Next Generation of Hudson River Educators 2020

Next Generation of Hudson River Educators seeks to engage students in Hudson River science through hands-on field investigation so the students can develop an appreciation for this unique estuary. Unfortunately, Covid-19 introduced a unique challenge for place-based education, making it impossible to run an in-person program. Through an innovative approach to place-based learning, we decided ‘if we couldn’t bring the students to the river, we would bring the river to the students’!

The Next Generation of Hudson River Educators’ 2020 summer internship marks the inaugural launch of this summer program. The program is primarily funded by a NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program Grant.

The Next Generation of Hudson River Educators’ 2020 summer internship marks the inaugural launch of this summer program. The program is primarily funded by a NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program Grant.

With very little lead time, we shifted the field-based program that would have been operating from the Hudson River Field Station, to one that was 100% virtual. In a tiered mentoring structure, we hosted 9 high school interns from North Rockland High School, Nyack High School, Spring Valley High School, The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem: 3/9 Black, 2/9 Latinx, 3/9 East & South Asian, 1/9 White. Two recently graduated Rockland Conservation & Service Corps members served as near peer mentors and to help plan and organize the program. Margie Turrin and Laurel Zaima were the Lamont scientists and education specialists who educated and guided the corps members and high school interns through the program.

9 Rockland County high school students and 2 near-peer undergraduate mentors were the core of the program.

Nine Rockland County high school students and 2 near-peer undergraduate mentors were the core of the program.

The interns dedicated the first weeks to learning about the Hudson through “Virtual River” videos, games, interactive web activities, and live river demonstrations hosted down by the water. Student-led interviews were a key aspect of the program. Students interviewed their family, peers, and community members to better understand their perspectives and use of the Hudson. The students learned about Hudson misconceptions and common themes, which provided insight on the Hudson-related information that needed to be shared and how best to relay this information to their communities. The interns worked in teams to create their own science communication tools to share Hudson information to multigenerational community members. Each week had a theme and science communication output. Science communication outputs for the summer included TikToks, Instagram posts, short YouTube videos, data visualizations, data games, fish advisories, art pieces, and final blog posts for State of the Planet.

Week 1: Hudson River Ecology and Transitional Ecology

Sci Comm Output: TikTok or Instagram Post

5 Facts about the Hudson that You Might Not Have Known. Created by Kashi Nanavati, Jed Roth, and Jeanne Joof.
5 facts about the Hudson that you might not have known. Created by Kashi Nanavati, Jed Roth, and Jeanne Joof.
5 facts about the Hudson that you might not have known: Fact 1. Created by Kashi Nanavati, Jed Roth, and Jeanne Joof.
5 facts about the Hudson that you might not have known: Fact 2. Created by Kashi Nanavati, Jed Roth, and Jeanne Joof.
5 facts about the Hudson that you might not have known: Fact 3. Created by Kashi Nanavati, Jed Roth, and Jeanne Joof.
5 facts about the Hudson that you might not have known: Fact 4. Created by Kashi Nanavati, Jed Roth, and Jeanne Joof.
5 facts about the Hudson that you might not have known: Fact 5. Created by Kashi Nanavati, Jed Roth, and Jeanne Joof.

Week 2: Science Communication

Sci Comm Output: YouTube Videos

Myth Busters: Common Hudson River Misconceptions. Written by Yi Lin, student, North Rockland High School & Mika Pierre, student, Spring Valley High School.

“Did you know that it’s safe to swim in the Hudson River?” Before you go off in shock, let us explain. The idea that the water is unsafe to swim in because of its appearance is one of many misconceptions about the river itself.  In fact, we spent a whole week debunking common myths including  topics like ‘Is the Hudson dirty?’ ‘Is it a lifeless river?’ and ‘Can anyone eat fish from the Hudson?’ Our outputs proved them wrong, and we had fun creating videos and fish advisories to educate others.

Many people assume that the Hudson River is dirty based on its greenish-brown coloration. This coloration is actually known as turbidity or the transparency of the water. Since the Hudson is tidal, it carries sediments with it up and down the river, creating this look. For this myth, Mika’s group created a video (Creators: Mika Pierre, Kashi Nanavati, & Aisha Ali) on turbidity.

Because of the river’s appearance, many people believe that there’s very little marine life. Contrary to this belief, over 200 different species thrive in the Hudson. For an example of a fish in the Hudson, check out this Sturgeon video (Creators: Yi Lin, Jed Roth, & Ace Gonzalez) that Yi’s group made.

Another misconception is that Hudson River fish are safe to consume. While the fish itself isn’t harmful to eat, there are toxic chemicals, such as PCBs and Cadmium, within the river that are absorbed by fish, making it dangerous for human consumption. To help the local communities become aware of these dangers, we adapted the state fish advisories summarizing the regulations for fish that are safe to eat, as well as their respective quantities.

Public Service Announcement: Hudson River Fish Advisories for four sections of the Hudson: Harbor, Lower, Mid, and Upper Hudson. Harbor Fish Advisory Creators: Kashi and Yesenia. Lower Fish Advisory Creators: Aisha and Jed. Mid Hudson Fish Advisory Creators: Yi, Mika, Jeanne. Upper Hudson Fish Advisory Creators: Tenin and Ace

What we found at the end of the week was that myth busters were pretty effective in helping us learn about the Hudson River. They start by introducing a myth and encouraging viewers to share their preconceptions on the topic. Myth busters target what people often think of the river, correcting their misconceptions and building their Hudson River knowledge.

Week 3: Environmental Justice

Sci Comm Output: Infographic

Environmental Justice. Written by Kashi Nanavati, Nyack High School 

The Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” In other words, environmental justice serves as an unbiased prioritization of nature, people, and their communities, over economic profit.

The movement began in the early 1980s as a response to environmental injustice that persisted for many decades. One example was redlining, a systematic denial of financial loans and distribution of resources based primarily on racial bias, which clearly contributed to inequity in neighborhoods in regards to race and wealth. Minority areas lacking in financial support became targets for factory sites, pipelines, sewage waste, landfills, etc. as they were often the cheaper and easier option. The consequent health effects from pollution are responsible for thousands of deaths, the majority being BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color), largely due to their proximity to toxic emissions.

NYC air quality throughout the boroughs. By Tenin Sidime & Aisha Ali.

Throughout the week, the Hudson River Field Station Internship educated all of us on this pertinent topic using a variety of methods, including articles, lectures, videos, discussions, and different projects. During one of our first activities, we were presented with two articles with alternative views on a proposed plan: should a power plant be built in close proximity to an elementary school with a majority of people of color? We debated with each other in order to understand other opinions in regards to environmental justice, and worked in groups to develop rebuttals. Another activity compared a map of redlining to a map of real estate pricing, which showed a clear correlation, allowing us to witness first-hand the ongoing effects of this practice. After spending the majority of the week understanding environmental justice and discussing it in depth, we were tasked with creating informative infographics. The products of our combined efforts highlighted not only our improved understanding of environmental justice, but our ability to actively educate others.

Breaking Barriers: The Importance of Diversity, Written by Jeanne Joof, student, Nyack High School

This summer, while working as an intern for Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, I had the opportunity to work with a diverse group to create materials to increase our community’s knowledge and interest on the Hudson River. During the program, we attended a Diversity and Inclusion in STEM: Leveraging your Network and Skills panel hosted by Hudson River Park and The New York Academy  of Sciences, where young professionals in STEM careers discussed their experiences as minorities in their field. This discussion panel was enlightening as well as encouraging. With all that’s gone on this year, diversity has been put at the forefront of our discussions. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion shouldn’t just be a trending topic but should be something that we constantly strive for. This discussion was important to me because, growing up in a school that wasn’t diverse, I struggled to fit in and to find my place, but discussions like this have helped me to see that I am not alone and that I can achieve even my highest goals. The panelists helped me to see that what makes me different from others is where my strength lies.

Week 4: Making Scientific Data Accessible

Sci Comm Output: Game Jam, Data Jam, Art for Science

Art for Science. Written by Ace Gonzalez, student, The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem
Hudson River Fish Illustration by Jonathan Allen. The inspiration for Ace Gonzalez’s STEAM artwork.

Art is a method of introducing complex topics and connecting people to science. Visual learners tend to understand images better than graphs, articles, and other forms of learning. Art for science can also be used to help students engage with the subject matter by building a connection to the material for people who otherwise may find it difficult or uninteresting.  Many artists have drawn images to express the beauty and love of science to young minds or those who perceive art as more interesting. Jonathan Allen, an artist who created an image of the aquatic life in the Hudson, has influenced me to create a piece of art and continue this chain of involving people in the science community. I made it small and simple to capture the eye of young future scientists.

