Justine McClellan – a high school science teacher and pioneer in the development of the district’s work on the Bronx River – has been honored by the Bronx River Alliance with the Ripple Effect Award in recognition of her exceptional leadership and initiative to engage her community with the Bronx River.
McClellan played a key role in advising two high school students as part of an independent-study research project on the Bronx River five years ago. Since then, the independent research has turned into a yearlong Bronx River Research course with a growing number of students each year. In addition, the district has incorporated the research into the K-12 curriculum through a variety of classes and disciplines. The Bronxville School Foundation has generously supported the program since its inception by providing funding for the students’ research work.
“Justine has expanded opportunities for students across the district to do meaningful scientific research on a local level that involves community action,” Principal Ann Meyer said. “She embodies the idea of the ‘ripple effect,’ as the award she received from the Bronx River Alliance is so aptly named. We now have students in kindergarten through 12th grade engaging in an investigation of the health of the Bronx River, and these students are making recommendations that have resulted in meaningful change that will lead to a healthier watershed.”
In addition to implementing curriculum as part of her Bronx River Research course that specifically collaborated with the Bronx River Alliance in Project WASTE (Waterway And Street Trash Elimination), McClellan facilitated volunteer research efforts with her students. They collected litter along an 800-meter stretch of Parkway and Palmer Avenues in Bronxville and also along the Hartsdale train station.
“After the students collected the litter, it was brought back to the classroom and weighed, sorted and tallied to better understand the main source of litter in our community,” McClellan said. “We also counted storm drains, evaluated garbage and recycling cans in the area, and measured car and pedestrian traffic. “
Project WASTE addresses floatable trash, one of the three major water-quality issues on the Bronx River, and aims to find the sources to stop trash from entering the river. McClellan and her students organized the data they collected and shared it with the Bronx River Alliance to further assist them with their efforts.
The Bronx River Alliance presented McClellan with the award on Dec. 13 in recognition of her volunteer efforts and for designing and implementing new curriculum on the Bronx River that is leading to the inspiration of new student projects this year.
“I was deeply touched to receive this award from the Bronx River Alliance,” McClellan said. “We have a true collaboration in which the Bronx River Alliance supports student research, and our data collected in turn is informing the organization and helping them with their mission of restoring a healthy ecosystem. It is so great that our students have an authentic audience in this organization and in the Bronxville community, and that their data will be used to empower decisions on the local level.”