Princeton Day School Gets Their Feet Wet

Catching crayfish, mayfly nymphs and other critters in Stony Brook’s waters, playing lively rounds of Green Jeopardy and mapping transpiration, about 100 ninth graders from the Princeton Day School were immersed in a daylong field trip Wednesday. The visiting teachers said the field trip enlivened science, provided experiential learning and promoted scientific literacy as the students explored the living laboratory of the 930-acre Watershed Center and Reserve.

“I believe the data the students collect themselves – instead of data found in a book – is something they are more invested in,” said Carrie Norin, a PDS biology teacher. “It allows them ownership of the science.”

Rotating through three learning stations, the students at Stony Brook measured the vegetation area around the stream, assessed the chemical and biological balance, and measured water flow and depth. Another group of students created colorful diagrams with sticky notes and markers to map out the dynamics of food webs. In a game of Green Jeopardy, the students sounded horns, drums and other noise makers in a race to answer water and environmental-related questions.

The six PDS teachers and eight Watershed educators also explored the green roof, solar panels, rain garden and other sustainability features of Watershed’s LEED-Platinum center. Liz Cutler, the Sustainability Coordinator at PDS, said, “Being here exposes students to a different way of thinking. It takes them out of their comfort zone and encourages them to think about life cycles. “They can ask themselves the question, now that I know what I know, how is that going to change my behavior?”

The field trip complemented the ecology curriculum as the students learned about local environment and issues; native, non-native, invasive plants, and biological sampling techniques. Jim Waltman, Executive Director of the Watershed, said, “Our programs aim to inspire the next generation of leaders and thinkers, as well as inculcate a sense of environmental stewardship.”

For high school students interested in more immersive science education, please explore the Watershed Science & Stewardship Academy.