From The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance Jamaica Bay: Three Blocks Away!

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Almost every school on the Rockaway peninsula has the luxury of being located next to a natural body of water.  These wild and active waterways are a rich resource in supporting science and service learning education.  The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance (RWA) helps to remind students of this aquatic opportunity with Living Classroom, a STEM educational program for grades Pre-K through 12th grade.  It is through this curriculum that RWA hopes to foster an appreciation for the natural environment, not only to encourage students to care for their local resources, but also to go outside and enjoy what these places have to offer.

This fall and winter, educator Heather Kramer is working closely with Service Learning teacher John Nolan at P.S. 104 in Bayswater.  It is here that the phrase “Jamaica Bay, three blocks away,” can be heard from Caitlin Mahoney’s, Anita Samarodi’s and Lisa Schwartz’s first- and second-grade classrooms as their students learn about their nearest body of water located right down the street, Jamaica Bay. 

Aligning with New York City’s Science Scope and Sequence goals to help students make sense of the physical world around them and understand the interdependence of living things, these first- and second-graders have been exploring the habitat of Jamaica Bay by following the food web. 

Each week, students are introduced to a new organism within this diverse ecosystem (plankton, mussels, horseshoe crabs, eelgrass and osprey, to name a few), after which they create a hands-on project emphasizing each organism’s role within the bay.  If students were to take their projects home each week and put them in their refrigerator, they’d have the necessary ingredients for a fully functional habitat.

The unit is wrapping up with each student designing their very own creature who could survive and thrive in the Jamaica Bay ecosystem.  After sharing their initial designs, they were able to paint their creatures onto cards. After scanning and printing all of the cards, each student receives a complete deck of all the creatures their fellow classmates created, along with an action figure that they make out of clay.  Hopefully through creating their own organism, inspired by the real life creatures of Jamaica Bay, they will strengthen their understanding of how the natural world functions around them.  Not to mention inspiring them to explore even more.

As the spring unfolds, these students, now familiar with the ingredients of a functioning ecosystem, are going to design their own habitat at P.S. 104 by building a pollinator garden.  Stay tuned!

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