Reservoir School Tours: Fall Summary

Happy Thanksgiving! Here is what NYC H2O is thankful for. This fall NYC H2O gave 31 historic reservoir tours to 19 different schools, reaching a total of 750 students. Our tours took place in all five boroughs at the reservoirs in Central Park, Jerome Park, Silver Lake, Ridewood and Baisley Pond.

We trained 5 tour guides with the help of Borough Historians Jack Eichenbaum (Queens) and Michael Miscione (Manhattan), Naturalist Ken Chaya (Creator of the Central Park Tree Map), Engineer Bryan Difflley (Restoration Manager of the High Bridge), and NYC H2O Director Matt Malina.

With the help of Melbourne-stationed map maker Rowan Dickson, we created a map of the NYC Water System that includes the locations of the reservoirs and parks where we give tours, as well as aqueducts and the City’s 14 sewage plants; we were able to print the maps on two 8’ x 6’ canvasses with the help of Duggal Visual Solutions. Students get a better sense of the grand scale of our water system when reading a large format map. They also hold it open as a class which allows
them to engage more closely with it.

Students read the NYC H2O map – Paula Hewitt Amram
Students read the Old Brooklyn Waterworks map

This year, our reservoir tours drew a diverse range of students from all five boroughs to join us outdoors and connect with the City’s infrastructure and nature. Most of our students are from New York City’s outer boroughs and attend Title I schools where the majority of students are below poverty line. Students had a lot of questions about the flora and fauna surrounding the reservoirs, the function of a reservoir, and the cleanliness of the water. We engaged students with educational and physical games about water use, engineering an aqueduct, water supply system terms and ideas, and tree identification.

Students were awestruck during their tours. They responded to the scale and beauty of the reservoirs, to sightings of turtles, birds, mushrooms, and many other living things near the water. One day in November, we were lucky to see the NYPD divers practicing at the Silver Lake Reservoir.

They enjoyed being outside running, relaxing, and making observations throughout the reservoirs. Many of the students that came on our tours had very limited opportunities to explore parks and natural settings; many have never been out of their neighborhood. We are proud to be able to share and educate NYC’s young citizenry about ecology and water in New York City parks.
We will resume tours in the spring of 2015; we plan to add the High Bridge, NYC’s oldest bridge, to our line up. The High Bridge was built to carry the Croton Aqueduct over the Harlem River in 1848! It is undergoing a major restoration after being closed for over 40 years. It is slated to reopen around when our tour season recommences on April 1. Teachers can start making reservations for spring 2015 tours now by clicking on our calendar.

Below are some quotes with feedback from teachers:
         Thank you for the wonderful field trip last week! The kids loved the hands-on aqueduct challenge. It gave them a  purposeful, kinesthetic activity to build a deeper understanding of our city’s infrastructure. Also, it was great to see how
         you incorporated maps in the program, since that is a big part of second grade.

        Thank you very much for organizing the trip for our classes. The students had a great time learning about the trees, reservoir, and aqueducts. Having them look at the leaves and try to identify the tree was great for classifying. The class 
        really enjoyed making their own aqueducts as well.

        I think you guys were fantastic! I love the aqueduct building at the end. I think a little more modeling of what to do/how to do it would help the kids(at least my group). I also loved the tree races and thought it was a great way to help get some energy out!

Here is a link to a radio piece about our reservoir tours by Minda Smiley from the CUNY Journalism School.

2014 tour programs generously sponsored by the NYC DEPCatskill Watershed Corporation, and Arcadis-US

Summary: Spring 2014