Vol. 4, No. 8




There’s nothing like new and exciting environments and activities to spur authentic engagement and spark curiosity. And summer is the perfect time to expand kids’ horizons outdoors. That was the case recently for six 7th and 8th grade girls from St. Monica's Scholars School in Buffalo, who enjoyed a day-long field trip to explore the local waterways as part of their participation in Science Firsthand (SF).

See for more information about this science-focused mentoring program.

The girls and their teacher, along with SF mentors, took a Metro bus across town to the Lake Erie waterfront lab of Buffalo State College. They had been introduced to aquatic invertebrates during one of their Science Firsthand sessions and now they were primed for their first exposure to a natural aquatic environment. The lab has a number of research vessels but it was in rowboats and canoes, made in part by other Science Firsthand participants, that the girls set out from a slippery shore. (The algae-covered boat ramp made for Chaplinesque scenes of people in unbelievable postures!)

Once on the river the girls had an opportunity to row and paddle, enjoying the novelty of traveling by boat. They also got a taste of how environmental research is conducted at a field station. Doug Knorr, an SF mentor, felt the experience changed the urban girls’ attitudes “from abject fear to a growing fascination with the water and things of the water.”

See pictures from the day:

Learn more about Buffalo State’s Maritime Center at

What eye-opening experiences in nature and science have you offered your students? Tell us by emailing


In Louisville, Kentucky educators are using the Metro Parks to introduce children to rich natural environments. Louisville EKO (Engaging Kids in the Outdoors) offers elementary students inquiry-based activities, closely tied to school curriculum, that make use of fantastic local resources. These parks include the 6,191 acre Jefferson Memorial Forest and the Red River Gorge National Geologic Area. For many fourth graders who participate this is their first in-depth exposure to “wild” habitats such as forests and meadows.

Learn more about EKO and how it is working towards its goal of “More Kids in the Woods” at


Ashley Luna, a graduating senior at South Park High School in Buffalo, New York has been involved in the environmental remediation project of a nearby waterfront park as a member of “Green Team,” the school’s environmental club led by science teacher Adam Hovey. With Green Team, Ashley and the other club members have explored local habitats, conducted scientific research such as water sampling, and worked to clean up and restore two watersheds. Once a month, Ashley shares what she’s learned when she works with younger students involved in the Science Firsthand after-school program, teaching them how to test water quality on the Buffalo River.

Green Team leader Adam Hovey’s focus on ecology and the environment with his students led him to participate in an Earthwatch program in the Arctic. On his return he encouraged Ashley to apply to the Earthwatch Institute to join a “Teen Team” expedition. Ashley had to complete five essays to apply for this national competition. She was one of eleven high school students offered the opportunity to conduct original scientific research into the geology of New Mexico, studying plate tectonics, volcanism in the San Juan Mountain Range, and evidence of global climate change.

Check out some photos of Ashley in New Mexico:

Ashley’s two-week expedition as an “EarthWatcher” was inspiring for her. “This has been the most incredible experience of my life. I have learned so much about geology and I will be able to take my experience with me to college and my future career. I am ecstatic that I was awarded this chance-of-a-lifetime opportunity,” she says. In the future, Ashley would like to set out on new, exotic expeditions with Earthwatch but for the moment she is happy to be picking up litter, pulling Japanese knotweed, and testing soil nutrients with the Green Team.

Learn more about South Park High School’s Green Team and its activities by reading the group’s informative blogs.

The Earthwatch Institute ( offers numerous ways for people – scientists, teachers, corporate and non-profit partners, and the general public – to get involved directly with pressing environmental issues. Read more about specific expeditions for high school students at
Don’t worry if you don’t have a rushing river to navigate or a forest at your doorstep, there are plenty of exciting environments to explore this summer. Get some easy ideas at

The First Hand Learning Catalog offers science notebooks, field journals, hands-on science kits, posters, and more. Go to
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