Clarkson University and the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries held the first Technology, Environment, Arts and Media (TEAM) summer program in July with the theme of the impact of agriculture on freshwater. Assistant professor of Biology Stefanie Kring led the program along with staff from the Beacon Institute and Rombout Middle School.


The program invited 25 local seventh and eighth-grade students to study a small pond on Common Ground farm that is part of Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center located in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. The students were tasked with investigating the declining health of the pond at Common Ground Farm. Farm staff had noticed excess plant growth on the surface of the water and a decline in biological activity in recent years. Students performed an environmental investigation, measuring nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), dissolved oxygen, ammonia, conductivity, and pH. Once the students collected their data, they were able to choose how to represent their data.


“Environmental Science Investigators (ESI): Beacon 2017 is a collaborative, experience-based model for STEAM enrichment. Our diverse leadership team and guest instructors successfully engaged middle school students throughout an inspiring week of field and lab science experiences, artistic expression and media creation. All the way from data collection to public messaging, the participants demonstrated the enormous potential of the next generation to tackle and share solutions to complex environmental problems. ” said Asher Pacht, Director of Environmental Programs at the Beacon Institute. 


An educator from Spark Media also assisted the students with communicating their data through short films. Several students chose to create short films that represented their data, and recommendations to Common Ground Farm.  Students participated in many other activities throughout the week that related to sustainable agriculture. They met with the Beacon GreenTeens to learn about local food systems, and harvested fruits and vegetables from the community garden in Beacon. 


“I personally feel that what our ESI campers achieved during our one week summer program by far exceeded any of my initial expectations,” said Jeanette Lynch, science teacher at Rombout Middle School. “Having this amazing opportunity to collaboratively work with the Beacon Institute and Clarkson University to create an open-ended inquiry based weeklong science program and see firsthand what my students were able to accomplish using the TEAM based approach has me convinced that this is what science education should look like in our classrooms moving forward.”


Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, New York, Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.