A Break from the Formal Classroom

by Cameron Jenness

Each year when schools are on Easter/Passover vacation The WaterFront Center keeps science in the forefront of children’s minds through our Spring Break Science Week program. Offering morning, afternoon and full-day options for students’ kindergarten through fifth grade, we give students a “break” from the formal classroom and connect them in a different way to the water and their classroom.
Each day has a different theme and begins with a short classroom discussion. Then, everyone heads outside to explore the local habitats around Oyster Bay. Students began the week learning all about the differences between turtles and tortoises. We brought in a Russan Tortoise for the students to experience first-hand and see the difference for themselves.
On Wednesday, students went on a snail hunt and looked for Mud Snails at Beekman Beach and Periwinkles on the DEC Ramp area. Students used calipers to measure shell size and looked at population densities in relation to distance away from high tide.
Thursday was all about tides, the health of the harbor and learning about plankton living in our local waters. Fish Frenzy Friday was the last day of the session and students learned about different forms and functions of fish species and why fish look so different from species to species. Students went seining to find local schooling fish and tried their luck at Gyotaku, the art of fish printing using rubber fish we had created.
This is the fifth year we have offered a supplementary education program to students during spring break and this year was by far the strongest turnout. We look forward to next spring break as we welcome back students and continue their learning about the local environment. Throughout the week we demonstrated to all participants that learning about the marine environment and the world around them is not only fun and interesting but also essential.