Leaf Packs Pulled from Pardees Pond

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Fifth-graders in the district’s EXCEL program for the academically gifted returned to Pardees Pond on April 27 to extract previously placed leaf packs. The event served as a follow-up to their March field-test of remotely operated underwater vehicles they constructed with naturalist Brett Curlew, which provided a glimpse of the leaf packs under the water.

The packs were inserted in the pond, which adjoins the district’s middle school, as part of the Open Space Stewardship Program, an initiative run by Brookhaven National Laboratory that connects students with local land stewards and helps them learn about the scientific process by working with real-life data in the field. Through BNL, Islip has an ongoing relationship with the Seatuck Environmental Association. 

Noted scientist Peter Walsh, the educational director of Seatuck, guided students through the process of leaf pack extraction. Clad in waders, students gathered the packs and used dichotomous keys and microscopes to identify microorganisms and macroorganisms that are living in Pardees Pond. By identifying the organisms, which included an American eel as well as insect larvae and isopods, the students gained knowledge about the pond’s water quality.

“It is empowering for such young students to explore their natural world under the guidance of expert scientists,” said EXCEL director Julia Johnson. “This endeavor integrates outdoor and nature education with a hands-on and student-driven approach to learning. As these spectacular young scientists hovered over their macroinvertebrates, dichotomous key in hand, just itching to identify the organism in front of them, their excitement about learning was priceless.”