Greetings MBRP PAC, colleagues, family, and friends,
Happy start of the summer! What a year! In my 20+ years of teaching I have not felt as much joy and satisfaction teaching as I did this year. Sure, the year had its challenges but on the whole it was a good year with many successes and a wonderful group of scholars! This year they were my heroines and heroes!
General: This last school year was a transition year back to in-person learning and adjusting to the fall-out of COVID. Our scholars needed a little extra support dealing with academics and adjusting to a new social/global context. (So did we, the adults, if I’m being honest.) The latter had on the balance a positive outcome, whereas the former was more of a challenge. Although students were eager to return and learn, I noticed that some of our seniors struggled with the more intense parts of the research process. Extra time was needed for most assignments that involved producing reports and analyzing data. Despite these obstacles, most of our scholars were able to complete their final projects and the ones who didn’t still put up a good fight to get to the finish line!
Engaging Students in Learning: We were able to accomplish this by scaffolding the research process carefully. This involved breaking up the research process into various stages that students would perform. The initial phases of research included: learning sampling techniques and writing down procedures before doing field work; compiling field data and digitizing them; looking at the data and beginning to ask questions about patterns they observed; performing a literature review and reading background information; starting to put together a presentation of their literature review; and then processing the data to graph. The next phase involved assessing the scholars’ work thus far: students were evaluated using assessment in instruction from three research rubrics borrowed from SUNY Albany’s UHS Research Program and the New York Science and Engineering Fair; they also peer reviewed numerous times in order to assess themselves and improve their performance; they could then refine their presentations and add new elements to their research based on the feedback from these numerous, varied and rigorous assessments. The final stage involved project results: after another peer reviewed session, students proceeded to add analyses and conclusions to their work, and then defend their projects before their peers and the instructor. This scaffolding process allowed for them to take intellectual risks as evidenced by the numerous and unique questions that were asked based off of our data set. In spite of using the same data set, working interdependently, and investigating a single research topic, no two students had the same project! Never in my entire teaching career have I seen students better prepared or more confident to present as they were this year. The high level of respect and rapport we had with each other, and the degree of accountability we held each other to, created the atmosphere needed to stand in front of an audience and speak impactfully for 5 -15 minutes. The peer review process also helped generate trust for each other (i.e. we always started our feedback celebrating a positive quality and then moved on to constructive criticism). Lastly, my questioning and discussion techniques help students dig deeper into their research while also creating an environment of exploration and excellence. My best classes are those in which students are challenging each other based on the same questioning and discussion techniques which they learned during class. I would have to say that despite the challenges of returning to in-person learning after a year and a half, and continued COVID disruptions, this was one of my most highly effective years as a teacher!
Senior accomplishments: 100% of our seniors passed the written final exam; over 1000 hours of internship hours were worked for the Hudson River Foundation – a school CTE high for the year; 14 of our 20 seniors received the CTE endorsement on their diploma; and many of our seniors received college credit in natural resources management, oceanography, and research. This year’s valedictorian and salutatorian were from our program as has mostly been the case for the last several years. Below I share their presentations and publicly available data on plankton, microplastics, oyster restoration, and Randall’s Island fish monitoring:
Junior accomplishments: Our juniors had a really busy year. From managing two major plankton-microplastics excursions aboard the Indy 7 to maintaining 6 major recirculating aquaculture systems, to managing and digitizing data, getting certified in lab and chemical safety, interning for the Hudson River Foundation, and perfecting their job seeking skills with a mock interview and resume building sessions offered by our wonderful parents Koko and Nan Richardson, they didn’t skip a beat. Below I share their culminating projects:
Sophomore accomplishments: Our sophomores were able to complete much-needed Social Emotional Learning modules on EverFi, an online education company that we’ve partnered with for several years now. Next, they were able to sample plankton and microplastics using the Beta-bottle and Sedgewick-Rafter Cell technique. After that, they learned data management and processing techniques while beginning to formulate an interdependent project. In between this step and presenting their projects using the MBRP’s proven Project Management process, they were able to begin training and sampling for physical-chemical properties of the NY Harbor.
SEALs after school program: Our SEALs scholars were very high-achieving this year. They successfully completed their project to recover marine debris from the rip rap surrounding Governors Island. They also updated project stakeholders using social media; submitted project updates to our sponsor, ConEdison; uploaded their data to this website to make it publicly available; completed a final report of their findings; and submitted a new grant proposal for next year. Lastly, we created an exhibit with some of the debris we recovered which you can find outside of the school building by the lab. We’ll be working with NYU to further build out the exhibit in September. In case you’ve gotten this far in this blog post, you’d also be interested to know that the SEALs were almost 100% student led this year! I’m so proud of these scholar interns, I wish you could’ve been there to see their work. But happily they were showcased in a documentary and a newspaper article which you can view below.
Changes: As you may have noticed, we didn’t run a large marine science symposium this year. Instead, we had a smaller in class symposium where students presented their projects to each other and practiced those critical public speaking skills. The reasons for the change were 01) our students struggled with their academic and social emotional needs so taking off a layer of stress was crucial, and 02) we don’t have the necessary school supports in place to run it effectively without burnout on my part. We’re in the process of trying to get support from other science teachers or propose running a CTE-wide exposition to replace the symposium. Secondly, we didn’t offer college credit in science research this year. With too many students on the roster and a wide array of abilities & needs, something had to give. Unfortunately it was the independent research I so dearly love to do. However, as you may have gathered from the above descriptions, we’ve transitioned to interdependent projects. We’re now focusing on 3 topics by grade: physical-chemical analysis of the Harbor for 10th graders, plankton/microplastics monitoring for 11th graders; and biodiversity on settlement plates, traps, and benthic grab studies for our 12th graders. Once we collect our data, students in groups can ask questions about them and build out a project interdependently. This model has proven very successful this year!
Next steps: We’ll be applying for State re-certification in June 2023. We’ll be calling together a PAC meeting in January 2023 to discuss curriculum and internships. We’ll also be reaching out to some of you to renew articulation agreements. Please stay tuned for that important ask!
Growing and Developing Professionally: I have obtained an administrator’s license and plan in the future to move into a leadership role. Although exciting, I’m taking baby steps in order to balance out my health needs and this potential opportunity. The lead-up to this was a two-year post master’s degree in school and district leadership. My final project on workplace bullying was published in a peer-reviewed education journal and can be found below. It was only one of four papers published from the whole graduating class. Next, I was able to partner up with Rob Markuske to pull together a work group composed of students and staff to begin creating a vision for a future partnership between NYHS and the game-changing Center for Climate Solutions scheduled to open on Governors Island in the near future.
Thank you to our leader scholars for all their support with all aspects of the program! Aelish Mullaney, Marifer Sanchez-Gaspar, Maddie Novatt, Nick Pabotoy, Nick Dilella, Giovanni Nunez, Anna Sheehan, Jaylen Boyce, Julia Purrazzella, Sebastian Koko, Arlo Kane, Isaac Castillo, Nino Mazzola, Sara Guevara and the dozens of others in the MBRP. You’ve made this school year a wonderful one! Thank you to the parents, especially Koko and Nan Richardson, for their tireless support. Thank you to all the NYHS and MBRP parents for your donations, lab support, and words of encouragement throughout the year. Thank you to our internship partner, Jim Lodge from the Hudson River Foundation. Thank you to the office of Post-Secondary Readiness, Omari Gay, Florence Dennis, and the rest of the crew. Thank you to our many industry & post-secondary partners, and sponsor organizations who supported us this year: Marisa DeDominicis, Karen Holmberg, Rachael Miller, Joshua Crespo, Matthew Haiken, Zofia Baumann, Jackie Wu, Helene Hetrick, Mollie McGinnis, Melanie Smith, David Park, Billion Oyster Project, Con Edison, EverFi, Compliance Solutions, NOCTI, Earth Matter, Rozalia Project, Governors Island Trust, Hudson River Foundation, Randall’s Island Park Alliance, ESRI, SUNY Stony Brook, Bronx Community College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Manhattan College, Roger Williams University, UCONN, LES Ecology Center, NYC Department of Education – New York Harbor School, and all our PAC members. And last but not least, thank you to my wife and family for all your support.
