As part of a two-year pilot project of the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, science teachers and their students will take to area streams to conduct assessments and learn valuable field science skills. The Finger Lakes Regional Stream Monitoring Program, backed by a grant funded by Time Warner Cable, will ultimately involve 40 schools and up to 2,000 students. The schools will be selected from within central and western New York, in Seneca, Ontario, Yates, Monroe, Wayne, Schuyler, Tompkins, Cayuga and Livingston Counties.
“We are extremely grateful that Time Warner provided the necessary financial support so we could expand on our teacher-led and research-guided monitoring efforts,” says Sheila Myers, education outreach coordinator for FLI.
The Finger Lakes Regional Stream Monitoring network (http://fli.hws.edu/stream/index.html) follows in the footsteps of the award-winning Science on Seneca (SOS) program which trains area teachers to take their students out on Seneca Lake using the 65-ft research vessel The William Scandling to perform various water quality, geological, meteorological, biological and chemical studies of the lake.
The network involves middle and high school students in scientific inquiry on select tributaries in the Finger Lakes watershed. It will develop a network of young volunteer monitors who will conduct stream assessments and make the data accessible on a Web-based format. Students will wade in streams to monitor water chemistry, collect water samples, and identify aquatic insects that act as indicators of water quality and whose presence and state tell a lot about the health of the watershed. The program will draw on the research and expertise of the FLI staff, faculty at HWS and Finger Lakes Community College.
“The funding of this program in the Finger Lakes region is integral to not only our understanding of the ecological health of our streams but also to our ability to properly train teachers to educate the future stream monitors – environmentally-aware citizens of tomorrow,” says Susan F. Cushman, assistant professor of biology at HWS. Cushman and Bruce Gilman, conservation professor at Finger Lakes Community College and a cooperating environmental educator with the Finger Lakes Institute, will conduct teacher training this spring.
Gilman is also excited to be involved with one of the FLI’s newest projects. “The educational value of stream monitoring in the Finger Lakes will be greatly enhanced in the high school curriculum by the Institute’s collaborative efforts to train local science teachers, assist them in sampling local waters, and manage a database of their results. I am a strong advocate of experiential learning and this will be a wonderful opportunity to engage high school students in active, outdoor inquiry.”
The pilot regional stream monitoring program will include development of: a stream monitoring protocol and curriculum guide; training program for the pilot schools; and an online database system for teachers to input and access their monitoring and other data. Time Warner Cable is providing funding for college student interns to work on the project, as well as equipment, supplies and assistance for schools to take field trips to area stream sites.
“The Finger Lakes Regional Stream Monitoring Program is the next phase of Time Warner Cable’s new philanthropic focus called Connect A Million Minds. This program will give students in our local science classrooms a unique, hands-on learning experience inspiring them to build skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to become the problem solvers of tomorrow,” said Terence Rafferty, Regional Vice President of Operations, Time Warner Cable of WNY.
More than 10 area schools have already signed up for the program and the FLI expects to recruit 12 more by the end of the year. The participating schools and organizations include: Avon High School, Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association; Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES in Auburn, Geneseo Middle School, Geneva City School District, Moravia Middle School, Naples Junior- Senior High School, Pittsford Mendon High School, Sodus Middle School, Trumansburg Middle School, Watkins Glen Middle School, and Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES.
“This environmental project will help foster partnerships between students, schools, colleges and the community to allow students not only to see the environment but to understand it and create a cleaner, safer place to live,” says Sharon Bassage, coordinator of science programs, Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES.