Environmental habitat restoration and inquiry-based learning with New York City public schools—an urban model in STEM education

  • Lauren BirneyEmail author
  • John Cronin


The tension between academic rigor and real-world relevance is a long-standing struggle in the world of education. Never has that tension been greater than the present day, when metrics about student academic success and pressure about career preparation are each the subject of increased scrutiny. STEM education straddles this debate, demanding an equal measure of both rigor and relevance. Therein lies its unique challenge. Beyond the familiar vocabulary of job training, linked learning, and twenty-first century skills, STEM teachers must create a combined learning experience that has no precedent in education. In addition to improving student proficiency in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, they must deliver the real-world component of the STEM curriculum, often a daunting task. Here, the authors maintain that American waterways, near which the vast majority of the U.S. population lives, are ideal STEM classrooms that can fulfill the interdisciplinary and experiential goals of STEM while helping schools rediscover the larger environmental community. The authors present their experience with the Curriculum and Community Enterprise for New York Harbor Restoration in New York City Public Schools (CCERS), a program of student education and teacher training through direct participation in the planning and physical implementation of oyster restoration in New York Harbor. They argue that if STEM’s promise is that society will reap the benefits of a future job force and future innovation, community professionals such as scientists, engineers, policy makers, and more have a duty to participate as volunteer adjuncts to help implement such programs in local school systems, particularly in underserved communities.


Environmental restoration Citizen science Habitat science STEM education Inquiry-based learning Community partnerships 



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Copyright information

© AESS 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pace UniversityNew YorkUSA

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