Just after the winter break, Bridget Corso’s third grade class began a study of water, asking questions like, Why is it important? How do we use it? How does it behave? Since then, this investigation has led them into deep study of the relationship, past and present, between humans and our “natural resources”.

By late January, the group had begun discussing the concept of stewardship — that we have a role in caring for the natural environment — and also exploring the fascinating properties of water.

“One day,” Bridget recalls, “a student looked out the window and said, ‘Hey! There’s water out there in all of its forms! Steam, ice, and water!’ My heart skipped a beat.”

Bridget believes children are born scientists, and in early February, the group began working on self-designed science experiments to further explore the behavior of water. Recognizing, too, the power of the arts to deepen study of the natural world, she asked students to explore a personal memory of water through written narrative.

Next, they focused on one of our local natural resources, the Ashokan Reservoir, viewing the documentary Deep Water: The Making of the Catskill Water System, for a glimpse into the geopolitics of natural resource management.

“Ecology is my absolute favorite topic to teach because it shows children not only the inherent connections between earth’s organisms, but also how those organisms work with the earth itself in delicate, balanced systems,” Bridget says. “It shows them that we cannot pull at one strand of life in the earth without affecting all other strands, a concept which is easily applied to so many other disciplines and experiences.”

Since, students have written persuasive letters, built watershed models, created a water cycle mural, and hosted a Water World parent museum. Moving on to a closer look at aquatic habitats, they visited the Mohonk Preserve for a stream exploration, collecting and identifying the critters they found, and then, just last week, a pond arrived in their classroom!

As they set it up, students considered what’s necessary for their pond to thrive. They will observe the changing ecosystem over the course of two full weeks.

Bridget hopes that, “children come away from our curriculum understanding the hidden consequences of seemingly small actions and, too, that they feel empowered as stewards of the earth’s delicate and endangered systems. I find that even the most reluctant of science students is open to and enthusiastic about getting to know their home in this way.”