The Floating Classroom

Cambridge High School’s environmental science program is adding a floating classroom as part of its long-term study of local water resources.  The program was created by CCS teacher, Steve Butz, who has been developing the project as part of a long-term study that his environmental science students have been doing at nearby Hedges Lake.  Since 2003, Butz and his students have been monitoring the water quality of the local lake, once a month, throughout the school year.  This has provided CCS students with the opportunity to learn outdoor field techniques in environmental monitoring while also practicing real scientific research.  The long-term lake study has been supported with funding in part from the Hedges Lake Association.  Butz had been seeking additional grant funding to create the floating classroom over the past year.  His perseverance finally paid off when he received an environmental education grant from State Senators Betty Little and Kathy Marchione.

The goal of the Floating Classroom Project is to create a unique outdoor classroom for the monitoring of local water resources by Cambridge students studying the environmental sciences.  Students will be able to access local water resources including Hedges Lake, via a pontoon boat.  The boat will allow students to perform physical, chemical, and biological assessments of the water column, both at the surface and at different depths, along with exploration of the benthic (bottom) zone.  This will provide students the opportunity to perform real scientific research while in high school.  Their work is part of a long-term water quality monitoring project in the UHS Environmental Science course.  This course is a 4 credit college lab science course which is accredited by SUNY Adirondack.

The floating classroom consists of one 20 foot pontoon boat which is owned, operated, and maintained by the school.  The floating classroom will be used by students during the school year as part of the UHS Environmental Science course, and also during the summer as part of an enrichment program.  The boat will be on a trailer that can be transported by school vehicles to the various water resources. During the school year, it will bring students out onto Hedges Lake, a small local, private lake near the school.  Students taking that course will be able to perform deep water testing by accessing the lake via the pontoon boat.  The boat will allow students to utilize deep water monitoring equipment to explore the unique environment of Hedges Lake and how it compares to other lakes.  Butz and his students are interested in determining if Hedges lake is a unique type of lake classified as being a meromictic which has a permanent hypoxic (low oxygen) zone at the bottom.  This type of lake is very rare and is useful for the study of climate change, archaeology, and biology.  The use of a boat will allow students to explore the lake bottom environment with a remotely operated vehicle equipped with a camera and sampling equipment.