Northeastern Section (45th Annual) and Southeastern Section (59th Annual) Joint Meeting (13-16 March 2010)

Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:05 PM


CHENG, Zhongqi, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Brooklyn College of CUNY, 2900 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11210, POWELL, Wayne, Geology, Brooklyn College, 2900 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11210 and MIELE, Eleanor, School of Education, Brooklyn College, 2900 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11210,

Place-based learning is a pedagogical method that is especially applicable to urban settings; the home setting provides authenticity and relevance to college curricula, and the city’s resources can augment those available in college classrooms. In New York City, there is a wealth of resources to aid in the teaching of water science related courses. Accordingly, we developed the place-based course “New York City Water Sources and Cycles” as part of the NSF funded project “Science and The City: Fusion of Formal and Informal Learning Experiences into an Innovative Geoscience MA Teacher Program.” Concepts such as the water cycle, watersheds, climate, and contamination are explored in context of the students’ home environment. The course begins with discussions of the history of NYC’s unique upstate water reservoir and aqueduct system, its watershed and its preservation. Drinking-water quality, standards and water treatment methods are explored as the focus “moves into the city.” This is followed by the introduction of the concept of an urban water cycle and wastewater treatment processes. Since treated and untreated water goes into the local waterways surrounding the city, problems with the surface water systems are discussed and linked to human impact (e.g., Combined Sewer Overflows, Contaminants). Groundwater is also discussed in context of urban contamination by anthropogenic activities in the past centuries. We then broaden the discussion to a more generalized global water cycle and weather patterns (as weather is largely driven by the water phase changes). These finally lead to the discussion of climate and climate change, and what is the impact of global warming for New York City.

With water quality kits, students measure tapwater quality from their own homes, as well as during field trips to several local water bodies (Prospect Park Lake, Jamaica Bay, Gowanus Canal, Hudson River, East River), each of which has an interesting and unique problem. Additional class trips include visits to Catskill reservoirs and watersheds, historical aqueducts and water bridges, water system model museum, and the Nature Walk site (observation of wastewater treatment processes) developed by New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Students develop lesson plans, present, discuss and exchange them.