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Taking an Estuary’s Vital Signs: Remote Sensing & STEM Education

Workshop Spotlight | March 15, 2017


In New York City, intertwining nature into the science classroom experience may be a bit difficult – though it’s certainly not impossible. In fact, New York City offers the unique opportunity to study both the East River and the Hudson River. The MƒA mini-course “Taking an Estuary’s Vital Signs: Remote Sensing & STEM Education” provides MƒA teachers with the tools and opportunity to incorporate field learning into their lessons. In order to take the river’s “vital signs,” both rivers contain remote sensors that check various points of data every few minutes and that information is freely available on the internet. The data can engage groups with place-based environmental science, exploring tides, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and weather conditions in New York City’s waterways. 

The course began with a trip to the Harlem River for hands-on field data collection and then moved indoors to discover the estuary in the virtual realm. It was led by Steve Stanne, the Education Coordinator for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program, in partnership with the NYS Water Resources Institute at Cornell University. In addition to collecting data directly, the mini-course highlighted ways for the real-time data to be integrated into lessons. From witnessing how oxygen levels increase as sunlight energizes photosynthesis to viewing the impacts of dramatic events like nor’easters, the access to the estuary’s data provides a new lens through which to view earth science. 

Most ideas for MƒA courses come from the MƒA teacher community, leading to unique opportunities that are tailored to teachers’ interests and needs. By allowing teachers to choose what topics they want to focus on, we ensure that courses are relevant to each teacher and their students. See more of our course offerings in our course catalog.