Save The River’s (STR) very successful On The Water and In The Schools programs ground to a halt early last spring due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. These two educational programs, responsible for educating more than 13,000 students over twelve years, were essential components of the K-12 curricula instructing North Country students about the St. Lawrence River environment. The On the Water component of the program was a chance for educators to have their students experience nature while being instructed by STR’s well educated and enthusiastic program staff.
As it became apparent that On the Water field trips were not going to be allowed during this period of Covid constraints, STR’s Education Committee and staff began plans to reimagine our educational offerings. Led by committee chair Heather White and prior STR program manager Patricia Schulenburg, the committee came up with a list of topics that could be interpreted into YouTube lesson plans and virtual field trips. Working with local videographer Andy Burns, Heather and long time committee member Renee Waterbury developed a virtual tour of Rock Island Light. Rock Island is an important part of STR’s On The Water field trips. The video was made possible by the enthusiastic assistance of Kim Cullen of NYS Parks.
“It’s Hard to be a Tern,” Elaine Tack’s award-winning video about STR’s ongoing common tern restoration, became the subject/object of the second lesson plan. While STR has owned this video for several years now, the education committee and recently hired program coordinator Lauren Eggleston enhanced its educational value by aligning it with NYS Science and English Language Arts (ELA) standards. Common terns are on NY’s threatened species list. Under the leadership of Dr Lee Harper, STR and TILT have been working to preserve and restore this important water bird to the 1000 Islands region for over 22 years.
Haas, The Great Blue Heron, is a wonderful child’s book written by Juliane Flora and Heather White. Haas has been used in the In the Schools program for over seven years and is for sale online at savetheriver.org. Working with Andy Burns,who donated his expertise for this lesson, Heather White brought Haas alive in a superb reading of this story of a heron’s life on The River. But more than just a recitation of a beloved book, the education committee and Lauren added educational components to the lesson to bring it up to NY State educational standards.
Now that these three professionally developed lesson plans and virtual field trips have been completed, you can view them and their additional components by clicking here. Working in conjunction with STR’s Outreach Coordinator Lindsey Russell, the education committee developed the Education tab of the website to allow educators, students, and others to browse the site for topics of interest. Continue to check the webpage throughout the winter for newly added educational content!
Education is a key component of Save The River’s mission to restore, preserve and protect the Upper St. Lawrence River now and for generations to come through education, advocacy, and research.