Adapting to the Pandemic: Virtual Bus Tours

Adapting to the Pandemic: Virtual Bus Tours

This past year continued to present loggers, forest landowners and foresters in the NYC Watershed with unprecedented challenges. The Watershed Agricultural Council (WAC) Forestry Program adapted to meet these challenges with the help of our program participants.

Every school year, over 1,000 students from New York City boroughs and Watershed counties are brought into the Watershed to explore the farms and forests that keep their drinking water clean. These field trips include stopping at a reservoir and other outdoor educational experiences, like visiting Clearpool or Frost Valley Model Forest. During the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional bus tours came to a halt, so the WAC forestry team created virtual bus tours that allowed for social distancing and environmental education.

On all of the 40 virtual bus tours that were conducted, the WAC staff Zoomed into a class from two different locations in the Watershed; a reservoir and a forest. We talked to students about Watershed history and their drinking water supply from the reservoir, and then lead an activity or experiment from the woods. Activities focused on the relationship between forests and water quality, and were tailored to suit the needs and abilities of each class. These included erosion demonstrations, watershed models, water quality testing and more. To balance out our time on Zoom, we utilized digital spaces where students could ask questions and leave comments about the virtual tours. For some students, the trips were a way to get outside when they were otherwise told to stay home. One 6th grader from Staten Island wrote, “My favorite part of the trip was getting to see the beautiful water, trees and river. I love the nice scenery when I am stuck inside.”

Forestry Program Stats: 5,535 Acres Enrolled in 480a •• 45 Timber Harvests with BMPs •• 55 Forest Stewardship Projects on 420+ Acres •• 40 Virtual Bus Tours •• 21 Watershed Forestry Institute for Teachers Participants

Read more from the 2021 Annual Report here.