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Activity 1: Inwood Hill Park Ecological Study_Introduction

Activity Description

This activity introduces students to the basics of ecology and focuses on urban ecology.  It is a short preparation for students before going into the field for their first research experience.  We focus on Inwood Hill Park and the Manahatta project.  The activity begins with an introduction to urban ecology, then they watch a TED talk about the Manahatta project to learn how NYC has changed since humans have come here, and then read several articles about Inwood Hill Park for background information, and finally, students prepare field backpacks for their first trip.

Estimated Time of Activity

One week of classes (Five 45 minute classes)

Activity Objectives

Students will be able do the following as a result of the activity:

  1. Undestand the basic principles of ecology
  2. Define urban ecology and explain why it is important to study.
  3. Know the ecological history of Inwood Hill Park
  4. Know the names of ecological field research tools
  5. Use Soil Ph kits and materials to determine soil type and texture


Activity Prerequisites

Teacher needs to have ecological field equipment.  Teacher also needs to choose a park (if not Inwood Hill Park) and find relevant research on the park.

Activity Instructions

  1. On day one, have students take a preassessment to judge their background knowledge.  Have a discussion and make a concept map on the board about what they think ecology is.
  2. On day two, Give a powerpoint presentation on ecology and urban ecology.  Afterwards discuss the differences between traditional ecology and urban ecology
  3. On Day three, Watch the TED talk about Manahatta, and then have students read the article about the historical ecology of Inwood Hill park
  4. On day four, Introduce students to the field equipment.  Demonstrate how to use each tool.  Students pick teams and load backpacks
  5. On day 5, distribute the data collection sheet they will use for the fieldtrip, have students fill out student field notebooks, and go over logistics for field trip.



There are no real assignments during this activity.  There is a lot of discussion and teachers will need to gauge individual students as the class progresses.  Class participation should be a major part of the grade and teachers can begin to take this into account during the week.  Students will also be setting up lab notebooks.  The completeness and quality of student lab notebooks are a major assignment collected at the end of the unit.


Instructor’s Notes

This is designed specifically for NYC and Inwood Hill Park, but you can design it for any urban area or parkland your students have access to.