The Harbor SEALs have been hard at work this season recovering marine debris from the rip rap surrounding Governor’s Island, NYC for the Hudson River Foundation. Student interns and volunteers from the New York Harbor School have been managing this project since September of 2021. The team is broken up into four work groups 01) Data Analysis, 02) Resource Recovery, 03) Communications, and 04) Water Quality. The team submitted a proposal to ConEdison and were awarded a grant to purchase the equipment necessary to safely scale the rip rap and recover NYC’s pervasive debris. Large garbage bags full of plastic bottles, boat line, dock Styrofoam, sports balls of all types, and mini alcohol bottles dot and span the rip rap. But by far the most interesting of findings have been a message in a bottle and a glamping tent.
After spending much of the Fall planning and writing the proposal, ordering materials, testing the safety equipment, and undergoing practicing trials, the SEALs began recovering debris in January. The Data Analysis group began defining categories of debris, creating data tables, and online forms. They then proceeded to classify the debris collected each sample day and weigh them by category. The Recovery team worked to perfect the methods for safely removing debris from underneath the rip rap and collected three geographically located quadrants to be able to determine the rate of debris replacement. Our communications team designed social media interfaces to disseminate our work products and reached out to our various stakeholders to coordinate field days. They also were in charge of writing the summary grant reports to ConEdison. Our Water Quality team began training in the measurement of Dissolved Oxygen in the sample site using the Modified Winkler Method. They also measured nutrients and other physical-chemical parameters. Finally, they began testing a drone with 3D deigned sampling devices to collect water samples from the Estuary.
View an article of them in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle here.
Million thanks to our partners and sponsors: Billion Oyster Project, Rozalia Project, Con Edison, Earth Matter, Governors Island Trust, Hudson River Foundation, LES Ecology Center, & NYC Department of Education – New York Harbor School.
above: Sophomores doing a last minute check before boarding at Pier 101
above: Sophomores sailing out to the data/specimen collection point
Marine Bio Junior Sebi Koko explains, “In the picture above you can see the sophomore students lowering beta bottles into the water, which are cylinders that sink to the depth you want in order to collect the water sample.”
Sebi continues, “In the picture above, some juniors are lowering a Neuston Net into the water. In the picture below, the net is capturing water particles just south of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Neuston Net is also called a Manta Tow, and you can see why as it resembles a Manta Ray swimming on the water’s surface.”
above: Just before the Senior’s boat trip,
Mauricio shows students how to
adjust a Flow Meter in the Marine Bio Lab.
Sebi explains more, “In the picture above,
seniors rinse down the net from the Manta Tow
to collect all material that was captured. Below,
seniors transfer material into a collection cup.
Later, back in our lab, we analyzed the samples
and found plankton, algae, detritus and
sadly, a lot of micro-plastics.”
Please help our students to be able to continue doing
exciting projects like this by donating at Cheddar Up
Every little bit helps! Thanks
Thanks to Principal Jeff
and all the parents that
attended our first Marine
Bio Parent’s Zoom Meeting
last month. It was nice to
meet and share. Our seniors
are busy with the college
application process right
now. Parents of juniors and
sophomores asked for
college info, as it is never
too soon to start planning.
We are including some links
below. Please share info
you have that our families
may be interested in.
You’re invited! On June 17, the New York Harbor School will be hosting its 10th Annual Marine Science Symposium through the digital cloud! Experience environmental science from our very own Marine Biology Research and Harbor SEALs scholars. Our honored keynote guests will be Dr. Kathleen Nolan, Chair of Biology at St. Francis College and Mr. Andrew Sommer, alumnus NYHS, class of 2015. Dr. Nolan and Mr. Sommer will share their personal and professional journey through the exciting world of scientific research. In addition, we will be honoring this year ’s NYC Terra ISEF Fair participant, Katherine Mumford, our post-secondary and industry partners, our MBRP symposium finalists, and our Manhattan Borough President, the Honorable Gale Brewer! Please take a moment to view our MBRP Class of 2021 websites.
