“Improving Water Literacy and Education of the Mohawk River Watershed through Art, Science and Community Engagement,” is a community-based project consisting of three parts: artistic research/exhibition, development of a new community-engaged course and a pedagogical study on the course itself. The “Art and Science of the Mohawk River” is an interdisciplinary field course in art and ecology on the Mohawk that is currently being developed as a capstone course in the Environment and Sustainability (E&S) major for Spring 2024. This course was inspired by (and partly funded by) NY Water Resource Institute’s “Action Agenda Goals” to improve the lives and water quality of New York’s watershed systems including the Mohawk River Watershed Basin. Some goals folded into this course include:
- Improve the understanding of social barriers to aquatic restoration; develop tools to inform decision-making processes in communities and improve outreach and communication practices utilized by resource managers.
- Explore the benefits of and ways of knowing about riparian systems from multiple perspectives, including Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and develop approaches to better communicate those systems.
- Identify how equity concerns intersect with flooding and adaptation.
- Engage with students, communities and statewide stakeholders to increase water literacy in NY.
- Understand how field experiences improve classroom learning and change student attitudes and behavior towards the environment.
Roughly 20 juniors and seniors from various concentrations within the E&S major will apply their education to this problem-based, community-engaged course in Mohawk River communities using methods in the arts. During the first portion of the course, students will learn about the Mohawk through extensive research, guest lectures and field trips. We will then team up with the Onondaga Environmental Institute whose mission is to advance environmental research education, planning and restoration. Specifically, we will be working with their education and outreach coordinator, Amy Samuels and middle school students from Whitesboro and New York Mills on the local Sauquoit creek, a tributary of the Mohawk. Students will engage in monitoring stream health, restoration and study the impacts of climate change. Working in groups, they will create art installations that critically reflect on the resulting community work and will be exhibited at local venues along the Mohawk and in Ithaca that will be free and open to the public. The exhibitions will be curated by an incoming graduate student and TA for the class with the help of participating undergrads. Students will be invited to participate in the Youth Climate Summit and conferences on the Mohawk River Basin as well as programing from the New York Water Resource Institute. The purpose of this project is to provide an opportunity for E&S students to bring their education and experiences to these community members while helping to progress real government-based agenda goals that improve the health of our local watersheds and the people who live there through practices in art, science and engagement.