Curriculum and Community Enterprise for the Restoration of New York Harbor through New York City Public Schools
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 we provide these rich opportunities in densely populated urban areas where resources and access to natural areas are limited? This project will develop and test a model of curriculum and community enterprise to address that issue within the nation’s largest urban school system. Middle school students will study New York harbor and the extensive watershed that empties into it, and they will conduct field research in support of restoring native oyster habitats. The project builds on the existing Billion Oyster Project, and will be implemented by 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, and others. The project focuses on an important concept in the geological, environmental, and biological sciences that typically receives inadequate attention in schools: watersheds. This project builds on and extends the Billion Oyster Project of the New York Harbor School. The project model includes five interrelated components: A teacher education curriculum, a student learning curriculum, a digital platform for project resources, an aquarium exhibit, and an afterschool STEM mentoring program. The project targets middle-school students in low-income neighborhoods with high populations of English language learners and students from groups underrepresented in STEM fields and education pathways. The project will directly involve over forty schools, eighty teachers, and 8,640 students over a period of three years. A quasi-experimental, mixed-methods research plan will be used to assess the individual and collective effectiveness of the five project components. Regression analyses will be used to identify effective program aspects and assess the individual effectiveness of participation in various combinations of the five program components. Social network mapping will be used to further asses the overall “curriculum plus community” model.