Hudson and Harbor Day Offers Hands-On Estuary Education

The Takeaway: Thousands of students equipped with waterproof waders and chemistry kits, sketch pads, and data sheets record estuary wonders with the help of New York’s Hudson River Research Reserve.

“I did it!” shouted a young woman standing on a Manhattan pier in New York as her cast net spun out in a perfect circle, grabbing the waters of the East River like a slowly sinking jellyfish. She was one of 5,500 students and educators exploring 150-plus miles of estuary at 90 beaches, waterfront parks, and city piers during “A Day in the Life of the Hudson and Harbor.” Since 2003, some 50,000 K-12 students and chaperones have recorded what they see, smell, feel, and find during this annual event. Their discoveries will join a treasure trove of online data, sketches, videos, and other educational resources, courtesy of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve and other partners.

Teachers and student “scientists for a day” cover a wide variety of projects. For teacher Mary Lee, “One of the children’s favorite parts is the seining [cast net] station and finding fish and sea creatures.” Over the years, participants have caught and recorded 30,000 fish from at least 78 species.

According to fifth-grade teacher Skip Hoover, the day has great significance. “I teach in an inner-city school district where a majority of my students rarely visit the Hudson River, and they are shocked to learn that their drinking water comes from the river,” he says. One former student went on to earn a college environmental degree, working for the Hudson River Research Reserve last year.

In 2019, Roy Arezzo’s high-school students—some of whom hope to pursue estuary-related careers—recorded data for a larger aquaculture project bridging upstate and downstate conditions. “We not only use the data as a teaching tool, but compare it with our past results to understand seasonal, anthropogenic, and natural changes,” says Arezzo.

“For many Ossining kids, ‘A Day in the Life of the Hudson’ is their first chance to literally get into the river,” notes teacher Artie Carlucci. “And they now care about it and want to learn how to protect it. It becomes their best new habit.” (2019)

More Information: A Day in the Life of the Hudson and Harbor

Partners: Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory