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LI students learn through nature

Massapequa High School's AP Environmental Science class, including

Massapequa High School's AP Environmental Science class, including students Tom Rubino, left, Jonathan Yahner and Anthony Matturro, and science teacher Thomas Dempsey, studied the stream in Massapequa Preserve. Credit: Massapequa School District

Long Island's parks and preserves are proving to be a valuable learning environment.

Many schools are educating children and teens about the natural world — and the importance of conserving it — by immersing them in everything from rivers to marshes.

In Massapequa, the high school's AP Environmental Science students recently conducted chemical tests of the water, documented tree and plant life, and performed biological samplings of fish and invertebrates at the 423-acre Massapequa Preserve. The effort was part of A Day in the Life, a program sponsored by the Central Pine Barrens Commission, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

"They're getting an understanding of the ecology of the area and the importance of the preserve," said Massapequa science teacher Thomas Dempsey, who noted the analysis is an annual tradition with comparative data dating back 10 years.

In Kings Park, members of Sachem High School North's Science Honor Society took soil samples, seined for fish and evaluated surrounding land use at Sunken Meadow Creek, a tributary of the 8.3-mile Nissequogue River. Other schools completed similar tasks along the waterway and are sharing data to assess the entire river system's condition.

Students at Longwood High School in Yaphank collected and filtered water samples from Carmans River for a DNA bar-coding project at Southaven County Park. They ultimately determined the water quality is healthy and able to support the park's abundant biodiversity.

In Mastic Beach, William Floyd High School students studied bottom and surface water samples they collected aboard a bay constable's boat in Great South Bay.

"The bay, an aquatic ecosystem, is a rich learning laboratory," said William Floyd's AP Environmental Science teacher Dawna Cintron.


New principals

Sachem Central School District has three new principals: Catherine Dulovic at Lynwood Elementary School, Michael Saidens at Chippewa Elementary School, and Elizabeth Tucci at Merrimac Elementary School.

Dulovic previously taught third grade at Lynwood and replaced Danielle DeLorenzo, who is now assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Harborfields School District.

Saidens was previously executive director for pupil and personnel services in the Locust Valley School District. He replaced Patricia Aubrey, who retired.

Tucci previously served as Sachem's assistant director for special education. She replaced Veronica DeCicco, who retired.


$35G fundraiser

Norman J. Levy Lakeside School raised more than $35,000 last month for the purchase of recess equipment through a PTA-sponsored Boosterthon that culminated with a Fun Run, which challenged classes to complete 35 or more laps on a track. To raise the funds, Lakeside students solicited pledges from family and friends.

The Boosterthon, which spanned eight days, also included daily character videos and fitness challenges, among other things.

"Lessons included teamwork, care, courage, grit and celebration while students saw how working together made a difference for the school," PTA co-president Melissa Warshaw said.


Vehicle winners

A video created by Southampton High School sophomores Ronan Brady and Wyatt Race about Hamptons Community Outreach was one of seven winners in an inaugural Defender Above & Beyond Service Awards, a competition coordinated by the vehicle manufacturer Land Rover.

Brady and Race's winning video outlined the nonprofit's efforts to assist community members in need and won the organization a Land Rover to help with the transportation of equipment and volunteers.

New York Marine Rescue Center in Riverhead was also a winner in the contest, which celebrated U.S.-based charitable organizations that make a positive impact in their communities.


Wellness centers

Valley Stream Central High School District recently unveiled new wellness centers at its three high schools in partnership with Northwell Health. The facilities were introduced through kickoff events that included such activities as yoga, relay races and wellness walks.

The centers, open Tuesdays from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., are intended to be a "safe space" where students can openly talk about mental health issues. Each center will offer counselors, psychologists and social workers.

"The pandemic has especially highlighted the importance of mental health and wellness for children," said Valley Stream Central Superintendent Wayne Loper.


Essay contest winners

Kayla Ross, a senior at Kings Park High School, and Noelle McIntosh, a sophomore at Sanford H. Calhoun High School in Merrick, have been named winners of an essay contest coordinated by Stony Brook University's Center for Italian Studies. They were each awarded $100.

This year's contest challenged students to select and read a book by an Italian-American author and report on what the author revealed about being an Italian-American.

Honorable-mention winners, who received $50, and their high schools were: Grace Notarstefano, Baldwin; Liam Miley, Sanford H. Calhoun; Giuliana Fusco, Herricks; and Benjamin Cohen and Giovanna Rende, Kings Park.


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