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“There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather, Just Bad Clothes!”

By Heather Flanagan
November 7, 2016
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BOP Curriculum Specialist Ann Fraioli, her son Theo, and BOP-CCERS Program Manager Sam Janis tough it out in the rain on an oyster monitoring field expedition in Red Hook’s Erie Basin Park with young scientists from M.S. 88. in Brooklyn.

The BOP-CCERS Fellowship at Pace is a two‐year professional development program that trains teachers to engage their students in hands‐on environmental STEM and restoration ecology in New York Harbor. The Fellowship is open to NYC Department of Education middle school teachers working in Title I funded schools.  We’re currently accepting applications to join our third cohort of BOP-CCERS Teacher Fellows- click here to learn more and apply

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Ann Fraioli shows off a blackfish that hitched a ride to shore on M.S. 88’s Oyster Restoration Station.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes!” is a quote tossed around the BOP community pretty frequently, but students from M.S. 88, P.S. 371, and Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies (M.S. 448) proved they really believe it on a rainy Friday at Red Hook’s Erie Basin Park this October.  If you want to feel hopeful about the future of New York Harbor and New York’s urban ecosystem, watch these students doggedly measure oysters, conduct water quality tests, and collect data in the midst of a downpour.  These middle and high school students (and their teachers!) are a force to be reckoned with- they’re enthusiastic, committed, and they’re a fantastic example of how authentic field work engages students and invests them in their own learning, no matter the conditions!

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Erie Basin was once a historically significant marine complex- the cranes mark the former location of the Todd Shipyard’s dry dock, now an Ikea parking lot. Erie Basin Park was opened in 2008, creating public access to the waterfront.

In the gallery below, you can see students from M.S. 88 record site conditions and prepare a bin of harbor water to protect the marine organisms in their Oyster Restoration Station (ORS) during the monitoring process while their teachers, BOP Fellows Michael Seymour and Andy Zimmermann, retrieve the ORS.  We met some of these students earlier this year when we visited their classroom where they were researching water quality parameters for some of the creatures they might find in the mobile trap of their ORS.  It was great to see them putting that knowledge into action throughout the day as they made sure to treat the marine organisms they discovered with care and respect, transferring the crabs and fish they found in the mobile trap into an aerated tub of harbor water.

Meanwhile, students from P.S. 371 also recorded site conditions and conducted water quality testing under the enthusiastic guidance of their teacher, BOP Fellow Emily Chandler.  Emily was fantastic at improvising under the potentially challenging conditions- with two other schools working nearby, she figured out ways to share the space, organized her students so that each group had a student who took ownership of sheltering the data sheets from rain, and she found a tiny brightly lit spot- the cart return area of the Ikea parking garage- to help facilitate her students’ data collection.  She also extended the protocols by having students test salinity using an additional tool- a refractometer in addition to the standard hydrometer.  By teaching only one student how to use the refractometer, she created an opportunity for the students to teach and learn from each other.  It was a great example of how teachers can make little tweaks to the ORS monitoring experience to make it a new adventure that teaches new skills each time.

By the time I caught up with Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, including BOP Fellow William Leou and co-teacher Abby Raihan, they’d already set up operations under the shelter of the Ikea parking garage, and the students were eager to tell me what they’d found.  Although they were new to BOP and had only spent three class periods working on the program so far, the students drew from prior knowledge, incorporating what they’d learned about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park’s ecology to their study of oysters.  Three students in particular were excited to report their findings and theories about the possible impact of mud crab predation, making observations and inferences like, “We found a crab inside a shell, so we think it’s living there or eating the oyster,” “Maybe the crab population is coming back because the oyster population is coming back,” and “Maybe there’s a disruption in the ecosystem.”  They were also actively engaged in their water quality testing, with one student excited to explain to me how he’d tested pH.

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We’re so impressed by the students from M.S. 88, P.S. 371, and Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, and we can’t wait to see what they do for this year’s Billion Oyster Project Annual Research Symposium!  Keep checking back on the BOP blog and the BOP-CCERS Tumblr for more updates on their work, or sign up here for the BOP-CCERS newsletter!