With signs of spring popping up across the Hudson Valley, parents are already looking forward to the promise of safe summer activities that will finally get their kids back outside. And there are few better places to explore the wonder of the natural world than with Clarkson University’s Beacon Institute.
Located inside Dennings Point State Park, the Beacon Institute offers young learners the opportunity to engage in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in the context of a natural laboratory for learning—the Hudson River.
This summer, Clarkson's Beacon Institute will be offering hands-on programs for elementary, middle, and high schoolers, with an emphasis on engaging students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields. “We want to build a space that’s nurturing for students to grow in the outdoors,” says Brigette Walsh, Assistant Director of Environmental Programming at the Beacon Institute.
New this year is the Eco-Leadership Program, a four-week learning opportunity that will be split into two parts. For the first two weeks, high school students will build skills in wilderness survival, as well as learning how to identify aquatic and plant species, collect samples for water quality, research the life cycle of plastics and other debris that wash up on shore, and develop awareness of invasive plant species like garlic mustard, mugwort, and Japanese knotweed.
For the second half of the program, the high schoolers will become the teachers to a group of middle school students, who will learn those same conservation skills directly from their older peers. “This will give the high schoolers the chance to apply their skills in environmental literacy and give them the experience of becoming leaders in the space,” says Walsh.
Clarkson's Beacon Institute will also be offering a distance-learning program for students in grades K-5 that encourages kids to explore the outdoor spaces near their homes. Each student will receive a kit with all the tools and crafts they need to complete hands-on environmental projects, like creating their own sound maps by observing and recording all the sounds they notice while sitting quietly outside. “We’ll meet on Zoom to go through each project with the students,” says Walsh. “Then they'll get the chance to go explore the outdoors, wherever they are.”