Macroinvertebrates inventory in the Bronx River

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The Bronx River is full of different natural wonders, especially for urban audience who has limited access to natural areas, and it can serve as a living laboratory. Although I am skeptical about environmental education that relies solely on learning about ecology, it’s hard to imagine that people could develop appreciation of nature without learning of “what’s out there.” This time I observed a very meaningful learning event about macroinvertebrates organized on the Bronx River near the Bronx Zoo by Damian Griffin, Bronx River Alliance’s Education Director. Damian and a few interns from Green Apple Corps took samples of water and sediments from the River, and together with several groups of middle- and high-school students from several schools discovered small animals in this muddy catch. Using magnifying glasses, guide books, and petry dishes to identify these animals on the riverbank took attention of most students. I do not know how successful can be similar one-time learning events for development of environmental stewardship in young people, but it’s a great first step, and this educational approach might be more successful than passive looking at animals in a zoo. Moreover, today many of these youth participated in an inquiry activity probably for the first time outside of school classrooms. Youth listened to Damian with great interest when he connected biology with the history of this habitat (e.g., how the River has been used to power sawmills in the past), and when he talk about the River as a refuge for wildlife, and its role for local communities.

Today I realized that, comparing to other boroughs, the Bronx is really fortunate to have large parks, and also the Bronx River, which is the last freshwater river in NYC, and greenway around the River, which has dramatic potential for improvement. My impression, however, is that many residents are unaware of these open-space treasures, and can become more connected with green places. We only need to find ways to strengthen this connection. In urban areas people need nature and nature needs people as in no other place.

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