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DEC and New York Sea Grant offer hands-on environmental education to middle schoolers in Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River watersheds

  • / Updated:
  • Concetta Durso 

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced that DEC recently received a $150,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant to expand and enhance K-12 environmental education in the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River watersheds. Working in partnership with New York Sea Grant (NYSG) and other Great Lakes Ecosystem Education Exchange partners, the funds will promote environmental literacy and stewardship through both classroom and hands on learning. Five middle schools and an estimated 500 students will participate in the project, “A Day in the Life of the Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence River Watershed,” during the 2022 school year.

“Encouraging environmental stewardship begins with a positive experience where participants are engaged and actively involved in developing solutions to address environmental problems,” Commissioner Seggos said. “The ‘Day in the Life’ program, which we’ve hosted for many years along the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, is now expanding to the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River watersheds, bringing students and teachers together for hands-on learning about local waterbodies and ecosystems. Giving kids the opportunity to conduct hands-on field research will spark a life-long passion for science and environmental conservation.”

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

Middle school students within the Chaumont-Perch, Salmon-Sandy Creeks, Irondequoit-Nine Mile, Oak Orchard-Twelve Mile, and Upper St. Lawrence watersheds will have the opportunity for both place-based classroom and hands-on lessons. Organizers are prioritizing invitations to schools with environmental justice concerns in these watersheds to participate in the events. A “Day in the Life” workshop for teachers and administration is scheduled for Aug. 24, with a student summit to follow on Oct. 4.

The “Day in the Life of the Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence River Watershed” program supports the general objectives of the Lake Ontario Lakewide Action and Management Plan (LAMP) and Cooperative Science Monitoring Initiative data collection. The project is modeled on the successful “Day in the Life” programs in New York’s Hudson and Mohawk rivers region and is designed to educate students about the importance of ecosystem health.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “New York State is lucky to be located along the shores of two Great Lakes and State Parks is pleased to partner with this worthwhile program that will teach children about the important role Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway play in our state. It is so important that we all learn about why we need to protect our precious waterways.”

Katherine Bunting-Howarth, Ph.D., J.D., NYSG Associate Director and Cornell University Cooperative Extension Assistant Director said, “New York Sea Grant is pleased to partner with DEC and middle schools in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River watersheds to bring our ecosystem and Great Lakes literacy expertise to this EPA-funded educational opportunity to encourage environmental stewardship by New York’s youth.”

Following the model of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers “Day in the Life” events, this Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River-focused program will include activities that monitor water quality and habitats in watershed ecosystems.

As part of “Day in the Life” student summit events in 2022 in the Lake Ontario and Upper St. Lawrence River basin, students will take on the role of scientist as they complete hands-on lessons, collect data, and monitor the results of their activities. Data will be made public as an educational tool for both the students and a resource for the communities along the watershed.

Information on the “Day in the Life” project, including implementation milestones and data collected, will be available on the DEC’s Great Lakes Program website. More information from EPA is available here and here.

New York Sea Grant is a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York and one of 34 university-based programs working with coastal communities through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Sea Grant College Program. Learn more here.