The annual Freshman Biology field trip has become a rite of passage for Central’s newest students. On Monday, October 3, Central’s budding biologists embarked on an interactive forest and pond ecology field trip under the guidance of Central’s Biology instructor, Mrs. Ruth Fried.
The trip took place outdoors at the Alley Pond Environmental Center in Oakland Gardens, and included a nature walk, some one-on-one time with live animals, and a hands-on water quality testing lab. There was a new, interdisciplinary dimension to this year’s walk: Mrs. Fried’s Biology class was joined by Mrs. Amy Katz of the History Department and Rabbi Joshua Strulowitz of the Judaic Studies Department. Mrs. Fried, Mrs. Katz, and Rabbi Strulowitz are collaborating on an interdisciplinary project in conjunction with Ti-Tech MIT, a national philanthropic organization that seeks to inspire project-based learning. This interdisciplinary experience, a learning collaboration between ninth-grade history, science, and Talmudic courses, was part of that initiative.
“We are focusing on building a common language for thoughtful student expression,” Mrs. Fried said. “Although this was originally built as a Biology trip,” Mrs. Katz added, “the students were able to take the knowledge they’ve been learning in history about the Neolithic Revolution and ancient civilizations to see how they could modify the environment to meet their needs in terms of food, shelter, and water.”
On their way home, all students were tasked with writing a personal reflection on the day, using the CER (Claim/Evidence/Reasoning) framework, a format they’ve been studying since their first day of school.
“The Alley Pond Environmental Center was incredibly interesting,” said freshman Sarah Leah Sullivan. “We learned about biodiversity and discussed taxonomy and the different interactions between organisms. It was very exciting when live animals were brought in so we could learn about their habitats and their roles in the ecosystem.”
Freshman Michal Heimowitz agreed: “I learned a lot about different animals and plants, and about testing water,” she said. “We tested the pond water and its phosphate, temperature, pH, and oxygen levels. I enjoyed the day very much, and I loved seeing the science that we learned in class come to life.”
Students also used the CER framework to address the trip in the context of their World History course. “Going to Alley Pond gave us a glimpse of what life was like for ancient people,” freshman Shalhevet Koenigsberg reflected. “The place was covered in trees, and we saw animals that ancient people would have hunted, like rabbits, and were told that there were animals like coyotes who had lived in similar habitats.”
The day’s chilly weather conditions actually helped students to imagine ancient conditions. “Even though it was a short walk, it was hard to do in the cold,” Shalhevet continued. “I can’t imagine the Paleolithic people having to make massive hikes in colder weather.”