Spring Summary 2024


NYC H2O had a busy spring and winter!  We provided 148 free water ecology and engineering field trips and 26 virtual lessons reaching 4,724 students at 85 schools across all five boroughs.

Our programs enhance STEM learning outdoors through hands-on lessons about New York City’s reservoirs, parks, and waterfront. We serve primarily Title I & III schools, bringing our programs to NYC youth in underserved communities.   

Since 2014, we have taken 36,541 students on our outdoor field trips, and reached 10,573 more students with virtual lessons. Many of those students also joined us for beach and park cleanups, where we have removed over 53,000 lbs of litter over the last six years.  


STEM and Water Ecology Trips and Virtual Lessons

On our field trips students explore local reservoirs, wetlands, and beaches and have discussions based on their observations. While engaging with nature in their city, we encourage students to ask questions about the quality of their water and greenspaces, with the  hope that they grow to become stewards of our water system.

Tree Races continued to be a hit this semester! Our non-competitive game encourages students to get excited about learning about trees through observation. Observations from students came in many forms; sight, touch, hearing, and smell. This semester, one observation that stood out was how the Sassafras Tree has 3 different shaped leaves; one that looks like a football, another like a mitten and the third like a chicken foot! It has been exciting to see students admire and examine the trees in their community, often for the first time, while learning how trees are so important for protecting our water system.

The excitement and learning didn’t stop at the tree race finish line!  Students worked together during the ’Aqueduct Challenge’ to build a working aqueduct that models NYC’s water system. Once the students understand how gravity plays a role in the water system, they use their creativity and surroundings to personalize their aqueducts. For example, this semester, a group of students created a series of loops in their aqueducts, like a roller coaster, while pouring the water through the funnel.

Our trips are mainly run in Queens and Brooklyn at Baisley Pond, Canarsie Park, Plumb Beach, and Ridgewood Reservoir; Manhattan and the Bronx at Central Park, High Bridge Park, and Jerome Park; and Staten Island at Lemon Creek & Silver Lake. This spring we also enjoyed hosting lessons at even more sites, including Southpoint Park on Roosevelt Island, Captain Tilly Park, Great kills, Galapo Playground, and Shore Road Park.

Mapping Education

NYC H2O brings a passion for research and advocacy to classrooms through its Mapping and Stewardship program, where students learn how to collect environmental data using GIS tools and organize stewardship actions in their communities. In 2024, H2O educators worked with 5 partner schools in East Harlem, East Williamsburg, Park Slope, Washington Heights, and Bushwick where students collected data on air and noise pollution, green infrastructure, flooding, street beautification, litter, and access to green and open spaces. Throughout these projects students become drivers of change by participating in community cleanups, advocacy, and activism.

At PS 376 and PS 145 in Bushwick, 5th graders used ArcGIS Field Maps to map litter and stormwater infrastructure in the Bushwick community and determined the majority of rain gardens around PS 376 contain litter and have a low plant cover percentage, between 10-25%. The class adopted the rain gardens and planted spring bulbs to improve plant cover. 

The 10th grade at Lyons Community School mapped street trees and green infrastructure in East Williamsburg. Student surveys found that 74% of street trees had litter on or around them and 88% of street trees lacked tree guards. Students rallied to clean 150 lbs of litter out of tree pits along six city blocks. 

In East Harlem, AP Environmental Science students used GIS to understand connections among city zoning patterns, street litter, and green natural features such as trees, planters, and gardens. Much less litter occurred where there is more nature. So to boost the nature on their school block, students partnered up with Big Reuse to add fresh compost and aerate tree bed soils on their school block.

CASA Lessons

Weekly after school lessons at PS 58, IS 5, Grover Cleveland High School and PS 24 introduced students to urban ecosystems and local wildlife, aiming to form deeper connections with nature in their own backyards. Many of the activities blend art and spatial reasoning with nature, to support students’ creative and socioemotional learning. Projects this spring included nature-inspired watercolor paintings, growing cornflowers indoors with a grow light, viewing a solar eclipse, creating educational signage for native plants, learning about water quality and wastewater treatment by making water filters, painting watercolor pictures of one of our reservoirs and sketching plants and animals in natural areas including Elmhurst Park, Seton Park, and Raoul Wallenberg Forest.

