In our Environmental Sustainability course, an elective within Project Lead the Way's Engineering Pathway, students are studying the Global Water Crisis and ways that pollution impacts the availability of water for all. We recently collected water samples from several local water sources, including the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal, and tested them for contaminants.
To deepen our study, students recently traveled to Greenpoint and spent the day with Newtown Creek Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to cleaning up and raising awareness about Newtown Creek. Newtown Creek is a 3-mile canal that branches off of the East River. It is now the focus of a major federal cleanup after nearly 200 years of it being used as a dumping ground for oil and chemical industries, including the largest land-based oil spill in U.S. history.
During the trip, students first analyzed water samples for various water quality indicators, including turbidity, pH, dissolved oxygen, and salinity, and collected plankton samples to be analyzed back in class. Then, they toured the Alliance's impressive green roof, which harbors dozens of native plant species to support endangered pollinators like bees, important for maintaining a steady food supply. From the roof, students also were able to learn about the industrial facilities that have impacted the Creek, as well as the impressive, state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant critical to reducing water pollution into NYC's waters. Finally, we toured the Newtown Creek Nature Walk, where students curiously observed 390-million-year-old tree fossils, teenagers fishing striped bass, and countless mussels growing on the waters edge and pondered the possibility of such a polluted waterway becoming a much-needed urban nature refuge for Brooklynites.
Regardless, it was a much-needed refuge from the classroom, and students were buzzing about the trip upon their return!
Author: Micah Effron, Loughlin Science Teacher