On a brilliant October morning,  a class of 27 fourth graders, working in groups of three, was building an aquifer. They were shaping layers of sand, gravel and clay into cups and carefully adding water from a spray bottle to each layer, observing how water was absorbed (or not) at each level. The previous week our groundwater model had arrived – with a crack in it! Educator Karen Mossey nimbly substituted the construct-an-aquifer lesson for a demonstration of the model.

In Karen’s capable hands, diagnosis our water education program is currently reaching fourth and fifth graders at St. Patrick School in Huntington and James H. Vernon and St. Dominic Schools in Oyster Bay. Through a series of interactive lessons both in the classroom and outdoors, these youngsters are learning about the aquifer their drinking water comes from, its connection to cherished streams, bays and Long Island Sound and how their activities can affect the quality and quantity of this precious resource. Other partners in the 2014/15 school year will include the Cold Spring Harbor School Districts; the final list of schools is still in formation.

Karen was hired in August to develop lessons and implement the program and she has hit the ground running. She served as both an outdoor educator for BOCES for four years and an elementary school teacher for the Massapequa School District for eight, so her experience is an ideal match for our program. Her warmth, enthusiasm and professionalism round out her qualifications – we can’t say enough great things about her!

Our 95 Shore Road (aka former ExxonMobil) property in Cold Spring Harbor was the location for the final St. Patrick program on October 28. 90 students visited to enhance their new understanding of how conservation and stewardship of our natural areas can help protect our water. Karen led the students in an exploration of the shoreline, where they learned about the plants and wildlife that depend on a healthy coastal community to thrive.  A favorite activity was investigating Asian Shore Crabs and observing seagulls’ attempts to devour them. In addition, each student took part in our grassland restoration by collecting soil samples (to measure pH and other parameters) and harvesting Switchgrass and Indiangrass seed that will be planted on the property in the future to augment existing populations. Students from the East Woods School also helped with soil sampling that day and planted grass seed they harvested on site.

We hope our students will become devoted stewards of Long Island’s waters. If the St. Patrick classes are any indication, Long Island’s water, under the stewardship of our students, will be in good hands!

Many thanks to our volunteers and stewards who assisted on October 28 (and then some!): Lisa Francois, Eileen Rossi, Eric Himelfarb, Joel Shaw, Rich Kopsco and Hiromi Uzu. Thanks also to our school partners, our generous donor and especially to our volunteer Anne Codey who, with Eileen Rossi, helped shape the program.