Students put their skills as young naturalists into practice through several outdoor activities. In Elmhurst Park, PS 58 students made observations of the trees, plants and wildflowers.They learned how to use binoculars and went on a bird walk to identify bird species, notably we saw an Osprey with a fish in its talons. 

PS 24 students visited the natural forest areas of Riverdale Park and hiked down to the Hudson River. They also learned about decomposers and their role in the life cycle. 

After learning about stormwater management and how green infrastructure captures excess rain water, Grover Cleveland High School students took a field trip to the Ridgewood Reservoir, an urban wetland, to see how wetlands do this naturally. These connections with their natural world help students understand how nature purifies our water, allowing our watershed to maintain its superb quality.

Another aspect of our CASA programs is the stewardship of natural spaces. To that end, we planted Common Ladyferns, and Alleghany Monkeyflowers to enhance a native plant garden in Elmhurst Park. Students at IS 5 middle school planted and maintained their school garden filled with native pollinator plants including Honeysuckle, Milkweed, New England Aster and Blue Stem Grass. They added educational signage to the garden to share information with their school community about the benefits of each of these  plants. Grover Cleveland High School students painted benches and mulched trees within Grover Cleveland Playground.

Additionally, our weekly STEW (Stewardship) Crew CASA program at WHEELS High School, in partnership with Future’s Ignite, brought high school students into the neighborhood for 4 cleanups in 2024 that removed 250 lbs of trash from 182nd Street in Washington Heights. Students also launched the very first STEW Crew Dashboard → a student-created, real-time data hub showing results from STEW Crew cleanups and litter tracking to share with local stakeholders and build skills in data literacy.

Teacher Testimonials 

Grade 2 Teacher The class had a wonderful time overall. They enjoyed making observations about the reservoir and investigating the trees. They very much enjoyed learning about the different places we get our water from on the map. They loved being engineers and creating the water aqueduct to bring water to NYC. Thank you for the wonderful experience and I look forward to doing it again next year. Our guide was wonderful, informative, and helpful with my second graders. The [other guide]  was quick to support my friends asking them questions and supporting the group when distributing water and materials for the aqueduct. 

Grade 3 Teacher I wanted to express my gratitude for the amazing in-person field day my class had today. My students really enjoyed it and learned so much. We are currently working on PBL units where students learn about how climate change impacts water sources, and today’s field day activities were an incredible opportunity for them to expand their learning.Thank you once again for this enriching experience.

Grade 3 Teacher This trip was a great experience for our class. Not only did it tie in with the curriculum we are learning in ELA, but it was also very hands-on and exploratory. Both guides were attentive and engaged the children, and the topics discussed were relevant to them. The activities they completed were also age-friendly and connected to the topic. There is nothing about the trip I would change. Overall, my students loved it!

Grade 6 Teacher The tree running game was great, they really enjoyed that! They also enjoyed viewing the map and creating their own water systems. The tour guides were also extremely knowledgeable and were able to answer all our questions. They kept mentioning on the bus that they learned a lot of “fun facts” about how we get our water. 

Grade 9 Teacher Our tour with [H2O guides] was amazing! We had a small group with a mix of Spanish/English language needs that our guides were able to accommodate very well. Students enjoyed making observations of the natural world and learning about local vs. native plants and animals. The engineering activity was engaging and we even got to go down to the waterline and touch the water which was a fun experience for the students.


Ridgewood Reservoir

We are thrilled to observe the positive impacts of our ongoing stewardship at the Ridgewood Reservoir. Thanks to our dedicated efforts, we are seeing blooming pollinator gardens, the return of enthusiastic volunteers, the songs of birds, healthy trees, and cleaner sidewalks.

