Merrimack River Project

2016-2017 Update

Haverhill elementary teacher Germaine Koomen is expanding project work with her students into a second year of participation in Essex Heritage’s Park for Every Classroom program.  After exploring the region’s water systems last year, her students are now focused on finding out how their school and region use and create energy, historically and today.  They studied renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, open and closed circuits, and visited Covanta to see how some energy is generated from trash.  The students completed a scavenger hunt through the school building to look for forms of energy - motion, heat, light, sound.  They looked at their individual energy uses at home and at energy costs associated with importing foods rather than getting local foods.  Students also conducted an energy inventory of their classroom and studied the tress on the school campus to find out how they can reduce energy costs.  They discovered how the Merrimack River has been a regional energy source throughout history.   After completing all of this research, students wrote and performed theatrical productions about renewable energy, and decided to host an "Energy Carnival" for families and other students.  At the carnival, students created interactive “booths” to share what they had learned with their community.

2015-2016 Project

Haverhill 4th – 6th grade teacher Germaine Koomen helped her students understand how their community is intrinsically linked to the history, geography and culture of the Merrimack River through a series of cross-disciplinary field explorations and linked classroom-based activities. 

The entire class contributed to this mural over the course of several weeks.

Partnering with educators at Joppa Flats Audubon Center, Camp Bournedale Environmental Education Center, and Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Reserve, students developed an awareness of our watershed and learned what they could do to protect our water.  They dissected fish and interacted with tide pool creatures in the local food web, and studied the life of the Penacook Indians, as well as industrialization’s impacts on the river. They learned the vital role of salt marshes in carbon sequestration, as nurseries, and as protectors from flooding and filtration of toxic chemicals. Through this hands-on exploration, students gained an appreciation for the role of the river and Great Marsh on the local ecological and cultural landscape.


Armed with this new-found knowledge of and appreciation for the river, they conducted a survey of the student body that revealed a lack of awareness about the river’s impacts. They decided to address this need by conducting research and science projects to educate others at the school and their families.  They published a book about the animals they researched. As a culminating demonstration of their learning and service, they each chose a topic to examine and present to the student body on World Water Day. They also began to clear a path behind the school to create a nature trail so that the river can be seen.