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Fellow Profile: Jack Wasylyk

By admin
November 20, 2015

School:

M.S. 88 is a three-year, Title I School-wide (6-8) middle school located in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. We are a comprehensive middle school divided into small learning communities of lifelong learners who will experience success by receiving personalized attention that remains beyond the scope of traditional schools.

We have created an environment that allows all students to respect themselves and their abilities. Our aim is to give all students the necessary emotional and academic support to build their self-esteem by setting high expectations that will lead to a sense of personal responsibility. M.S. 88 is strategically aligned with major universities, along with public and private companies to support teacher development and enrich the learning experiences of our students.

Where is your Restoration Station Located?

Ikea Waterfront, Erie Basin, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Grade & subject you teach:

6th and 7th Grade ESL

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In which of your classes are you implementing BOP curriculum and restoration field science? What does this look like?

I am teaching the BOP curriculum to two 6th grade classes this year. An assortment of 7th and 8th graders remain involved from previous years and will be accompanying us on the monitoring expeditions.

Background:

When I was eleven years old, my parents suggested that I volunteer on the Sloop Clearwater. That summer I became part of her small but passionate crew as we took school groups out sailing around New York Harbor on the traditional wooden sailing vessel. The students got to see the city from a totally new vantage point, and we taught them about the rich history and ecology of New York Harbor and the Hudson River. I didn’t realize the implications of this experience at the time, but the Clearwater started my life on a trajectory that continues today. That experience sparked the primary passions of my life, both professionally and personally, for this was my first taste of both teaching and sailing, as well as my first real introduction to New York City. These are now the most constant elements of my life, and it is through the Billion Oyster Project that they have found a way to fully converge. IMG_1625.JPG

Have your classes had a field trip to The River Project’s BOP display and lab? If so, please tell us about your experience.

We visited The River Project last year on a trip during our school’s Integrated Projects Week, a time dedicated to project based learning that we devoted entirely to the Billion Oyster Project. It was great for the students and teachers alike to go through the process of water quality monitoring and learn about the anatomy of oysters from real experts.

What are your students getting out of this experience? (Or what do you hope your students will get out of this experience?)

Since we were given a cage of oysters to care for at Ikea in Brooklyn several years ago, my colleagues and I were determined to get our students down there, to make them aware of the oysters’ history, involved in the potential restocking, and to really get kids’ hands in the water, on the oysters. This project, working to change the future of their harbor, was perfect for our middle school students. Nurturing life in the water would contradict their isolation from the waters surrounding their city.

Would you like to share a short anecdote or highlights relating to BOP or any field science experiences with your classes?  

Our school’s involvement in the BOP was featured in an excellent and thorough article, “Consider the Oyster” on Bklynr.com

Anything else you’d like to share that is relevant to the BOP CCE-RS project and your Fellowship?

The effect of this project on our students has been immediate. Kids who lived within a mile of the water had never spent any time there, and their curiosity immediately awakened at the sight of the waterfront. After passing through an industrial area, they were surprised and delighted to pull cages out of the water and observe the bustling marine life. At the waterfront, we taught the ecological problems facing New York Harbor, and the student engagement soared. We have continued these afterschool trips, usually one per month, and the repeated question ‘When is the next oyster trip?’ has become a reliable refrain in the weeks between visits. The new crop of 6th grade oyster caretakers have proven themselves every bit as curious and enthusiastic as their slightly older predecessors. They are learning to collect empirical data first, and analyze it second. They have learned to root for the oysters while still respecting their predators. Students normally uncomfortable using academic language were quickly able to use advanced biological terms confidently and correctly.

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