Our mission is twofold: to increase access to green spaces for park visitors and to nurture the natural habitat at the Reservoir, which is a sanctuary for dozens of wild plants, birds, and other animals. So far, in 2024, we have organized seven volunteer events, drawing a total of 159 volunteers, averaging 27 participants per event. This year’s projects have included litter cleanups on Vermont Place and the Jackie Robinson service road, creating mulch rings for trees and shrubs in Highland Park and the south hill of the Reservoir, and removing invasive species like mugwort, cleaver, crown vetch, and garlic mustard from the pollinator gardens.

Our NYC H2O staff are committed to weekly stewardship activities to enhance and maintain the park’s beauty and health. As we gear up for another summer, we are preparing to tackle the invasive Phragmites australis in the middle basin of the Reservoir. This ambitious project will be supported by interns from CUNY and local high schools, who will join our efforts.

The pollinator gardens are flourishing, with a variety of bees, butterflies, and moths thriving among the native plants. We actively support these gardens by planting native species, providing water during dry periods, and regularly weeding.

Highland Park is a crucial green space for the Brooklyn and Queens communities, and we are excited about future plantings and tree care initiatives to further enhance the park’s health and beauty.

Beach, Wetland and Neighborhood Cleanups

Between January and June of 2024, in addition to our volunteer days at the Ridgewood Reservoir, NYC H2O held 22 community cleanups at beaches, wetlands, and neighborhoods all around the city. We picked up litter at Arthur Kill Road, Lemon Creek Pier, Lemon Creek Beach, and Oakwood Beach in Staten Island; Givan Ave, Tillotson Ave, White Plains Rd, and Bill Rainey Park in the Bronx; Baisley Pond Park in Queens; and Canarsie Park, Canarsie Beach, and Plumb Beach in Brooklyn. Collectively, 1,007 volunteers have helped us to remove over 20,861 lbs of garbage from the city’s natural areas, parks, and streets. 

We also organized cleanups for two wonderful groups of students from Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists. Around 30 middle school and high school students leaders picked up 70 lbs of trash from Bill Rainey Park. And add to that our WHEELS High School students who removed 440 pounds of litter from 182nd Street in 2024.

Beyond cleanups, we have been busy supporting stewardship of public spaces across NYC: 

  • We have continued our partnership with the NYS DEC removing invasive Japanese barberry bushes in Mount Loretto Park in Staten Island 
  • We helped plant a pollinator garden at Morris HeightsHealth Center in the Bronx. 
  • A class from St. John’s College, the Green Club from East Side Community High School, and two fifth grade classes from Children’s Workshop all joined up this spring to paint benches at Tompkins Square Park.

Community Programs

Already in 2024, we’ve hosted 15 public education programs and walking tours, bringing New Yorkers into close contact with local ecology, history, and animal observations!

  • Soggy City talk at Hunter College with Eric Sanderson
  • Rossville’s Historic Waterfront Walking Tour
  • Tappen’s Creek and Kreischerville Walking Tour
  • Mill Creek and Richmond Valley Walk
  • Bird Watching at Ridgewood Reservoir
  • Richmond Creek and Brookfield Park Walk
  • Prince’s Bay and Lemon Creek Walk
  • Protecting Public Health talk at Hunter College
  • Staten Island Bluebelt Walk
  • Minetta Brook Walk with Steve Duncan
  • Harlem Creek Walk with Steve Duncan
  • Croton Aqueduct Bike Tour with Cullen Brown
  • High Bridge walk with Project Engineer Bryan Diffley & High Bridge Tower Open House with the NYC Urban Park Rangers
  • Spring plant ID walk at Ridgewood Reservoir with Caitlyn Lynch
  • Two horseshoe crab walks with Lisa Jean Moore at Plumb Beach 
  • Yonkers Wastewater Treatment Plant tour for teachers with the Westchester County Dept. of Environmental Facilities 

We could also be found tabling at the Union Square Earth Day Festival, MHHC’s Healthy Destinations, Urban Advantage’s Expo at the Natural History Museum, PS 249 Science Fair, Mitchel Houses Mural Ribbon Cutting, CD 46’s Spring Fling Event, the Staten Island Student Summit, LaGuardia Community College Earth Day Festival, Shape Up Bushwick, and Maspeth High School’s Climate Action Day.

