STR Reimagines Education

By: John Peach & Lauren Eggelston

Volume 15, Issue 12, December 2020

Save The River’s (STR) very successful On The Water and In The Schools programs ground to a halt early last spring due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. These two educational programs, responsible for educating more than 13,000 students over the past twelve years, were essential components of the K-12 curricula instructing North Country students about the St. Lawrence River environment.

The On the Water component of the program was a chance for educators to have their students experience nature while being instructed by STR’s well educated and enthusiastic program staff.

As it became apparent that On the Water field trips were not going to be allowed during this period of Covid constraints, STR’s Education Committee and staff began plans to reimagine our educational offerings.

Led by committee chair Heather White and STR program coordinator Lauren Eggleston, the committee developed a list of topics that could be interpreted into YouTube lesson plans and virtual field trips. Working with local videographer Andy Burns, Heather and long time committee member Renee Waterbury developed a virtual tour of Rock Island Lighthouse. Rock Island is an important part of STR’s On The Water field trips. The video was made possible by the enthusiastic assistance of Kim Cullen of NYS Parks.

Rock Island Lighthouse & Island Habitats Virtual Field Trip. This virtual lesson can be integrated into classroom curriculum and addresses NYS Science and(or) ELA Standards with a focus on grades K-3.

“It’s Hard to be a Tern,” Elaine Tack’s award winning video about STR’s ongoing common tern restoration, became the subject/object of the second lesson plan. While STR has owned this video for several years now, the education committee and recently hired program coordinator Lauren Eggleston enhanced its educational value by aligning it with NYS Science and English Language Arts (ELA) standards. Common terns are on NY’s threatened species list. Under the leadership of Dr Lee Harper, STR and TILT have been working to preserve and restore this important water bird to the Thousand Islands region for over 22 years.

The It’s Hard to be a Tern video can be integrated into classroom curriculum and addresses New York State Science and(or) ELA Learning Standards with a focus on K-3 grade levels.

"Haas, The Great Blue Heron", is a wonderful child’s book written by Juliane Flora and Heather White. Haas has been used in the In the Schools program for over seven years and is for sale online at Working with Andy Burns,who donated his expertise for this lesson, Heather White brought Haas alive in a superb reading of this story of a heron’s life on the River. But more than just a recitation of a beloved book, the education committee and Lauren added educational components to the lesson to bring it up to NY State educational standards.

Haas the Great Blue Heron can be integrated into classroom curriculum and addresses New York State Science and/or ELA Learning Standards, with a focus on PreK-2 grade levels.

Now that these three professionally developed lesson plans and virtual field trips have been completed, you can view them and their additional components by visiting STR’s website. Working in conjunction with STR’s Outreach Coordinator Lindsey Russell, the education committee developed the Education tab of the website to allow educators, students, and others to browse the site for topics of interest. Continue to check the webpage throughout the winter for newly added educational content!

Education is a key component of Save The River’s mission to restore, preserve and protect the Upper St. Lawrence River now and for generations to come through education, advocacy, and research. If you would like to contribute to STR’s reimagining education process, you can do so by selecting  DONATE NOW and be sure to see the website

Thank you for your support of Save The River.

Stay well,

By John Peach and Lauren Eggleston

Bios to come

Posted in: Volume 15, Issue 12, December 2020, Essay, News article

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