Educating for the Hudson’s Future

In 1965, then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller described the Hudson River from Troy to the south of Albany as “one great septic tank that has been rendered nearly useless for water supply, for swimming, or to support the rich fish life that once abounded there.”

At the time, this description fit many major rivers around the nation – a state of affairs that spurred passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. In the decades since, the Hudson has been reborn as concerned citizens, advocacy groups, and agencies worked to achieve the Act’s goals.

To continue this progress, a new generation must be educated to become river stewards. WRI staff working with the Hudson River Estuary Program lends critical support to this task, networking with river education providers ranging from community-based non-profit groups to classroom teachers and government agencies. A range of programs and resources are available to facilitate place-based education about the river, promoting knowledge of the ecosystem, mastery of skills required by learning standards, and a boost on the ladder of stewardship.                              

Recognizing the value of field-based experiences on the water, the program works with dozens of partners each fall to organize Day in the Life of the Hudson River, one day on which thousands of students visit the river in their own communities and collect data that are shared with all the other participants via the internet. In spring, the Hudson River Eel Study recruits high schoolers, college students, and community residents to be citizen scientists, tracking the migration of tiny American eels into the Hudson’s tributaries. And throughout the year, WRI staff coordinate river education programs at the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve’s Norrie Point Environmental Center on the estuary in Dutchess County.

Field trips often serve as the centerpiece of ongoing study of the Hudson in the region’s classrooms. To augment such units, the Estuary Program has fostered creation of a variety of readily available curriculum resources, including place-based, interdisciplinary Hudson River lesson plans, images of organisms found in the estuary, posters, and other publications. When time or budget constraints limit options for field trips, classes can explore the river using near real-time, high-frequency data posted to the internet from the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System.

WRI staff working with the Estuary Program have decades of experience teaching about the river and training other educators in both content and pedagogy to assist them in that endeavor. They offer customized workshops in field methods and classroom studies directly to school districts throughout the Hudson Valley. Their workshops are also offered through Teachers on the Estuary, the New York State Outdoor Education Association, college teacher preparation programs, and other partners.

For more information about these programs, email hrteach [at] (hrteach[at]dec[dot]ny[dot]gov)