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The Outdoor Science Alliance provides a range of programs within Nyack's elementary schools, most of which we hope to make regular features of the school year. We spread programming across grades, linked to the curriculum, and provide different learning experiences for different age groups. Below are some of the Outdoor Science Alliance Programs from the 2018 school year:

Featured Program: Outdoor Science on Hook Mountain

Nyack's three elementary schools are all located within 2 miles of our park system, including Hook Mountain State Park and Nyack Beach State Park. These natural-resource-rich parks are ideal places for students to learn in the real world, using all of their senses. In partnership with the Friends of Rockland Lake and Hook Mountain, we have developed a two-phase pilot program to explore ways that students can master curriculum topics in ways that make a lasting impression and create bonds between people and parks.

The first phase, launched in June 2018, brought the third grade students at each elementary school into their schoolyards to experience a microcosm of the park. After a visual introduction in their classrooms, students went outside to explore features of the parks represented by four stations: geology, local plants and trees, basic orienteering, and live animals.

The second phase, launched in October 2018, brought them to the real thing, with a field trip to Hook Mountain State Park and Nyack Beach State Park (which are parts of a continuous park system). There they explored the park by moving among three stations:

• the Palisades Sill plateau, with its unique geological makeup

• the "switchback trail," a perfect place to learn about responsible usage of trails and park resources, local plants and trees, and how to stop and notice our surroundings

• the Hudson River Estuary, where students will identify fish and other river life using seining nets and fish identification keys

Even as the students learned topics from Nyack school district curriculum, they got an unforgettable introduction to:

- Stewardship of natural places

- Rich history of the park

- Orienteering

- Park resources and services

- And the sheer pleasure of being outside in the wild

This program represents the beginning of an exciting alliance among OSA, the Nyack school district, and the Friends of Rockland Lake and Hook Mountain, which we hope will expand into field trip programs for every grade.

Three-Sisters Garden

Students in 3rd use Native American planting strategies to grow corn, beans, and squash. When they return to school in 4th graders, they harvest the garden and eat their crops. Along the way, the children learn about what plants need to survive, how farming strategies are developed, and the culture of local Native American groups. And in addition to the eye-opening experience of growing their own food, students see how experimentation can lead to innovations in farming—and anything else! 

How Clean is the Stream? Ask a Macroinvertebrate

Students make leaf packs and place them in local streams to attract macroinvertebrates (i.e., aquatic insects in their larval state).  After a few weeks, leaf packs are retrieved and students examine the organisms that have moved in. With the unaided eye as well as microscopes, students observe these “stream critters,” and note features that help to identify them. Once they know what insects are present in a stream, they can deduce its water quality, based on previous scientific research that has measured the ability of different insect larvae to survive in different levels of water quality: some tolerate polluted water, others survive only in pristine waterways. In this program, students can conduct real scientific work in the field under the guidance of professional scientists and educators.

A Day in the Life of the Hudson River

Run by Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, this program educates students about the amazing Hudson River estuary right next-door, and teaches them how to collect data for its annual “check-up”. Students conduct actual data collection and analysis, while getting the chance to interact with their local river and its inhabitants.

Mother Hens and Scientists: Chick Hatching

During this month-long process, children engage in day-to-day care of developing eggs. They check humidity levels, precise temperature, and turn the eggs carefully three times a day to facilitate a successful hatching. The children are at once Mother Hens and scientists. Over the course of 21 days they are part of the development from embryo to living chick, followed by a week with the brooding chicks themselves.

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