OLIVEBRIDGE, N.Y. — The Covid-19 pandemic initially forced most school districts to shift to an online learning format. When the new school year began in the fall of 2020, many schools moved to a hybrid model of partial in-person and partial online learning. But almost universally, schools cancelled afterschool activities and clubs.
The Ashokan Watershed Detectives club, a popular afterschool program run by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County (CCEUC) on grounds of the Onteora Central School District was in danger of being put on hold as well. The club is important for supplementing regular classroom lessons with place-based stream science education for students in grades 4 through 8. To maintain opportunities for student learning, CCEUC staff worked hard to develop a plan to allow the program to continue to meet in-person.
Partnering with the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, CCEUC was able to adapt its program to meet away from school with numerous safety protocols in place. Beginning in October 2020, a motivated group of 18 students began meeting weekly to explore the grounds and streams located on the Center’s property.
As a culminating project for the 2020-2021 school year, the students created a 20-minute science education video titled “Snapshots from the Field” to share with others the results of their year-long investigations. The Detectives produced the video over a two-month period with assistance of their club advisors and got involved with all aspects of the movie making process. They worked as actors, script writers, directors, cue card holders as well as camera, light, and sound technicians. The video can be watched at https://youtu.be/R5DiHwM_gdk.
“I really enjoy teaching others about the importance of streams,” said Sadie Konjas, a Watershed Detective in the seventh grade. “Making this science movie was a great experience.”
This fun, action-packed video was produced with the assistance of retired Onteora teacher and now videographer David Laks. It will serve as a useful tool for elementary school teachers and anyone who just wants to learn more about their local water resources.
The video is divided into chapters focusing on how waterfalls are created, mapping local drainage patterns, how stream sediment moves, the importance of hemlock trees and riparian zones, and how alluvial fans form. Students used a variety of equipment including underwater cameras to capture images for use in the video.
“I love to investigate and discover what creatures are living in the stream,” said Nick Bodnar, an Onteora sixth grader.
The Ashokan Watershed in the Catskill Mountains serves as the setting for the video. The students discuss why it is important to keep streams healthy as they are often used as sources of drinking water. This is particularly true locally, as water from the surrounding area ends up in the Ashokan Reservoir that helps to provide fresh, clean drinking water to nearly 10 million New York State residents.
The video was made possible with funding from the NYC Department of Environmental Protection provided to the Ashokan Watershed Stream Management Program (AWSMP) in support of education and outreach.
The video may be watched at https://youtu.be/R5DiHwM_gdk. To find out more about the Watershed Detectives and other Onteora Central School District watershed projects, please contact Matt Savatgy at (845) 688-3047 or email@example.com. For more information on the AWSMP, visit www.ashokanstreams.org
–Cornell Cooperative Extension Ulster County