812 Edgewater Road
Bronx, NY 10474
On Water Public Classroom
Rocking the Boat
812 Edgewater Road
Bronx, NY 10474
Rocking the Boat’s On Water Public Classroom is a profiled program in the Plugging In Report.
Who is served: On-water classroom: middle and high school students from throughout the city. Long-term partner middle and transfer-high schools in the South Bronx.
Number of Participants: Roughly 5,000
Location: In school at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School. After school at Rocking the Boat (programs on and around the Bronx River).
Frequency/Duration: Field trips of 2-3 hours, extended learning for partner schools Eligibility Criteria: None
Curriculum: STEM curriculum centering on Bronx River ecosystems and ecology. Schools can choose from several different activities that connect back to what students are doing in the classroom. Hands-on activities focus on particular organisms, such as birds, fish, oysters and plankton. Students use basic lab equipment, and engage in data collection, such as measuring oyster growth and identifying companion species. A water-quality monitoring program has students explore human impacts on the Bronx River through testing salinity, PH, and dissolved oxygen.
Outcomes: 11th and 12th graders can apply to become paid apprentices through Rocking the Boat’s contract with the Bronx River Alliance. The environmental apprenticeship, part of Rocking the Boat’s Youth Development programs, has students working with professionals in the field, using scientific instruments to collect bacterial samples from the Bronx River, building and monitoring suspended wetlands, and surveying shore and wading birds for the City Audubon Society. “One of our goals for middle school programs is to develop a pipeline into our youth development program. We have social workers on staff that work closely with each student, give them tutors, and [counsel them about] scholarships and college admission,” said public programs director Sarah Miles.
Instructors of public programs have often grown up through the organization. “They’re college students who went through it and have been trained within all of our programs, so they bring a range of different skills and knowledge,” said Miles.
Partnerships: NYC Parks, Bronx River Alliance, Bronx schools: Bronx Alliance Middle School, Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, St Ignatius School (middle school), Bronx Arena High School (transfer high school), Jill Chaifetz Transfer High School.
Cost: Schools pay for field trips. Partner school programs are grant-funded.
Sources of funding: Public programs are privately funded. Youth Development programs are largely funded by DYCD.
What makes the program stand out? Connecting classroom work to real-world applications of environmental science can incite students’ interest in STEM. But the Bronx setting makes these programs especially powerful. “We have kids who are nervous, in tears, screaming when the boat starts to rock, and then high fiving” by the end of the program, said Miles. And that opens the door to more in-depth STEM learning. Students might wade into the Bronx River to collect plankton samples to examine back in the lab, revealing “all these organisms that were unknown [to them] in the river right here,” said Miles.
What does the organization need? “A lot of our Title I schools have limited resources to spend on field trips,” said Miles. Rocking the Boat is located in the “very industrialized and very underserved” Hunts Point area, and the organization provides youth development apprenticeship programs at no cost to kids. But Miles would love to be able to fund more out of school opportunities for schools in the surrounding community.