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The Next Generation of Hudson River Educators: Using Place-Based Education to Connect Underrepresented Minorities to their Local Waterways
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  • Laurel Zaima,
  • Margie Turrin,
  • Madeline Salino,
  • Moira Delaney
Laurel Zaima
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Margie Turrin
LDEO of Columbia University
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Madeline Salino
Rockland Conservation and Service Corps
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Moira Delaney
Rockland Conservation and Service Corps
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Place-based field education is the foundation of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory’s Hudson River Field Station. The most effective method of engaging and connecting people with their local environment is through memorable and hands-on field investigations, with the Hudson River itself as the best educational tool. Our ‘Next Generation of Hudson River Educators’ is a six week summer internship program specifically designed to more effectively engage underrepresented minority (URM) students and communities with the Hudson River using a tiered mentoring structure. The high school interns first take a deep dive into the Hudson River to develop a better understanding of the historic to present human connection to the estuary, the dynamism of its biology, physics, chemistry, geology, and topography, and the challenges the Hudson faces, along with potential community solutions. These field investigations build an appreciation for the estuary that they can pass on to their communities. Unfortunately, the coronavirus introduced a unique challenge on place-based education making it impossible to run an in-person program. Through an innovative approach to place-based learning, we decided ‘if we couldn’t bring the students to the river, we would bring the river to the students’. The interns dedicated the first weeks to learning about the Hudson through “Virtual River” videos, games, interactive web activities, and live river demonstrations hosted down by the water. While the content is virtual, it simulates a place-based education that effectively engages students in the geosciences and increases science literacy. The interns then work in teams to create their own communication tools to share Hudson information that is captivating to a multigenerational and diverse audience. In order to offer information that is interesting and relevant to their communities, interns performed interviews to learn directly from their friends, family, and neighbors about their perceptions and existing knowledge of the Hudson. Involving the community in place-based education is crucial because residents provide key information that would be otherwise unknown to a visiting scientist or educator. They then use this information to build their communication outputs that are intended to better connect URM to their local waterways.