evolving and adapting and responding to stimuli. Now that students know what types of things are alive, they should be able to add to their ecosystem diagrams. Review the terms biotic and abiotic.
Formative assessment: Ask students to name three living and three non-living things that are part of the Hudson River ecosystem. Pay attention to whether students are just providing generic terms or whether they can remember to include the smaller organisms (microbes and bacteria, fungi) and whether they can provide any specific species or just general terms.
Draw a cross-section of the Hudson River on the chalkboard. Pass out sticky notes to student pairs. Ask each student group to write down something that might be included in the Hudson River ecosystem on their sticky note, and come up to the board and place it in the appropriate area of the diagram (in the river, the air, the sediment, etc). Once all students have added their ecosystem components, remove the duplicates.
Now, use the “Journey down the Hudson” PowerPoint to give students a visual perspective of the river. While viewing the PowerPoint, you can ask students to answer questions on the "Journey Down the Hudson River Student Questions/Notes" worksheet and/or add to their personal drawings of the Hudson whenever they see something they missed.
At the beginning of the slide show are several slides that discuss the physical characteristics of the river. A good way to illustrate the differences between the upper and lower sections of the Hudson is to do the following activity:
1. Ask for three volunteers to come up to the front of the room. One volunteer will be Mt. Marcy, the start of the Hudson, a second will be in the middle at the Federal Dam at Troy, and the third will be the mouth of the Hudson in NYC.
2. Ask ‘Mt.Marcy’ to hold the string up very high, as this is the highest point in New York State at 5,344 feet and also the start of the headwaters of Lake Tear of the Clouds, the origins of the Hudson River.
3. Then, ask the New York City volunteer how high his/her end of the string should be; this may take the students a few minutes to realize that since New York City is at sea level, the string should be down on the ground.
4. Ask the volunteer at Troy how high his/her string should be, since Troy is almost in the middle of the length of the Hudson. Generally, students think that Troy is about 2500 feet high, and they want the volunteer to hold the string in between the heights of ‘Mt Marcy’ and ‘NYC’. Reveal that the Troy dam is only about 4 feet above sea level. This should help students understand the large physical differences between the upper and lower parts of the river.
5. Then have the rest of the class come up and stand along either side of the string between the Troy dam an NYC. Tell the students that because the Hudson is an estuary, it has special characteristics.
6. Instruct half of the students standing along the string that they are going to represent the Hudson’s tides. They will bend down, touch the ground, and say in a low voice “low tide” and then stand up, raise their arms overhead and say in a high voice “high tide,” and repeat.
7. The other half of the students along the string are going to represent the salty nature of the Hudson. They should make a mixing motion with their hands, as if they were using two hands to hold the spoon while mixing cookie dough. While making the mixing motion, they should repeat “Salt water/ Fresh water.”
8. Then tell both groups of students to “Go.”
9. After they’ve been salty, fresh, and tidal for a while, ask them why they think you instructed them to only stand below the Troy dam. The Hudson is only tidal up to the Troy dam. And in fact, the ‘salt front’ is usually much farther south in the Hudson, by the Tappanzee bridge. Yet in spring when there’s a lot of snow runoff, the salt front can be all the way down to NYC. In late summer, and particularly in drought conditions, the salt front can reach as far north as Newburgh and even Poughkeepsie (about ½-way in between the dam and NYC).
Finally, pass out another round of sticky notes to those students who would like to add items to the drawing on the board, and try to complete the diagram. Suggested inputs and outputs include: oxygen, sunlight, nitrogen, phosphorous, carbon, carbon dioxide, detritus, rain, plants, phyto/zooplankton, fish, birds, crustaceans, etc.
Formative Assessment: Ask students to describe three interactions between living and non-living things in the Hudson River ecosystem. Extra points if they can name ways that living things impact the non-living environment! (Examples: aquatic vegetation increases the level of dissolved oxygen in the water; filter feeders such as the zebra mussel increase the depth that sunlight reaches into the water.)
1. Supplement the ‘Alive versus not Alive’ activity by turning it into a lab experience using one of the ‘Is it Alive?’ labs. These explore the definition of ‘living’ using small objects and organisms (algae, human hair, etc). This online interactive activity from Stanford’s Virtual Urchin lab may be useful for you and your students as they calculate the size of microscopic organisms: http://stanford.io/14h5SWu
2. Ask students to pick another, preferably very local, ecosystem and create a diagram showing all of the inputs and outputs. They should be given time to do some research to complete this task. The “Hudson as an Ecosystem" PowerPoint provides additional information for students.
Students should be able to use their initial ecosystem diagrams that they created and update them with the information they learned during class. These diagrams can be used throughout the unit as they learn more about the types of things that are important within an ecosystem.
“Is it Alive?” lab sheet version 1 was written by Lecia Zulak, science teacher, FDR High School, Hyde Park, NY.
“Is it Alive?” lab sheet version 2 was written by Patricia Tomaseski, science teacher, Millbrook High School, Millbrook, NY.
Is it Alive? activity modified from Straits, WJ and RR Wilke. “Favorite Demonstration: Interactive Demonstrations -- Examples From Biology Lectures.” Journal of College Science Teaching, Jan. 2006.
‘String’ activity showing the length and changes of the Hudson River courtesy of Chris Bowser, NYS DEC and HRNERR.
Two informative books about the Hudson River:
The Hudson: An Illustrated Guide to the Living River by Stephen P. Stanne, Brian E. Forest and Roger G. Panetta. 2007.
The Hudson Primer: The Ecology of an Iconic River by David L. Strayer. 2011.