An Outdoor Classroom
Harlem River Park, in addition to being a community green space, also serves as an exciting outdoor classroom in which to study and raise awareness of the important environmental issues that directly affect the neighboring communities.
In 2009 and 2010, Frederick Douglass Academy (FDA) teamed up with the Harlem River Park Task Force and various universities in New York City to study the contamination levels of the water and air along the Harlem River, and to provide an avenue for students to express their concern for their health. This research and action took place in a course called Urban Ecology and Environmental Justice led by Frederick Douglass Academy Research Teacher, Mauricio Gonzalez.
A typical field day for students in the Urban Ecology and Environmental Justice class at FDA begins with a walk to Harlem River Park, followed by collecting water and air samples, and interviewing residents. The research students conducted provided them with hands-on experience and opportunities to take full responsibility for individual tasks.
At the end of the course, students presented their findings to a group of research scientists, members of the Harlem River Park Task Force and board representatives of the Harlem Community Development Corporation. The most notable conclusion drawn by their research was that during the summer the dissolved oxygen levels in the river fall below federal Environmental Protection Agency standards, putting at risk the organisms that live there. The interviews they conducted with park users also contributed to the dialogue about ways to improve and expand public access to Harlem River Park.
Click here to read the students' report, "Harlem Environmental Status and Solutions".