Thursday, May 17, 2012

East River Ecology

Lots of science going on!  We joined our homeschool group for a couple of great trips exploring the East River.  The first one was on Friday for park ecology at Solar One in Stuyvesant Cove Park.  (Solar One is the City’s first solar-powered “Green Energy, Arts, and Education Center,” inspiring New Yorkers to become environmentally responsible city dwellers).  Our class was a Water Quality Lab where the instructor pulled up water out of the East River and our 5th-8th graders looked at and discussed its physical and chemical properties.  They looked for microorganisms and plankton using test tubes and magnifying glasses and they tested the salt concentration. Then the kids went on a scavenger hunt all around the park looking for various plants and birds.

Retrieving river water with some of the kids
What's in the water?
Scavenger Hunt

Yesterday we headed over to Brooklyn Bridge Park for "Seining the River Wild"!  This class took place on a cute, tucked away little beach right underneath the Manhattan Bridge.  To the right was the Williamsburg Bridge and to the left was the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge. The instructors, a few parents, and some of our 16-y/o homeschoolers put on waders, walked out into the water and dragged a 20-foot seine net through the water to catch various East River species.  These were put into clear gallon containers and identified and described by the staff biologists.  W and a few friends also did some identifying using a NY river species guide book.    They analyzed markings, fin and tail shape, eye placement, appendages, and size to figure out what they were looking at.  In about 8 trips into the water, we found:  
  • Spotted Hake 
  • Tomcod
  • Bay Anchovy
  • Pipefish
  • European Green Crab
  • Asian Shore Crab
  • Sea Squirts
  • Shore Shrimp
  • Seven-spined Bay Shrimp
  • Ribbed Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Sea Lettuce
  • Rockweed
Pretty cool, huh?  Everything was then released back into the water.  As we watched them come in with the seines, I'm sure I'm not the only parent who prayed no dismembered heads or feet were pulled in, lol.  After the class, a bunch of us headed over to the park playground for a couple of hours.  It was a beautiful day.

The Beach
Homeschoolers under the Manhattan Bridge
A few river creatures we found

In academic news...
We have been keeping to the same academic schedule for a while:  2 pages of Spelling Skills Grade 5 (Spelling, Grammar, & Vocabulary), 1-2 pages of Flash Kids Test Prep Math Grade 5 for a nice review (drill?) of concepts, and either History (readings about Colonial Times), Science (anything of interest mainly), or 1 Lesson of DK Language Learner: Spanish.  We usually do 1or 2 field trips each week as well.  W is doing great with this loose schedule and it hasn't really changed in months.  I am slowly trying to increase his writing assignments, though, starting with chapter summaries.  We're currently working on condensing and fine-tuning the thoughts in his head so they come out smoothly on paper.  We're also going to try other writing activities like poems, songs, pen pal letters, letters to celebrities, scripts, etc.  Our main focus will be on mastering the "3 Rs".  Day camp starts in a little over a month and that puts an end to most of the academics for the summer.  I can't believe this school year is almost over.  Life just goes by so fast lately.

No comments: