A poster by Jazline Rodriguez, 9, a student at Drexel Avenue...

A poster by Jazline Rodriguez, 9, a student at Drexel Avenue Elementary School in Westbury, was made into a sign that's now displayed on the shoreline of Sunken Meadow State Park with the artwork of other students. It's part of a program Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center in Oyster Bay hosts annually that teaches students about protecting shorebirds. Credit: Rick Kopstein

The eggs of the piping plover, a small, sand-colored shorebird that makes its shallow nest along the coastline, face an array of danger in places like Sunken Meadow State Park: Unleashed pets, people trampling them and predators swooping in for food. 

A group of Long Island fourth graders wants to tell you what you can do about the problem.

Students at Drexel Avenue Elementary School in Westbury recently crafted posters educating beach visitors about how to help protect shorebirds like the piping plover — an endangered species in New York.

The artwork is part of a program Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center in Oyster Bay hosts annually.

Posters that 11 students from the Westbury school created were made into signs that were installed in two areas at Sunken Meadow State Park. 

The signs share three main messages with passersby: Stay out of string-fenced areas where shorebirds lay eggs, keep dogs off beaches and clean up trash that attracts predators to the eggs.

Erica Albert, the center's coastal outreach technician, said Landing Elementary School and Connolly Elementary School, both in Glen Cove, and James H. Vernon School in East Norwich also took part in the curriculum that culminates with the facility selecting a handful of handmade posters for public display. 

Besides Sunken Meadow, signs from the program also are located at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook and Centre Island and Stehli beaches in Bayville, according to Albert.

Students from Drexel Avenue Elementary School in Westbury display posters...

Students from Drexel Avenue Elementary School in Westbury display posters they created as part of a program focused on protecting shorebirds. From left are twins Alexander Inniss and Isaac Inniss, 10, Valentina Kuan, 9, Tatiana Higgs, 9, and Jazline Rodriguez, 9. Credit: Rick Kopstein

She said the program is important to fostering students' empathy for wildlife. Before designing posters, students take part in interactive activities, like pretending to be a piping plover as it deals with pollution and storms on the way to its nest.

By performing those activities, students are able to “bridge the gap between conservation and caring for creatures that are not ourselves,” Albert said. 

The hands-on learning approach of the program and the students' ability to see their work in places they visit “gives them a voice and it gives them an opportunity to see that their words and their art have power,” said Echele May, principal of Drexel Avenue Elementary School.

For her poster, Drexel student Jazline Rodriguez, 9, designed a colorful beach scene with the words “Protect our shorebirds” written in English and Spanish. She said during a Newsday interview at her school with some of the program's participating students that she hoped the artwork would help people “see the beauty in the birds” and strive to protect them. 

Alexander and Isaac Inniss, 10-year-old twins who attend Drexel, used rhymes on their posters. With bright colors, Alexander drew the slogan “Give birds space, watch your pace” and focused his artwork on the common tern, a bird that is a threatened species in New York.

Issac, whose poster said “Do your best, protect a nest,” said he was excited both he and his twin were selected to have their work displayed at Sunken Meadow. 

“It meant a lot,” he added. “I was so surprised.”

Drexel student Tatiana Higgs, 9, said she wants her work — with “Protect the plover” in pink lettering alongside the shorebird — to be part of the effort to keep other shorebirds from joining the state's endangered list. 

“I think some people could look at the poster and try to help them,” she said.

Protecting Shorebirds

  • Drexel Avenue Elementary School in Westbury is one of four schools involved in a Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center program.
  • It's aimed at teaching students about protecting shorebirds.
  • Some of the students' posters were turned into signs that are displayed along Long Island shorelines.
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