The Ward Melville Heritage Organization has created a virtual bridge across the Long Island Sound for students on both sides of the waterway.
On Tuesday, June 1, WMHO unveiled Long Island Sound Connections, its new STEM and conservation program at the Erwin J. Ernst Marine Conservation Center on Trustees Road by West Meadow Creek. Students from Selden and Bridgeport, Connecticut, participated from their classrooms via Zoom, while WMHO trustees members and grant donors looked on from the center. Dr. Robert Park from the Fullwood Foundation, one of the donors, also joined virtually.
Students from Selden Middle School in Michelle Miller’s sixth-grade science class and Julianne Biagioli’s seventh-grade science class in the Bridgeport school district discussed their studies in the June 1 presentation. The students were able to show how urban and suburban communities have contrasting situations, where the Selden students have the 88-acre preserved wetlands of West Meadow Creek only miles away from them, and the Bridgeport students live in a city where former wetlands were developed decades ago.
The organization’s virtual, cooperative learning is led by Deborah Boudreau, WMHO’s director of education.
“It’s an opportunity for students to research their local Long Island ecosystems, and share what they learned about those ecosystems to learn how we can best preserve all the animals and plants that depend on these ecosystems,” Boudreau said.
She told the students during the June 1 class that the teachers wanted to hear from them as much as possible.
“I want to say that this program is very much about the students and your data and your research and your ideas,” she said. “You are the future of our wetlands. You are the ones that are going to carry that forward.”
During the presentation, students compared findings about the wetlands as well as species that would normally be found in waterways including lobsters and horseshoe crabs, which Bridgeport students found recently in mudflats.
Naturalist and environmentalist Patricia Paladines, from Setauket, was on hand to provide a presentation on horseshoe crabs for the students. She found one in West Meadow Creek June 1 that was injured and explained it would heal. Paladines told students, while holding the crab for them to see, that a lot of people are afraid of its long tail, but it doesn’t sting.
“A lot of people are afraid of them because they have this long tail here, which is called a telson, but it’s not to hurt you — it’s not to protect itself, it’s a rudder,” she said, adding that the tail was moving at the time because the crab wanted to turn over from its back to being right-side up.
The program will continue throughout the month with various schools participating where they will compare and contrast data such as water salinization, marine species inventory and more.
Gloria Rocchio, WMHO president, said the program was made possible by grants from the Fullwood Foundation, Investors Foundation and Teachers Federal Credit Union.