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
- 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.