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Making connections from the classroom to the world around them, Woodhull fifth grade students continued their sixth-year tradition of assessing the health of the Great South Bay. This was part of the “Day in the Life” Long Island citizen science initiative which was fashioned after a program called The Day in the Life of the Hudson River. The Long Island adaptation, began 11 years ago with six schools studying the Carmans River. It’s been expanding ever since, now including Fire Island and the Great South Bay in 2017.
While Woodhull students were gathering data at a small private community known as the Summer Club, Bay Shore Middle School students were stationed at the lighthouse and Longwood Middle School students were at Smith Point Park. All of the students were focused on the same mission: to gather essential data on the physical and chemical characteristics of the Great South Bay.
Spearheaded by classroom teacher Gaby Donovan and Eastern Suffolk BOCES Model Schools Technology coach Deborah Gerken, all of the participating students were well-prepared for the tasks at hand. Students were required to test for pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrates and phosphorous. In addition, students conducted biodiversity inventories through a series of seining activities. They also analyzed sediment cores to ascertain for the presence of other materials such as clay, bivalve shells and macroinvertebrates. Pete Topping, executive director and baykeeper with the Peconic Baykeeper and his colleague Alexa Annunziata, director of outreach for the Peconic Baykeeper, both volunteered their time and expertise to ensure all of the data being cataloged was validated.
It was all hands-on deck as newly appointed Woodhull Superintendent/Principal Travis Davey jumped to assist in logging aquatic life. “I am grateful to our teachers for providing this hands-on learning experience to our students here on Fire Island,” he said. “With our school in such a unique setting, immersing our students in environmental education helps further their understanding that the beaches and waterways in our backyard are more than recreational destinations but also sensitive ecosystems that will be theirs to help preserve now and into the future.”
For the first time this year, students used a technology resource known as ArcGIS (Aeronautical Reconnaissance Coverage Geographic Information Systems). An add-on known as Survey 123 was installed on iPads allowing students to collect data while on site, accurately logging their location, time and temperature in addition to chemical testing results and aquatic inventories. To ensure accuracy, all of the information is stored in draft form so students could conduct math calculations back in the stillness of a classroom setting. When all of the final computations were made, the data was submitted directly from the iPad to reside on a cloud storage system where it was automatically saved in an excel file like framework. In the years to come, as more data is added, students can easily analyze the information for possible anomalies.
This project is particularly significant in the view of the fact that in April, Long Island received $33 million in funding to clean up the bays and waterways.
The entire program is coordinated by the Central Pine Barrens Commission, The Suffolk County Water Authority, Brookhaven National Lab and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Since all of these students live on Fire Island, the significance of maintaining a healthy bay is vital. These are students that speak the language of the ocean and for them, it is far more important than an outdoor education day, it is their home.
Date Added: 10/18/2022
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