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DEC, Sea Grant, State Parks announce success of 2-year environmental education project in Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River watershed


Mon, Oct 16th 2023 02:35 pm

√ 8 schools, more than 600 middle school students participated in ‘Day in the Life’ student summit events

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the successful completion of the “Day in the Life” of the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Watershed project, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The project has been undertaken in partnership with New York Sea Grant (NYSG); the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; soil and water conservation districts in the Eastern Lake Ontario region; Rice Creek Field Station at State University of New York at Oswego; U.S. Geological Survey; Cornell Cooperative Extension; the Niagara River Greenway Commission; the St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario (SLELO) Partnership for Invasive Species Management (PRISM); and other partners within the Great Lakes Ecosystem Education Exchange network, in support of engaging middle school students in environmental monitoring during the 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic years.

“With our New York state, federal and local partners and support from U.S. EPA, DEC is delivering the remarkable ‘Day in the Life’ program to students and educators in the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River watersheds, fostering connections to natural resources through heightened awareness and understanding,” Seggos said. “ ‘Day in the Life’ bolsters DEC’s commitment to cultivating the next generation of environmental stewards and inspiring a life-long appreciation of science and environmental conservation.”

More than 600 middle school students in districts from Jefferson, Oswego, Monroe and Niagara counties participated in both classroom and hands-on educational experiences focused on monitoring water quality and habitats in the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River watersheds. Participating schools included Wilson Central School, Lewiston-Porter Central School, Anna Murray Douglas Academy, The Harley School, Mexico Middle School, Pulaski Middle School, Belleville Henderson Central School, and South Jefferson Central School.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “We are grateful to join the New York Sea Grant, DEC and EPA to share our careers and inspire the next generation of environmental stewards. Classroom learning is important, but then putting those lessons to use in the field makes all the difference. This program truly encourages kids to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.”

Katherine Bunting Howarth, Ph.D., J.D., NYSG associate director and Cornell University Cooperative Extension assistant director, said, "Providing students with opportunities to actively connect with New York's Great Lakes and rivers is a goal that New York Sea Grant shares with our DEC and EPA partners. Outdoor experiences have been identified as a catalyst inspiring youth to pursue careers in environmental science. The ‘Day in the Life’ programs provide that type of inspiration."

In advance of student summit events, teachers and partners were trained to conduct the “Day in the Life” sampling activities with students during workshops at Webster Park and Wescott Beach State Park.

A press release stated, “DEC and NYSG provided teachers with classroom resources and equipment kits and offered assistance with planning for the student summit events, and OPRHP provided planning assistance, host sites, and staff to lead the lessons. As a direct result of this project experience, these teachers and partners now possess the resources and information to independently continue the annual field trip events with future classes, and share their environmental monitoring data with DEC.”

Information from the “Day in the Life” project, including planning resources, curriculum, student activities, and data collected, is available on DEC’s Great Lakes program website at: https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/25562.html.

The press release added, “The data collected by students through ‘Day in the Life’ can be compared with data collected via DEC’s 2020 Lake Ontario rotating integrated basin studies program, DEC’s primary monitoring program to assess water quality throughout the state on a routine basis; and may be used as screening data to help target future monitoring. This project was made possible with support from a $150,000 grant from the EPA Great Lakes national program office to support environmental literacy and stewardship in the Great Lakes.

New York Sea Grant is a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York and one of 34 university-based programs working with coastal communities through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Sea Grant College Program. Learn more at www.nyseagrant.org.

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