Estuary Field Research Water Testing "Presearch" (2 of 3)

1 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Students will be able to 1) practice field testing procedures in a classroom environment and 2)) identify highly important field research behaviors.

Big Idea

Citizen science projects along the Hudson river contribute to a fuller understanding of the health the estuary system. How does data collection help scientists and designers in develop a more complete picture of the needs of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary?

FRAME: Field research dry run

How can we contribute meaningful to a citizen science project in our community? What skills and knowledge will we need for participation? How can we draw conclusions from the data we collect? How can we use the citizen science experience to support the design of similar projects in the Sunset Park Community? This unit CAPSTONE allows students to apply their develop skills and knowledge to an actual citizen science project in New York City: The Billion Oyster Project. Students have previously learned about this project and developed critical analyses of the project design. Now they will have an opportunity to directly participate in the Billion Oyster Project and more fully develop competencies as community-based environmental scientists. In order to successfully engage with the Billion Oyster Project, students will develop a more comprehensive understanding of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary system, acquire field research skills, collect data in the field, and debrief the experience. Ideally, participation in the Billion Oyster Project would be a year long experience that would also incorporate data analyses and community advocacy. See this REFLECTION for an explanation of why this outcome was not possible and how this curriculum developed in a different direction.

Here is an overview of this lesson sequence:

Experience 1: Hudson-Raritan Estuary Place-Based Empathy

Students develop a framework for citizen science work conducted in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary system. The goal is for students to understand the broader context of the Billion Oyster Project. This is what we call having empathy for place. What are the needs of the environment? What can we do to make sure these needs are met. Students begin with an introduction to estuaries. What is an estuary? Why are estuaries important? Students then explore a map of sites participating in some form of citizen science research along the Hudson River. What kinds of organizations participate in citizen science work? How might the location of work impact collected results? Why is it important to conduct citizen science work at multiple research sites? Students then refine their initial ideas about data collection in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary through rigorous explanation of the importance data collection for scientific research and environmental stewardship both locally and globally. Finally, students consider the needs of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary and suggest types of data that should be collected to better meet those needs.

Experience 2: Hudson-Raritan Estuary Water Testing Presearch

Students become familiar with the various tools, skills, and procedures that they will use during their citizen science field research experience. There are two primary competencies that students will need: 1) the ability to collect data related to the conditions of water in the Hudson River and 2) the ability to gather baseline assessment data from an oyster cage residing in the Hudson River. Students begin with a “hopes and fear” that allows for students to express their feelings about citizen science research. What are you excited to do? What are you worried about? Next, students observe a citizen science field research program in Australia and develop an understanding of the behaviors and skills required to be successful. Students then spend the bulk of the period learning the data collection procedures required for field research. These procedures include water quality testing, wind testing, tidal flow reading, biodiversity measurements, and oyster growth readings. Once students have finished this data collection skill “deep dive” they share understanding with each other through a “four corners teach-out.” This gives students an opportunity to share understandings of the data collection processes. Finally, students end with short presentations of the most important behavior they believe will be necessary for successful field research. This behavior is one that students believe will meet the hopes and minimize the fears expressed previously.

Experience 3: Hudson-Raritan Estuary Field Research Data Collection at the Bay Ridge EcoDock

This full day field research experience requires students to travel to a field research site in Bay Ridge, haul necessary equipment, work in collaborative student scientist teams to collect data, conduct a community survey of factors potentially affecting the field research site, make meaning of the experience, and consider how the citizen science field research framework might be applied to a local Sunset Park environmental stewardship initiative. It is a rigorous and exhausting experience. Students begin with a review of the schedule for the day in collaborative student scientists teams. They then gather field research supplies and travel to the Bay Ridge EcoDock. En route to the research station, students make observations of the community, looking specifically for factors in the physical environment that might affect the field research site. Once on site, students collect data from the EcoDock field site through a station rotation model. These stations include oyster cage assessment, water quality testing, Hudson-Raritan Estuary survey, and weather variable recording. After students collect data they explore the shoreline area near the EcoDock research site, again observing environmental factors that might affect the data collected from the field research site. Finally, once students return to the school site, they make meaning of the field research experience and suggest ways to adapt the citizen science framework to the Sunset Park community.

By the end of this CAPSTONE project successful students will have met the following objectives:

  1. describe an estuary
  2. explain how multiple data collection points allow us to develop a fuller empathy for place
  3. connect environmental science data collection with problem definition.
  4. surfaces hopes and fears related to field research
  5. derive a conceptual understanding of field research through observation
  6. practice testing field testing procedures in a classroom environment
  7. turnkey understanding of field research assignments
  8. identify highly important field research behaviors.
  9. collect data from field research sites
  10. identify factors in the environment around the field research sites that would influence collected data
  11. assess the health and biodiversity of an oyster cage
  12. articulate potential future directions for citizen science work in the Sunset Park neighborhood

RESOURCE NOTE: The attached PROTOTYPE ACTIVITY GUIDE might be modified for classroom use or used as a template for field research experiences.

FLIPPED: Citizen science in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary

What is the purpose of this section?

