spotlight stories

spotlight on youth development: environmental science

This past March, Rocking the Boat launched the student level of two programs—sailing and environmental science—for the price of one! 16 new sailing students were recruited, as planned, to complete the roll out of Rocking the Boat’s major expansion into sailing. In addition, what had been known as the On-Water Program, a name which captured a mixed curriculum of environmental science and maritime skills, was reintroduced as the Environmental Student Program and saw its 16 participants—mostly ninth and 10th graders—focused squarely on studying the local Bronx River estuarine ecosystem, from water quality and combined sewer outflows to oysters and river herring, to long-legged wading birds and eels. To carry out their explorations and data collection, the group of nine boys and seven girls learned basic boating skills—rowing; chart and compass reading; and knot tying—as well as skills in wildlife monitoring, pollutant extraction, and plant and animal identification. A rich hands-on curriculum allowed the students to gain a strong foundation in concepts such as biodiversity, food webs, native and invasive species, indicator species, and habitat degradation and remediation and will solidly prepare them to take on more advanced tasks down the line as Environmental apprentices. 

the best parts about being the environmental student program director

“The students’ restoration and research work gives them deeper connection to and ownership of their local environment. They aren’t studying in a vacuum, but actively contributing to the improvement of this river that they are enjoying. To see my students taking a personal interest in the well-being of their world—not because they “should” be environmentalists, but because it is personal to them, because that impact is mutual and visceral, something they experience and enact everyday—that is the second best part of my job. The first remains, though, the greater purpose that all of these skills and projects serve, which students identify every day: creating a supportive community to grow as individuals and as a team, and learning to take the reins of the impact we can have on a place, on each other, in our own lives.” 

— Jamie Renee Smith, Environmental Student Program Director 

what two students have learned during their time in the environmental program

"This program feels like a family. It has made me more mature and care about the environment. I’ve learned about how much we pollute the water and the ecosystem, and how it’s affected by modern life—things like barges and oil spills. It made me more love-giving to the place where I live."
“I don’t have many things to do after school…so I come to Rocking the Boat to know how to do something—how to row, how the Bronx River has salt water—and it has taught me how to work with a group of people. Some other time I’ll have to do that, and I can think of how we were working here.”

kids don’t just build boats, boats build kids

rocking the boat
812 edgewater road
bronx, ny 10474
phone: 718.466.5799
fax: 718.466.2892