For the past several weeks, Sea Cliff fifth graders have been studying environmental issues associated with Long Island’s waterways. During their time in enrichment class, students researched the effects of nitrogen on the Peconic River fish kill and met with members of Citizens Campaign to learn about protecting Long Island’s aquifer system. Students conducted experiments, analyzed data and discovered that fertilizers and sewage can increase nitrogen levels in Long Island’s waterways causing algal blooms, fish die offs, and contamination.
As an extension of this study, on Thursday, October 28th, the fifth graders joined 10th and 11th grade science students from North Shore High School to collaborate on an environmental field study at Tappen Beach. The day began at Sea Cliff School with an informative presentation by Eric Swenson of Hempstead Harbor Protection Coalition. Mr. Swenson shared his knowledge of Hempstead Harbor’s rich history as well as the environmental issues affecting the Harbor and current solutions to improve water quality.
At Tappen Beach, North Shore’s high school students skillfully organized a series of authentic, inquiry- based environmental investigations. They guided younger students on a nature walk to record the time of day, weather, and air and water temperatures.
Then, work began at Station 1 where students performed a test to compare the nitrogen levels of water from two different locations; Scudder’s Pond and Hempstead Harbor. The fifth graders discovered that Scudder’s Pond had a much higher nitrogen level than Hempstead Harbor and predicted it was due to the town’s rainwater runoff.
At the next station, students took part in a quadrat observation to identify biotic and abiotic factors. Closer to the shoreline, students observed living organisms like mussels, seaweed, and horse-shoe crabs and further away they noticed non-living objects like rocks and plastic pollution. High school group leaders engaged the 5th graders through extensive questioning and encouraged more detailed and descriptive observations. The day’s investigations concluded with students collecting trash and debris in an effort to preserve and protect the Tappen Beach ecosystem.
Mr. Zublionis said, “The work at the beach was terrific. Not only did the high school students act as engaged teachers but our grade 5 students were actively engaged for the entire time.”
This fantastic learning experience became a reality through the collaborative efforts of Mr. Menchel, Ms. Hogan, Ms. Pastuch and their 10th and 11th grade science students along with Mr. Zublionis, Ms. Smyth, Ms. Levy, Ms. Mishkin, Ms. Uanino and Mrs. Krupin. A special thank you to all faculty and staff that provided assistance to make the day’s events even better for our 5th grade students!
Article and photos by Ms. Krupin, SC Enrichment Teacher