Eco-Explorer student looking at insect guide

2022-2023 Lesson Descriptions

Harmful Algal Blooms, Water Quality and Water Science
Water, Water, Everywhere!
All life on Earth is united by its need, however sporadic, for water. It is for this reason that cycling of water across the planet is one of the greatest factors in determining where and when life can persist. But how does water get to these places? This lesson explores the global water cycle and how water molecules travel and change throughout it.
From Algae to Zooplankton
Water contains multitudes. Millions of microscopic organisms and entire ecosystems too small to see with the naked eye are contained in every drop of water. It can be difficult to imagine that such tiny organisms can have any effect on the world we are familiar with. Yet, the actions of many, however small, can accumulate to something much greater. In this lesson we dive into the microscopic world and learn how the organisms in our water shape the world around us.
Aquatic Tricks: Macroinvertebrates
There are little creatures that call the bottom of streams, rivers, and lakes home. Little, but mighty, they provide a great deal of information that helps us understand the biological condition of the water. In this lesson, students will be immersed in the major roles macroinvertebrates play in our ecosystem, how they’re considered biological indicators, and ways in which scientists collect them for data.
Should I dive in?
“Ms. Water” loves collecting everything she encounters as she flows from under the ground to making her way above ground in forms of rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and oceans. We know the water we dispense from our home faucets has been cleaned from impurities and microorganisms. What about the water in lakes, streams, and rivers which we use to swim or fish in? This lesson will allow students to explore the processes that lead to water contamination and how biological indicators such as pathogen indicators help us determine good vs bad water quality to discover if we’re able to dive in.
How Bad HAB-its Can Lead to Green Waters and Red Tides
Throughout history, societies have found that water bodies have offered structure and stability to dreams of growth and prosperity. In turn, however, the rewards we offer back to these aquatic systems are questionable, at best. The run-off from anthropogenic infrastructure is often rich in pollutants and nutrients. The latter can be especially harmful, as it encourages blooms of toxic algae. In this lesson we discuss the impacts, both human and natural, that nutrient enrichment can have on aquatic ecosystems.
You Are What You Eat: Whether You Like It or Not
We all need water and food to survive, but sometimes the content of what we eat and drink doesn’t match the label. Chemicals and heavy metals have been entering the environment throughout the anthropocene, and we must not forget about the natural toxins that exist. What happens when these harmful substances are in our waters? This lesson explains how contaminated waters affect aquatic life through bioaccumulation and biomagnification and its potential harm to humans.
Pollution, Climate Change, and Energy

Capture the Wind, Harness the SunThe earth has provided us with many natural sources of energy such as light, wind, water, geothermal heat, and biomass. Energy is a basic human need, this is why sustaining it is so vital for our existence. In this lesson we will cover all forms of renewable energy sources that can help power our needs FOREVER! It will also cover the types of non-renewable energy we use and how they’re depleting resources in our environment.A Shared PlanetAir, noise, and light pollution are becoming of great concern with urbanization and industrialization growing in accordance with earth’s population. The formation of particulate matter through industrialization is affecting the quality of air. Human activities are escalating noise pollution in given areas. Artificial lighting is preventing dark nights for animals to thrive in. This lesson will define how natural processes are affected by our artificial fabrication and ways we can individually and cooperatively implement positive changes to support environmental sustainability in our communities.Trash Talkin’All organisms produce waste as a byproduct of living. The natural order of things allows these waste products to be recycled through the environment at expected rates. In our tenure on the planet, humans have set themselves apart by producing waste in amounts and at rates that far exceed the biosphere’s capacity to easily keep up. In a double whammy, as we continue to lay claim to more of the planet’s surface, the Earth is fundamentally reduced in its capacity to break down the pollution. In an effort to reduce our waste, this lesson will provide you with some insights on the major sources of trash, where it’s accumulated, how people are controlling waste, and necessary improvements within the life cycle of trash.

Sustainability
The Global Pantry
When you ask someone where their food comes from, they’re probably going to point towards their kitchen. But what happens when we look a little bit deeper? The food that fills our plates everyday comes from all across the globe based on where things grow best and/or cheapest. In this lesson, we will learn about the significance of supporting local food markets, purchasing seasonal foods, and avoiding mass-produced food sources.
Sustainable Fashion
Clothing consumption is at a higher rate than ever with the accessibility of online shopping and nearby stores. Our purchasing patterns related to clothing brands/products make it easy for individuals to indirectly cause more environmental harm than expected. Learning about the lifecycle of clothing, brand transparency, and looking into what our clothing is made of is of great importance in creating sustainable and ethical purchasing behavior. We should feel good about the clothes we wear!
New Jersey Ecosystems
Wild New Jersey/ Land Use
With an area of roughly 8.7 thousand square miles and an estimated 9 million residents, humble New Jersey stakes claim to being the most densely populated state in the US. In spite of this urban sprawl, the diversity of habitats is nearly unmatched across its territory. Thanks to expansive coastlines, the unique pine barrens, and the touch of the Appalachian Mountains, one can quickly find themselves in awe of the variety of landscapes found within our borders. From High Point to Cape May, we take a journey exploring these habitats and their wild residents.
The Passaic River: Industry Incarnate
Following a prehistoric glaciation, the Passaic River was born. As the industrial age took hold, the river suffered the influx and consequences of human activities. The establishment of the Clean Water Act and monumental efforts of the communities adjacent to the river helped to mitigate some of the damage. But the story is not over yet. To know where we’re going, we must first make ourselves aware of how we got here. In this lesson, we learn about the history of the Passaic River and its current status.
Community Chronicle
Learn more about your community through a specific case study outlining its environmental impacts on your town! This lesson will help convey the real-life context of environmental concerns that are closer to home than we think. Understanding that our own town may need our assistance with problem-solving, this aids community involvement which leads to a stronger locality.
The World Around Us
We Can be Scientists…Just for One Day!
Working in Science is cool and sometimes challenging. The popular image of a scientist as a white-coated, all-knowing genius has served little more than to make them seem like high and mighty figures concerned only with logic and numbers. The truth is science and critical thinking are part of everyday life, whether one realizes it or not. This lesson aims to show students what the job of a scientist involves. Moreover, we will explore the fun activities we undertake as Aquatic Ecologists, other than getting muddy and wet!
Urban Jungle!
Urban ecology involves the connection between humans and the environment. With changes constantly being made to the landscape, how does this affect earth’s natural cycles? How can nature and cement coexist? What can we learn from the green spaces in our neighborhood? We will dive into the modifications we make in urban environments and techniques individuals can use to help better manage urban ecosystems.
Home Sweet Habitat
Everyone has a list of things that would be in their dream home, all the creature comforts to keep themselves happy, healthy, and engaged. Although not every living thing would be able to write out a list of their own, all organisms have a specific set of requirements for the place they call home. However, in a both naturally and unnaturally changing world, habitats are constantly modified. Seasonality, successional changes, fragmentation, and connectivity can all greatly contribute to the types of species that call an area home. In this lesson we learn about habitat fragmentation and how we can improve habitat connectivity to allow organisms to move freely.