 Life of the Hudson River by Ace Gonzalez
Data Jam. Written By Yesenia Flores, The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem

Data Jams are a cool and fun way of presenting information to audiences of all ages! A data jam is a visual way for scientists to solve problems using data sets. Interns were assigned to create a data jam using data of their choice. Kashi, Yi and I created a data jam showing how the levels of sulfur dioxide decreased from the year 1990 to 2016. In order to create this data jam, all three of us had to research data sets of sulfur dioxide on Cary Institute’s Tuva collection of datasets on the Hudson Valley Ecosystem. After we were done with our research, we planned the storyline and chose the graphics for our video. We were very proud of our result and so were our peers!

What if we could travel back in time to better understand the past? Well, now we can with long term data sets! Why have the sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels in NYC changed from 1990 to 2016? Join Robbie the Robot on an investigation to uncover the answer! Creators: Kashi Nanavati, Yi Lin, Yesenia

Game Jam. Written By Aisha Ali, The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem

Game jams are a method of presenting scientific information in a fun, creative way that makes learning interactive for people of all ages. In order to create a game jam, you have to find a story in your data set. Once you figure that out, there are multiple ways to turn it into a game. We split up into teams to create different projects. These included a Hudson River bingo game, and a Kahoot trivia game based on the information from Cary Institute’s Tuva Datasets. My teammates, Ace, Jeanne, and I created a Kahoot using data about the abundance of fish and dissolved oxygen in the Hudson River. One of the challenges we had was generating graphs on Tuva, but with the help of Margie and Laurel, we were able to edit the graphs. It was my favorite project I did in this program, and by the end we had a fun educational game.

How well do you know the Hudson River and the fish that reside in it? Play this #kahoot and put your knowledge to the test!

Week 5: Interviewing and Learning from Local Communities

Sci Comm Output: Interviews

Interviewing and Learning from Local Communities. Written by Tenin Sidime, The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem & Jed Roth, Spring Valley High School

For the summer of 2020, we participated in the Next Generation of Hudson River Educator  Program. For the past 6 weeks, we worked on different ways and methods of science communication, and we interviewed our peers, relatives, and community members. We interviewed people from all over Rockland County such as Nyack, Haverstraw, and Spring Valley, as well as East Harlem, Westchester County, New Paltz, and the Bronx area. Interviewers worked in pairs, one asking questions and the other recording. Each interviewer hand-picked a peer, a relative, and a community member. These interviews provide feedback and a better understanding of what the peers, relatives, and community members know about the Hudson River, their relationship with the Hudson and their community, and how to better target our education. There were 32 people, a mix of peers, relatives, and community members. We learned from our community their understanding of the Hudson River. We have uncovered different types of common themes between peers, relatives, and even community members. Some of the overall themes were the misconception that the river is at least somewhat polluted. Additionally, the interviewees enjoy the aesthetics of the river, use it in their transportation and recreation, and are interested in learning more.

Week 6: Bridging Communities to the Hudson through Engaging and Relevant Education

Sci Comm Output: State of the Planet Blog Posts

Interviewing and Learning from Local Communities. Written by Tenin Sidime, The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem & Jed Roth, Spring Valley High School

Through the interview experiences, we gained an ability to comfortably interview not only our peers, but older community members too. There are differences between what you think of interviewing in your head and the actual process. In your head it seems simple, but at the moment you have to focus on so many different aspects of the interview. Between pacing, smiling, active listening, and memorizing your questions, interviewing definitely has its challenges, especially if it’s your first time doing it. The value of the interview was an opportunity to see what our interviewees knew and didn’t know. We then provided them with information after the interview correcting their misconceptions. I enjoyed hearing what my interviewee wanted to learn and their relationship with nearby rivers and their communities. Overall, we received an inside peek into the viewpoints of our peers, relatives, and community members on the Hudson River and their involvement in their community. Even though the communities are different there were similar responses and viewpoints. Although the summer is ending, we are just getting started because there is more to unfold.

State of the Planet: A Summer Immersed in the Hudson: The Next Generation of Hudson River Educators 

State of the Planet: Environmental Justice through the Eyes of the Next Generation of Hudson River Educators 

The Next Generation of Hudson River Educators Program is funded through a grant with the NYS DEC with additional funding from Old York Foundation, The Young Women’s Leadership School & the NSF INCLUDES Program