Virtual Events/Readings 

Over 100 people have attended virtual events that NYC H2O has hosted this year, on an incredible variety of topics. Recorded talks are posted on our YouTube channel: 

  • Book reading and drawing lesson with Gianna Marino
  • The Very Impatient Caterpillar reading and drawing lesson with Ross Burach
  • Soggy City talk  with Eric Sanderson
Eric Sanderson during his live and virtually streamed presentation on flooding in NYC


Thank You for Your Support
Thank you again to all our sponsors and to all who support our work through donating, volunteering, and participating in NYC H2O programs.

This includes recognizing the following officials and foundations their contributions in creating and continuing our environmental education and stewardship mission:

City Council Member Joe Borelli
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams
Council Member Carmen De La Rosa
Council Member David Carr
Council Member Shahana Hanif
Council Member Oswald Feliz
Council Member Justin Brannan
Council Member Marjorie Velazquez
State Senator Julia Salazar
Council Member Jennifer Gutierrez
Council Member Mercedes Narcisse
Council Member Diana Ayala
City Council Member Pierina Ana Sanchez
Council Member Eric Dinowitz
Council Member Amanda Farias
Council Member Kalman Yeger
Council Member Carlina Rivera
Assemblymember Harvey Epstein
Northfield Bank 
Council Member Sandy Nurse
City Council Member Kevin Riley
Council Member Inna Vernikov
City Council Member Althea Stevens
Council Member Julie Menin
Council Member Chi Osse
Council Member Kamillah Hanks
Council Member Robert Holden
NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
Provident Bank Foundation
Richmond County Savings FederationLiberty Coca Cola
Con Edison
Lily Auchincloss Foundation
Williams Foundation
Laura Vogler Foundation

We’d also like to highlight our utmost appreciation for our program partners, volunteer groups and students for their assistance in our civic environmental stewardship activities:

Natural Resources Protective Association (NRPA)
NYC Parks
NPS – National Gateway Recreation Area
Success Community Garden
FDNY Ladder 11
IS 7
Tottenville High School
Bronx Science Key Club
College of Staten Island
High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies Key Club
Lehman College
Moore Catholic High School
New York Du Jur
Port Richmond High School
Scout Troop 144
Skills USA
New York Department of Environmental Conservation
City Parks Foundation
Jamaica Bay Rockaway Parks Conservancy
Staten Island Museum
Ridgewood Rides
Iron Workers Local 40 & 360
IS 24
Blessed Sacrament School
Brooklyn Tech Key Club
CSI High School
Holy Name School of Nursing
John Browne High School
Neighborhood Initiatives Development Corporation
Our Lady Queen of Peace
Scout Troop 4
Staten Island Tech
Stuyvesant High School
Partnership for Parks
Americorps Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation
National Parks Foundation
New York Cares
DHLMonsignor Farrell High School
PS 40
Blink Jamaica Ave
Cardinal Spellman High School
Father Vincent Capodanno Academy Holy Rosary School
MHHCNew Dorp High School
Pack 177
Scout Troop 6
Shorewalkers NY
St. Charles CCD School
Thomas Edison High School
St Clare’s Academy
SEQ Cleanup


Support NYC H2O to Support NYC’s Kids
Your donation directly supports our free outdoor educational field trips for underserved students enrolled in Title I and III schools in all five boroughs. Please consider donating here to support our students in learning about the critical importance and beauty of New York City’s water through hands-on science learning. Members are a critical part of our NYC H2O team: learn how you can make a difference by becoming a member here. Members receive NYC H2O merchandise and other benefits such as event and walking tour discounts.