The study of the Hudson River, a semester-long interdisciplinary curricular program, got under way recently for Ethical Culture third graders. Each class visited the Center for the Urban River at Beczak, in Yonkers, where students learned about the geography of the river, went seining, and examined the marine life they caught.
As part of the geography lesson, educators from the Beczak Center showed students where the Hudson River starts and ends and taught them about tides (rising and receding) and different types of water (fresh, salt, and brackish).
Donning waders, the third graders then went into the river and submerged 30-foot-long nets in the water near the shoreline. The nets captured myriad sea creatures, which students examined when they got back to shore. Their catches yielded crabs, fish, eel, shrimp, jellyfish, and more. After students were done studying the creatures, Beczak staff released them back in the river. Students will now spend time crafting an essay about their visit to the Beczak Center. They will also be reading Hudson River: An Adventure from the Mountains to the Sea, by Peter Lourie, which tells the story of a man who canoed the entire 315-mile span of the Hudson River—from its source, in the Adirondack Mountains, to its mouth, at the southern tip of Manhattan.
Later in the semester, students will take part in the Billion Oyster Project, an initiative of the New York Harbor Foundation aimed at restoring one billion live oysters to the harbor, engaging schoolchildren in the process through STEM-based projects. Oysters are critical to the health of New York City's waters, as they filter pollution and provide a habitat for other marine species. "The Hudson River study at EC integrates math, science, language arts, and service-learning," said third-grade teacher Yan Davydov, "and sets the stage nicely for our second-semester study of the Lenape First Peoples, whose lives were so intimately connected to the river."