With fishing rods in hand, a group of high school seniors recently showed seventh graders how to collect ecological data during an outdoor lesson along the Bronx River at Scout Field. Under the direction of science teacher Stephen Kovari, seniors Peyton Beldotti, Ben Mandanas, George McCormick and Peter McSherry have been studying the potential links between the water quality and the numbers, species and condition of the fish they catch.
“We felt it was important to expose the younger students to the work we are doing,” said Kovari, who teaches the Bronx River Research class. “One of the important goals of the course is to introduce students to real-world science and the challenges associated with it.”
During the collaboration, the high school students demonstrated best practices in science while introducing the concept of research and discussed the importance of taking good notes, having extensive data sheets and being critical of their own practice to draw conclusions from data.
“Having the Bronx River a short walk away from the school building affords science classes a unique experience connecting classroom concepts to the real-world environment,” said middle school science teacher Daniel Tocci, who incorporates the Bronx River as a teaching tool during the ecology unit in his classes. “Our students learn key concepts about climate and environmental impact of human actions which can be applied to observing and testing various qualities of the Bronx River.”
Kovari said one of the benefits of teaching lessons to the younger students is that it encourages his students to think about the greater significance of their project.
“We need to keep track of the larger context, which is that we are working to preserve biodiversity and the health of our watersheds and ecosystems,” Kovari said. “There are a multitude of reasons we would want to do that, and it is easy to see the significance of the work when we sort of take a step back. For the middle schoolers, I hope they begin to see science as a tool that can be used to analyze or solve real-life problems.”
Over the last several years, Bronxville School science teachers have made an effort for their students to connect regarding their Bronx River experiences. Most recently, sophomores Michaela McSherry and Saya Mueller conducted a lesson on macroinvertebrates to a group of second graders. In addition, seniors Stella Daskalakis, Emma Van Ness and Skylar Young Scottilotto gave a lesson to a group of middle school students on a newly emerging invasive species, Incised Fumewort.