Rivers On the Go!
Exploring the Bronx and Harlem Rivers
What: A STEAM-based environmental educational program
Who: Pre-K to 3rd grade students and their teachers, families, and caregivers
When: September-October/April-June (school visits) and year-round for public festivals
Where: Bronx schools and public festivals throughout the Bronx
Funders: Con Edison; NYC Department of Cultural Affairs; NYC City Council Bronx Delegation; NYC Council Members Vanessa Gibson, Annabel Palma, and Ritchie Torres; NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; New York Yankee Foundation; Ronald McDonald House Charities, Inc.; Rose M. Badgeley Residuary Charitable Trust; Simon Bolivar Foundation; and the Tortuga Foundation.
Goals: Participants in the Rivers On the Go! program will:
Understand that the Bronx River and Harlem River are located in their neighborhood and are accessible by public transportation
Be able to identify flora and fauna found at the rivers
Understand the connection between animals and their environment
Be able to talk about (or draw) ways in which they can protect and preserve the rivers
Want to go visit the rivers with their family or school
Program Description: Rivers On the Go! is housed in the museum’s eye-catching purple bus called Museum-On-the Go. The exhibit described below is part of a comprehensive educational environmental program aligned with the core standards including beautiful educator resources and a suitcase exhibit. The program is used to teach children about water, rivers and bridges and the flora and fauna that live at both rivers. Annually, the bus makes approximately 20 visits to schools and over 25 visits to festivals, parades, shelters, and community organizations. More than 30,000 people have visited the bus!
On the bus, Museum guides engage small groups of children in a journey exploring the rivers' fauna and flora and the High Bridge. The program and the exhibit is designed to inspire and teach children to connect with nature, learn about the natural resources in the Bronx and to become stewards of the environment.
Rivers On the Go! was the Museum’s first mobile program, and still continues to be our most popular program today. Originally piloted in 2011, the exhibit focused first on the Bronx River and its flora and fauna before being remodeled to encompass the Harlem River and the High Bridge. The ROG! program is a testament to the type of Bronx-centric programming the Museum hopes to offer in its soon-to-open permanent facility. Despite being a “museum without walls,” the Rivers On the Go! program has allowed us to reach over 47,000 visitors since 2011.
The Bronx River is the only fresh water river in New York City. After years of heavy polluting, the river has finally been restored to a manageable state that allows Bronxites to use it recreationally for canoeing, fishing, and wildlife viewing. The ongoing conservation and stewardship of the area has led to increased plant and wildlife along the river, including the re-emergence of beavers, which were previously extinct in New York City for nearly two hundred years.
The Harlem River is an estuary and is used mostly for commerce. In addition to its other twelve bridges, the Harlem River also has the oldest standing bridge in New York City called the High Bridge, which spans the river from the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx to Washington Heights in Manhattan. The High Bridge is a former aqueduct and pedestrian bridge. It was built and used to bring fresh water to NYC in 1848, but was closed in the 1970s until its recent renovation in June 2015.
The Rivers on the Go! exhibit comes with grade-appropriate literature, lesson plans, Fun Fact Cards, posters, maps, and more. Museum staff members meet with principals and teachers before the visit to share information about the Museum and the Rivers On the Go! program, and discuss the best ways to prepare students for a visit. There is an assessment component, too.
During a school visit, classes are divided into three smaller groups and children and their teachers spend 60-90 minutes rotating through three 20-30 minute Museum activities:
A hands-on experience with our suitcase exhibit, a collection of interactive specimens related to the rivers;
An assessment drawing;
An interactive, guided visit of the bus
Once inside the bus, students are asked to imagine where they are while listening to the sounds of water, birds chirping, and beavers flapping their tails. Museum Guides share the journey of water with students while they explore what a river habitat is. Within the exhibit students can investigate and identify native animals such as beavers, skunks, red-tailed hawks and more. Students are encouraged to explore with flashlights and magnifying glasses and locate animals along the river and in the water as well.
Before students exit the bus, they share with one Museum Guide what they found the most interesting part of the exhibit. During this same time, another Museum Guide secretly distributes trash on one area of the exhibit. Museum guides ask children to identify what changed in the river and ask them how they can work together to keep the river clean. As students exit the bus they work together to clean up the river and begin the process of becoming stewards of their environment.
Before and after groups of students visit the exhibit in the bus, they explore the Rivers On the Go! Suitcase Exhibit with other Museum Guides. The Suitcase holds literature, puppets, puzzles, animal pelts, scientific artifacts and more. Teachers are encouraged to continue the Rivers On the Go! program, even after the Museum leaves by creating dioramas, murals, making bridges ― you name it. The Museum also gives teachers a Teacher Resource Packet with many activity ideas that are carefully aligned to the Core Standards.
The Rivers On the Go! bus travels to approximately 25 public events every year, mostly during the spring and summer months. At these events, which are held in public parks, libraries, community centers, and schoolyards, Museum Guides offer visitors an interactive experience on the bus before engaging them in a corresponding art activity and/or Suitcase Exhibit. At public festivals, children of all ages are encouraged to participate with their families, friends, and caregivers.
When the bus is unavailable to participate at a public event, Museum Educators attend and provide hands-on art activities or experiences related to the Rivers On the Go! exhibit such creating Animal Habitat Collages, River Animal Puppets, or group murals.
To learn more about Rivers On the Go! or to request a visit, please contact Nicole Wallace, STEAM Program Manager.
“Many thanks to you and your team’s participation in the first Christ Church Riverdale’s Earth Ministry sponsored Community Energy Fair. The message your organization spreads on the appreciation of the environment through the Bronx River Bus is so invaluable to our youth and adults. Also the children loved creating of puppets. We appreciate your organization bringing the A team and they provided their “all” to add to the success of the event.”
–Roberta Todd, Christ Church Riverdale
“Thank you so much for bringing the "purple bus" to Marble Hill. It was a wonderful adventure for the children, and they were very excited about sharing what they learned with their parents!” –Karen Worchel, Director of Marble Hill Nursery School
"Rivers On the Go!" is a great program. Students enjoyed going into the bus and seeing all the animals found in the river. Students were very excited to know that they are in walking distance to the river thanks to the hands-on experiences."
-Ms. Polo, 3rd Grade Teacher at P.S. 28
“The children enjoyed the interactive elements of the program. The pre/post assessment is a great way to motivate and assess student learning. The students were engaged, both asking/answering questions. They enjoyed the hands-on elements and visuals.”
–Stephanie Sanabria, Kindergarten Teacher at P.S. 481