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Ecology Comes to Life for Highland Middle School Students

Grade 8 Living Environment students from Highland Middle School (HMS) became scientists for a day during a field trip to Bob Shepard Highland Landing Park on October 13.

The students, along with Science teachers Cody Weaver and Cornelia Harris, took part in the 20th annual “Day in the Life of the Hudson River and Harbor” event, organized by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The event—which is designed to celebrate the Hudson River Estuary and educate the public on the uniqueness of the estuary system—encourages classes and individual participants to gather data at various sites along the Hudson River, and share their results to help create a better understanding of New York’s vital estuary system.

Dressed in waterproof waders and boots and armed with nets, Petri dishes, and various other pieces of data-collecting equipment, the HMS students spent the day visiting four stations at the riverfront park. Activities included fishing using a seine net, collecting and identifying macroinvertebrates, performing water quality tests, and measuring physical parameters including wind speed and direction, air temperature, and tides.

Weaver said that the field trip was the perfect tie-in to what the students have been learning about in class.

“We are currently studying ecology, and a ‘Day in the Life’ allowed us to study the subject in our own community, and really brought the content to life through meaningful experiences,” he said. “Students were able to see how populations and ecological communities have changed over the years, and investigate the causes of these changes by identifying biotic and abiotic factors [the living and non-living components that make up an ecosystem].”

An example, Weaver explained, would be how the level of salinity of the water can affect which species can be found. 

“This experience truly could be related to all aspects of the ecology unit,” he said. “It was a great opportunity for the students to get outside and see science come to life!”