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Hands-on learning research benefits economy, environment (Image 6)

Students from Mott Hall IV in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, dissect oysters as part of The River Project

Students from Mott Hall IV in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, dissect oysters as part of The River Project. The River Project is a marine science education and research facility located on the Manhattan shoreline of the Hudson River. As a key partner in the National Science Foundation-supported "Curriculum and Community Enterprise for Restoration Science" (CCERS) project, The River Project provides technical tours and workshops to participating middle school students and teachers focused on native species and habitat restoration research. [Image 6 of 6 related images. Back to Image 1.]

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Research consistently shows that children who have opportunities to actively investigate natural settings and engage in problem-based learning greatly benefit from the experiences. They gain skills, interests, knowledge, aspirations and motivation to learn more. But how can educators provide these rich opportunities in densely populated urban areas where resources and access to natural areas are limited?

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Pace University educator Lauren Birney and her team are getting middle school students involved in an ambitious restoration program called the "Billion Oyster Project." The students study New York Harbor and the extensive watershed that empties into it, and conduct field research in support of restoring native oyster habitats.

"This National Science Foundation grant has made the 'Curriculum and Community Enterprise for Restoration Science (CCERS) Project' possible, advancing environmental restoration through experiential and inquiry-based learning with New York City students and teachers involved at the core of the research," explains Birney, director of Pace University's STEM Collaboratory. "Pace University serves as the prime research institution leading a city-wide collaboration emphasizing the benefits of citizen science to underrepresented students in New York City. We are enormously grateful to the NSF for supporting this work and creating such outstanding digital imagery depicting the 'real work' of the project!"

This research involves a broad partnership of institutions and community resources, including Pace University, the New York City Department of Education, the Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the New York Academy of Sciences, the New York Harbor Foundation, the New York Aquarium, The River Project, Good Shepherd Services, University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science, Smartstart Evaluation and Research, Gaylen Moore Program Evaluation Services, and others.

"This project is bringing hands-on restoration- and research-based learning that works so well in classrooms around the city. We've focused on neighborhood schools in poor and working-class areas, where this type of programming is rare and sorely needed. We are delighted with this opportunity to bring authentic science to the children of New York City," says Robert Newton, senior research scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

This research was supported by a grant from NSF (grant DRL 14-40869), "Curriculum and Community Enterprise for New York Harbor Restoration in New York City Public Schools."

You can learn more about The River Project Here. BOP was highlighted in an episode of NSF's "Science Nation" titled "Hands-on learning research that benefits the economy, environment". You can learn more about the program Here. (Date image taken: 2015-2016; date originally posted to NSF Multimedia Gallery: March 22, 2017)

Credit: Billion Oyster Project/CCERS
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