Members of the Outdoor Education Club at South Woods Middle...

Members of the Outdoor Education Club at South Woods Middle School in Syosset take a geocaching hike at nearby Stillwell Woods Preserve. Credit: Syosset School District

Many local students are swapping their books for boots to learn about Long Island’s ecosystems: The great outdoors is their classroom, in settings such as streams, salt marshes and woodlands.

In Massapequa, high school students in the Advanced Placement environmental science course wore waterproof pants as they collected water samples and cast fishing nets to study oxygen levels and marine life in Massapequa Creek. The effort was part of the school’s inaugural involvement in Brookhaven National Laboratory’s “A Day in the Life” program.

“It’s unique on Long Island to have this,” Massapequa science teacher Thomas Dempsey said of the program. “It gives [students] a lot of real-life exposure to how science is done, and it puts them in touch with professionals in the field.”

Students at Valley Stream Memorial Junior High School conducted DNA identification in conjunction with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center after collecting biodiversity samples from salt marshes at North Woodmere Park. They also compared the salinity of a freshwater stream that empties into Hewlett Bay to the stream behind Central High School.

In Syosset, South Woods Middle School’s Outdoor Education Club mixed nature and technology by geocaching during a 1.5-mile hike in nearby Stillwell Woods Preserve. Geocaching is a treasure-hunting activity in which GPS navigation is used to find hidden items.

Second-graders at Park Avenue Elementary School in North Bellmore roamed the school’s garden with pencils and sketchbooks to draw natural objects, including flowers, vegetables and butterflies.

“The students enjoy an array of activities in the garden such as read-alouds, writer’s workshops and drawing,” Park Avenue Principal Eileen Speidel said. “It also gives them an understanding as to where food comes from.”


New junior high principal

Bret Strauss is the new principal of Valley Stream Memorial Junior High School. He replaced Anthony Mignella, who now is assistant superintendent for instruction in Baldwin.

Strauss served as the school’s assistant principal for five years. Previously, he held various positions since 2002 at Valley Stream Central High School, including business teacher, dean and head of career and technical education.


Young Scholars of Mathematics

Eighty-five students have been named Long Island Young Scholars of Mathematics for the 2016-17 school year by the Institute of Creative Problem Solving for Gifted and Talented Students at SUNY Old Westbury. Selection means a pupil is in the top one-tenth of 1 percent of math students in their grade Islandwide.

Students chosen from Nassau County districts are: Hugh Cheung, Bellmore-Merrick; Soham Maiti, Bethpage; Sayed Imran Ali and Justin Wong, East Williston; Aidan Wu, Garden City; Heather Cai, Danielle Gruber, Ryan Wong and Madeline Yang, all of Great Neck; Aadithyaa Balasubramanian, Derek Chen, Ashley Lam and Pranati Patnam, all of Herricks; Hiral Chavre, Hewlett-Woodmere; Ohm Patel, Napreet Singh and Eric Zhang, all of Hicksville; Rebecca Cho, Emily Jiang, Hong Yi Li, Riya Patel, Darshini Podder, Devika Rajeev, Jain Sparsh, Judy Zhou and Kevin Zhu, all of Jericho; Maya Arengo and Uma Arengo, Long Beach; Sidhanth Khatoria, Manhasset; Jeremiah Florestal, Ankita Patel, Anushka Patel and Alvin Tsai, all of Mineola; Simrit Kaur and Yucheng Ren, New Hyde Park-Garden City Park; Noah Lee, North Shore; Anoop Krishnadas, Oceanside; Princeton Huang, Plainview-Old Bethpage; Solomon Graf, Katie Kors and Maansi Shroff, all of Port Washington; Darius Fan, Amanda Huang, Alex Larson, Yvette Sol, Andrew Zhang and Cheryl Zhang, all of Syosset; and Lucy Wu, Valley Stream. Callum Smith of Elmont, who attends Notre Dame School in Manhattan, also was selected.

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