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Second Annual Billion Oyster Project Research Symposium Celebrates Another Fantastic Year of Student Research!

By Heather Flanagan
June 27, 2016
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Students from Mott Hall IV with their BOP Symposium original research posters.

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Students from M.S. 88 with visual representations of their oysters’ growth.

Student-driven research, a scavenger hunt of Governors Island, oyster tastings, a keynote from renowned author and environmentalist Paul Greenberg, and an original musical called Salty Folk– the second Annual BOP Research Symposium on June 10th had it all!  The culminating event of the school year for students participating in the NSF-funded BOP Curriculum and Community Enterprise for Restoration Science (BOP-CCERS), the Symposium was an amazing experience for all of us at BOP and for the hundreds of students, teachers, scientists, and partners who joined us.  168 teachers and their students at 56 schools all over the city have spent the past year engaging in hands-on, authentic restoration education through in-class lessons and visits to their Oyster Restoration Stations (ORS).  The annual Symposium is their opportunity to develop and present original research and celebrate their hard work and commitment to environmental stewardship.

Teachers, students, and scientists arrived on Governors Island off the 10am ferry and gathered for a giant icebreaker on Fort Jay field, splitting off into groups and competing to answer oyster trivia delivered via megaphone by BOP Schools and Citizen Science Program Manager Sam Janis:

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Schools then split up to set up their tables and poster presentations in the historic Admiral’s House.  The poster presentations were an incredible testament to the students’ engagement with restoration science and their connection to New York Harbor- click a school’s name below to view their projects, or click here to view all of them on the BOP-CCERS Tumblr.

Central Park II

M.S. 88

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P.S. 126

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Mott Hall IV

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M.S. 266

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Hunter’s Point Community Middle School

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M.S. 324

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P.S. 94K

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M.S. 188

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I.S. 141

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International School for Liberal Arts

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Some awesome scientists and New York Harbor School students stopped by to present as well!  (Click the links to see all of the photos on the Tumblr.)

In addition to visiting the Symposium, schools rotated through scavenger hunt locations like Fort Jay, the BOP Public Exhibit House, the shell pile, BOP’s eco-dock at Pier 101, and lunch that included freshly shucked oysters.

In the afternoon, students headed to a big tent by the water to listen to a keynote address from Paul Greenberg and a performance of the one-act oyster musical Salty Folk by Superhero Clubhouse.

 

Paul is the James Beard Award winning author of Four Fish and American Catch (check out his TED Talk, “The four fish we’re overeating- and what to eat instead”).  

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Paul Greenberg, left, with Sam Janis

He opened by telling the students that being a fisherman makes you think about “what was, what is, and what can be.”  He pointed to environmental restoration progress from the past few decades: the 600 million gallons of raw sewage that used to flow into the nation’s waterways every day have been stopped by the Clean Water Act, over 30 populations of fish have been rebuilt, and New York City recently passed the plastic bag tax.  He encouraged the students to keep up their stewardship of aquatic life, brimming with enthusiasm: “‘What can be’ is all of you guys- there is tremendous hope and work in the ocean to be done.  Who’s gonna do it?  You guys!  90% of our seafood is from other countries, but we have the most ocean.  Who’s going to fix that?  You guys!  30% of fish are ground up as food for other fish.  Who’s going to fix that?  You guys!”  He closed by telling the students, to a huge round of applause, “Your generation can change the world!”

The final event of the day was the eagerly anticipated performance of Salty Folk!  

Poster for Salty Folk, via Superhero Clubhouse: http://www.superheroclubhouse.org/salty-folk

Salty Folk logo from http://www.superheroclubhouse.org/salty-folk/

It tells the story of a young oyster who, “[f]resh from the hatchery…attempts to combat a storm and the resulting sewage that threatens to destroy her community and the life of the harbor.”  

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The young oyster is sent out on her restoration mission by a scientist named “Henrietta Hudson,” the great-great-great-great-great-great (and so on)…granddaughter of Henry Hudson, and we learn about the history of New York Harbor from before the explorer’s arrival to present day through song.

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The audience then learned about the key players in the harbor’s water quality, from “a poop of good intentions” (if scatalogical humor helps students understand complex civil engineering issues like Combined Sewer Overflows, we’re all for it!) to the sewers to storms to humans.  Next, the audience was transported to the ecological “paradise” of New York City at the time of Henry Hudson’s arrival, before overharvesting and pollution decimated the local oyster populations.

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Inspired by visions of oyster reefs, the musical ends with the young oyster encouraging the other oysters in her reef to team up and start filtering water again to face the storm, making way for new organisms to show up at the reef.

We’re so glad the BOP-CCERS students and community came out to share research and celebrate our project!  We look forward to continuing to work together over the coming year to build the curriculum and community enterprise we call BOP, and most importantly, to support more and more outstanding student-led restoration research in and around New York Harbor!  Thanks again to the students, teachers, scientists, and partners for all their help and diverse contributions to a very successful Second Annual Billion Oyster Project Research Symposium!

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Interested in reading more about BOP-CCERS and how we’re bringing hands-on restoration science to classrooms all over the city?  Sign up for our newsletter and click here to read all BOP-CCERS posts!