Keeping the River Clean

We had a meeting the other day about the Hudson River.   We learned that the Hudson River is an estuary. An estuary is a body of water where salt water and fresh water mixes together. Another thing about estuaries is that they’re tidal, and so the water gets high and low throughout the day.  At high tide, the water can take garbage a person might have accidentally left on the beach and sweep it out into the water.

We also learned that there is a food chain in the Hudson River that leads to us, and the younger kids drew food webs, which show how everything in the wild is connected and how everything relies on everything else in order to survive.

Ari with food web showing connections between all elements.  Ari said, "Without the sun, there wouldn't be anything at all!"

Ari with food web showing connections between all elements. Ari said, “Without the sun, there wouldn’t be anything at all!”

The older kids made charts to show how much bacteria was in the water and when.

Guin's frequency chart, which shows how often water samples taken by Riverkeeper were acceptable, possible risk and unacceptable levels of enterococcus.

Guin’s frequency chart, which shows how often water samples taken by Riverkeeper were acceptable, possible risk and unacceptable levels of enterococcus.

You can see that the samples tested acceptable more often than unacceptable, which means that the River isn’t so polluted as it used to be.

My chart also shows that the amount of rain that falls the week before the sample was taken (the orange line) can have an effect on the amount of bacteria in the water.  And the purple line shows that they don’t take samples when it’s raining because that stirs up the bacteria in the water which affects the sample!

So all of that means, you probably shouldn’t swim in the Hudson River after it rains.

There are many reasons to keep the Hudson River, or any other river, clean. Here are some:

*all bodies of water are connected so any garbage we throw in the river will end up in the ocean and become an even worse problem (for the animals and plants that live there, and for our food web and health)

*garbage can kill animals and fish that live in the river

*we swim in rivers

*we drink from rivers

*it’s pretty to look at rivers without garbage in it

You see , it is important to keep the river clean. When we keep the river clean, we are keeping the river, animals, and humans safe.

If you are interested in keeping the river clean, you can meet us at Kingston Point Beach on May 11th. We have signed up to be part of the annual community action day called the Riverkeeper Sweep. Different groups like ours are given a part of the beach to clean up. We hope we’ll see you there!



Wildlife Rescuers!

Last week our Roots & Shoots group went to a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. There were lots of awesome birds. I counted them. There were four bard owls, one barn owl, two screech owls, one black vulture, a seagull, a morning dove and a swan. There were a couple of ravens, a small hawk and five other red-tailed hawks, along with two great horned owls. In all, there were twenty birds!

Each animal had its own, amazing story and hardly any animals had the same. One red-tailed hawk had lived as a pet in someone’s living room for two years. You can watch the movie we made to hear a couple of the stories.

I was always sad when I heard that an animal couldn’t be returned into the wild. All these animals belong in nature and when an animal can’t survive it is sad. Luckily, they have Ellen to care for them!

Thank you, Ellen, for taking care of birds, big and small, and for showing us the birds. I also want to thank everybody who came for your cooperation, interest and donation.


Note from Hillary:

Our visit to Ravensbeard was also a fundraiser where each family contributed a little bit and together we were able to donate almost $50 to the center and Ellen for her great work!

Be sure to check out Ellen’s website to learn more about simple things you can do to help wildlife as well as how you can help wildlife in trouble.  You can be a rescuer, too!

Also, contact Ellen for your own group’s educational program or for your child’s next birthday party!

R&S with Ellen

Reading for the Kids in Afghanistan

For our Read-a-thon, we decided to raise money for the kids in Afghanistan. These children are in refugee camps because of the ten-year war in their country. But this is not the fun camp you go to in the summer. The refugees live in tents during winter and are freezing. They have hardly any coats, blankets, food or medicine. Many kids die from the cold. In fact, last year at least 100 children died in refugee camps.

Now you may be asking,”Why help the kids in Afghanistan? Why not help the kids in Africa or Haiti, or right here in America?” Well here’s the thing; if we go one step at a time and each help a cause we really want to help, and if you combine all that, then you’ll see we have all made a difference in the world together.  One person’s $20 to support one of our readers might not feel like a lot.  But when you put it with everyone else’s contributions, it can really help.


HVHS Readers 2013_0007s

7 of our 12 readers (+1 baby brother), ready to begin!

Recap from yesterday’s read-a-thon launch meeting from Hillary:

We started with a game to get to know each other better where we had 
to self-edit into groups who either agreed, disagreed or were undecided on
various issues.  Issues were as simple as "I prefer night to day", as 
complex as "It is necessary to get a college degree to lead a happy,
productive life" and as fun as "I would rather be a forest than an ocean." 
We talked about how it felt to make those kinds of value judgements on
the spot and how our minds were sometimes changed based on what we saw 
others in the room choosing.

We discussed the four options people brought to the table: the SPCA (the 
local Dutchess County shelter is a no-kill facility); local wildlife
rehabilitation centers (the one we're going to visit in Saugerties in February); 
Global Giving; and the idea of giving aid to children in the refugee camps 
in Afghanistan.  All the ideas were interesting to the kids, and all the 
organizations are amazingly deserving.  In the end, the vote ended up 5 for 
Afghani kids, 3 for wildlife rehab centers, and 1 for Global Giving.  (It was 
a kids-only vote.)  We also touched upon the ideas of giving locally versus 
nationally/internationally, and giving 100% of your donation to a cause/paying 
organizations' overhead costs. 

We also talked about the calendar and figured out which projects we'd like
to schedule in for the spring.  Just wait and see!

A Trip Along the Hudson River

After bundling up and going outside, our Roots & Shoots group met at the Black Creek Preserve. We played as we ran around the trail, which had fun slippery leaves in some places, and was pretty in some places and even creepy in others.  We talked with the environmental educator, Abi, from Scenic Hudson about the animals that live in the preserve and their habitats. We saw fences they put up that keep deer away from plants to keep the forest healthy.  The deer would eat all the baby plants, and then there would be just one kind of plant in the entire forest (the one that the deer don’t like), and that’s not healthy for the forest. There were also vernal pools. In summer, the pool dries up. But in spring and fall, the pool fills up, and it’s a great place for animals to live and breed.  And then we got to the Hudson River, where we climbed rocks and learned about the fish that live there.  On the way back, we saw a little hole dug into the roots of a tree.  It was a fox den!

Also, there was a movie being filmed at the creek while we were there.  We saw the film crew setting up as we walked in, and on the way out, I got to watch them do a take. It was really awesome.

Thanks so much to Abi and everyone who came.  Special thanks to Jenny for taking photos!  And to Scenic Hudson for protecting this beautiful forest for everyone to enjoy!


Go Candidates! Our mock debate and election.

Have you been watching the presidential debates?  I have!  We’re about to decide who will be the President of the United States, and I think that’s exciting. It’s an important time because we’ll see if the leader of our country will change.  A lot of the issues that we talk about in our Roots & Shoots group are decided by the people who lead the different countries in the world.  So we decided to create our own mock presidential debate and election for our Roots & Shoots group to give kids practice for what they’ll be doing when they’re allowed to vote.

In our debate, the moderators (the hosts) called on kids to ask questions about things that were important to them.  The candidates were our parents volunteering to pretend to be the real candidates running for President right now: the Democrat President Barack Obama, the Republican Governor Mitt Romney, the Green party candidate Jill Stein and the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.  Our parents researched what those candidates would actually say about our issues.

We made a movie with the highlights from the debate (our parents got really into their roles!) and our reporter, Athena, made some really funny skits with the other kids and parents.  Watch it here:

After our debate, we watched the movie, Whale Rider, about a girl who wanted to be the next leader of her tribe, but her grandfather wouldn’t let her.  My mom thought it related to the debate because it was about leadership and what it takes to be a good leader.  When the people were picking a new tribal leader it was kind of like one big debate.  In a debate, the candidates talking about what they would do if they become president, then people see if they want to vote for that person.  In the movie, before someone was picked to become the leader, people have to make sure that you would make a good leader by seeing how they performed in certain Old Ways like special dances and fighting skills and tests of courage.  It was a really good movie.
Election day is a week from today: Tuesday, November 6th, 2012.  I think voting is a big responsibility, and I can’t wait until I’m older and I can do it.


P.S. from Hillary: Despite a wide favor in the polls for re-election of President Barack Obama, a tally of the votes cast by eligible voters (registered voters under the age of 18) after the debate showed that Green Party candidate Jill Stein won by a landslide!

The Great Change

For the last two decades, there have been no women moderating the presidential debates. The moderator thinks up questions to ask the candidates who are running for President so that voters can see which one they like.  How can our country be equal if only men moderate the debates?  If only men are in charge of which questions are asked of our leaders, nobody’s speaking for a woman’s perspective .

Well, all that is changing in this year of 2012. Three sixteen-year-olds from New Jersey, Emma Alexrod, Elena Tsemberis, and Sammi Siegel, made a petition called “It’s Time for a Female Moderator.” A petition is a paper people sign to agree about something. And 100,000 people signed the girls’ petition!

So now, Mr. Lehrer has already hosted the first presidential debate on October 3rd; Candy Crowley will host the second presidential debate on October 16th; and Mr. Schieffer will host the third on October 22nd. The one Mrs. Crowley is hosting will be a lot like our Roots & Shoots mock presidential debate. People in the audience will ask questions to the candidates, the candidates will answer the questions, and the moderator will ask follow-up questions. For example, a person would ask how the candidates would take care of the environment. The candidates would say they would take care of the environment. Mrs. Crowley would ask how.

It was impressive for three 16-year-olds to make this petition and have people respond to it so well.  It really shows that young people are getting involved in important things.  And when young people do that, it shows that, even though kids can’t vote, we can still make a difference.  We now have a female moderator for this year’s presidential debate, and all because of the three girls who decided to help the women of our country.


The Blue Bird Meeting

Remember when we made those blue bird boxes last spring?  Well, now we got the chance to put it up somewhere!  The Comeau Property is a big, 77-acre piece of land that is kind of like a wildlife refuge.  Animals are protected there, including blue birds!  We offered one of the blue bird boxes we made to them, knowing it would be a good home for it.  Bob Rifenburg, the local blue bird expert, helped us picked out a good spot for it in a big, beautiful field where I like to play soccer.  Terry Antman, the woman in charge of these kind of donations,  arranged for our blue bird meeting to happen on Comeau Appreciation  Day. There were a lot of fun things happening that day.  My favorite thing was when they lit a paper lantern into the sky. A lot of people came to watch us put the bluebird box up and Bob gave a little talk on bluebirds. Check out the highlights in this video, and don’t miss the funny part at the end!


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