Students understand the scope of the Hudson River Snapshot Day and the Billion Oyster Project through a short text. By the end of this section students will be able to describe the process and purpose of these two projects.

What will students do?

Students will read the text attached in the RESOURCES section and respond to these questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the Day in the Life event?
  2. What is the purpose of the Billion Oyster Project?
  3. What types of data will be collected during both events?


ENGAGE: Field research hopes and fears

15 minutes

What is the pupose of this activity?

Students express their hopes and fears about the field research described in the FLIPPED activity and a short feature from Earthwatch. By the end of this section students should be able to describe what they want to occur during the field research experience based on current understanding of the field research process.

What will students do?

Students first write a summary of Teach Wild, an Earthwatch initiative in Australia. What do participants do? Would you be interested in doing this type of data collection work?

Using this summary and ideas developed from the FLIPPED assignment, students articulate their feelings about field research through a modified elbow partner hopes and fears protocol. Students first share out TWO hopes and TWO fears for the field research experience. Students then share their hopes and fears with their groups. Groups then share out the most common hopes and fears from their groups.

What will teachers do?

Teachers model the hopes and fears protocol and facilitates the whole class share. Students ideas will be charted for public display Student hopes and fears should should reference the FLIPPED assignment or Earthwatch clip when possible.



EXPLORE: Notice + wonder

10 minutes

What is the purpose of this activity?

Students continue to learn about Teach Wild in order to develop a more nuanced understanding of what citizen science actually do when they conduct field research. By the end of this section students should be able describe the general behaviors of citizen scientists in the field.

What will students do?

Students observe the field research component of Teach Wild in order to describe the processes of field research. Students are also able to develop questions about the field research process. 

Which skills and behaviors seem to be essential to the field research process? What aspects of the field research process are confusing. Each student will share out one observation or question with the whole class.

FIELD RESEARCH PROCESSES LAB: Testing stations deep dive

15 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students meet their field research teams, become familiar with field research assignments, and investigate specific field research techniques. By the end of this section students will have learned about the field research site in Bay Ridge and will become proficient in some of the skills they will need to collect data in the field.

CITIZEN SCIENCE RESEARCH TEAMS NOTE: Students are sorted into teams purposefully.  For this first field research experience, students were grouped heterogeneously with a predetermined "lab leader." Each student received a slip of paper with one of the following organisms that live in the New York estuary:

  • Green Crab
  • Blue Mussel
  • Silver Hake
  • Blackfish

A matching picture of each organism is taped to lab stations throughout the room.

What will students do?

The PROTOTYPE ACTIVITY GUIDE is a coded document. Students are sorted into four teams-Green Crab, Blue Mussel, Silver Hake, and Blackfish-and each team has a specific focus within the PROTOTYPE ACTIVITY GUIDE. The organism names correspond to a version of a field data collection guide that has a unique combination of water quality tests, observations of the physical requirement, and oyster reef health indicators.

RESOURCE NOTES: There are a number of documents attached. Students will not use all of these resources. Rather, students will choose the resources that aligns to the responsibilities of their citizen science data collection group. Additionally, students will only focus on the pages of the PROTOTYPE ACTIVITY GUIDE that are coded with the picture of species of their group.

During this activity, teams work together to both understand their assigned parts, conduct a trial run of all tests, and develop short presentations of this work.  Students will have all materials on hand and will be asked to perform a dry run of all tests and to annotate directions.

What resources are available? 

Students will have all physical materials that will be used for testing in the field. Additionally, students will have data collection protocols as well as a manual produced by the Billion Oyster Project that is a how-to introduction to data collection methods related to oyster rehabilitation.

EXPLAIN: Four corners teach-out

15 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students share their takeaways from the FIELD RESEARCH PROCESS LAB with peers. By the end of this section, students should be able describe the research techniques that all of the other groups will be using in the field.

What will students do?

One or two members of each lab team goes to each of the four corners of the room so that all four research teams are represented.  Each represented research team will have three minutes for an interactive presentation-question-response-question-response-summary speaking protocol.

Here is the process:

  1. Representatives of each team have 90 seconds to describe the activities that they will perform on site at the Bay Ridge Eco Dock.  
  2. Representatives from one group will ask one question of the presenter(s) and presenter will answer.  
  3. Representatives from another group will ask another question and the presenter(s) will respond.  Questions can be clarifying or probing.  
  4. Finally, each corner group summarizes the conversation for the whole class. 

EXIT AND ASYNCHRONOUS DISCUSSION: Field research groups and most important behaviors

At the end of class, THE TEACHER MUST ENSURE THAT ALL STUDENTS ARE ASSIGNED TO ONE OF THE FOUR RESEARCH GROUPS-GREEN CRAB, BLUE MUSSEL, BLACKFISH, OR SILVER HAKE. These are common species in the Hudson River; each group is also a color, which helps students remember their team.

All members of the research team will create a post in an online discussion.  Each post will describe the following:

1) The "must knows":  What are the key ideas, vocabulary terms and concepts that your group learned about its station?

2)  The "must dos": What are the key skills that your group learned about at its station?

Finally, each student will also complete the first page of the PROTOTYPE ACTIVITY GUIDE. This provides information about expectations and the location of the research site.