The MBRP community would like to extend a warm thanks to our NYHS custodial staff, Mr. Benito Nunez, for assuming the oversight of the Marine Science lab for the complete year of the pandemic. Mr. Nunez has kept over 100 tilapia, various tropical freshwater and saltwater invertebrates, fish, reptiles, and amphibians alive and healthy! Benny – Thanks-a-million! The MBRP and the NYHS is tremendously fortunate to have you on the team!
Lastly, it’s with great grief that I inform you of the passing of marine restoration scientist and friend, Dr. Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, after an accident in her native Israel. We are most grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Perkol-Finkel over the last 10 years. Her legacy will live on as her company, Econcrete Co., continues to innovate and build biodiversity-attracting solutions into our coastal infrastructure. This symposium is dedicated to Dr. Perkol-Finkel.
If you’d like to participate as a judge during the fair, you may use this link.
Brought to you by our MBRP class of 2021 (and 2022) scholars.
Figure 02. Middle school Urban Vertical Agriculture Research Scholars planning the building of the NFT system. (Photo Credit: Mauricio Gonzalez)In 2003, Mauricio Gonzalez, founder and director of the Marine Biology Research Program presently at the New York Harbor School, was put in charge of a greenhouse that had just been built in the courtyard of the Frederick Douglass Academy (FDA), Harlem, NYC. Shortly before this, he had been running a small germination project in his classroom to teach his students the basics of experimentation and life science. Mauricio recounts spending his meager new-teacher paycheck on these materials while barely making the rent for the month.
Freshly out of college and with an appetite for innovation, he was hoping to be given the opportunity to run the greenhouse when he first caught glimpse of it during a tour of the school grounds. Mr. Hearn, then science chair at FDA, took notice of Mauricio’s passion for science and early success with an after school program called “Schwartz Science.” Over the span of 6 years, Mauricio’s students transformed the greenhouse and courtyard into a thriving Urban Vertical Agriculture Research Program, yearly producing basil, lettuce, tomatoes, and tilapia. The techniques used to grow these vegetables and fish were novel for New York City at the time. Hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics were new words for most. Mauricio realized that the science of hydroponics made for a great middle through high school inquiry-based curriculum.
His middle school students built intricate recirculating systems called “NFT” which stands for Nutrient Film technique; A-Frame structures; and recirculating aquaculture systems. They soon began experimenting with all kinds of novel designs and presenting them at yearly science fairs. Curious visitors from all over NYC came to visit: small scale urban gardeners to the mayor himself, Bloomberg. They all came to see our young team of budding urban scientists carefully weighing and mixing their nutrient chemicals and adjusting pH using acids, bases, and professional grade sensors.
Not content with just working in the greenhouse, his students tuned their gaze outside and built a beautiful elevated garden in the courtyard equipped with a wrap-around, fully automatic irrigation system. Projects like these gave rise to the idea of engaging young minds with real-world service learning projects. Mauricio also realized that given the right space and time, all students could find a way to succeed. With these successes came offers to build gardens around Harlem and nursing homes as part of a service learning grant from Purdue University. What started off as a small classroom experiment turned into a thriving laboratory of plant science and student inquiry. Mr. Hearn later recounted that “putting Mr. Gonzalez at the helm of the greenhouse was the best decision he had made at FDA.” To see more images of our students at work click here. Our next post will showcase the marine science and air quality work undertaken by these scholars to address problems outside the school itself.
These projects were made possible by the generous support of our sponsors, Mr. Robert Schwartz, The Hayden Foundation, Purdue University’s EPICS engineering grant, and Cabbage Hill Farm.
Civic Scientist Environmental Monitoring of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary