Instructor: Beth Lemire
Fourth graders participate in a yearlong study of the Hudson River. They start the year by examining attitudes they have about the river and what they may already know about the river. From there the study is built.
They take a trip on the Clearwater Sloop, an educational sailing vessel with staff who educate about the Hudson River while sailing on the river itself. They write and draw detailed accounts of their trip in their nature journals.
Further, they tap into a more poetic and emotional side of writing. They listen a symphonic poem The Maldau by Bedrich Smetna that musically tells the river’s story from start to finish and are able to describe the life of the river through this music. Students research the river further finding facts about the river, which will later become a written report. The children begin what will become a working model of the Hudson River in the garden beds.
A bridge study helps the students understand building structures and how to create a model bridge with stability, strength and artistry. They create small bridges that will be used on their model of the Hudson.
During the winter months we take a little break from the Hudson River and study the physics of toys. After learning about the laws of motion, friction and more about simple machines the students work in groups to make a Rube Goldberg machine that is a bit more complicated than they were able to make in their earlier years. There is nothing like the explosion of cheers when they achieve success with their machine!
Next they study chemistry. They learn basic understandings of acids and bases, indicators and more. They use microscopes to discern between different common crystals.
When spring comes the students are back outside learning how to install a pump to cycle water through the river system from the ocean to Mount Marcy, where it all began. They put together their final reports and install their bridges. They revisit songs about rivers and beliefs of indigenous cultures regarding rivers and other living things. The students end this study not only with a sense of great satisfaction for their efforts, but a greater respect for an important natural symbol of their local area and an appreciation and understanding for the symbiotic relationships of our planet.