Connecting youth with nature on Long Island
It was the fourth week of Barrens to Bay summer camp here at Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley, NY. The summer camp is a partnership between the Central Pine Barrens Commission and the refuge to provide environmental education and interpretive opportunities to youth. The campers learn about the Pine Barrens, how a national refuge works, all about tree species on the refuge, biodiversity, and a little about the Carmans River that flows through the refuge. There are six weeks of camp, and each week brings in a new bunch of adorable kids. This week we had 12 campers who were all great listeners and eager to learn about their local wildlife and environment on Long Island.
My favorite day of the week is when we teach the campers about the Carmans River. As soon as all the campers arrive, I lead them over to the other side of the river. After the campers eat their snacks, they get to go on a dock and dip net to find little critters and macro invertebrates that dwell in the Carmans. The students dig around in the muck and get their hands dirty, while another counselor and I go seining with a big giant net to see what other creatures live in the water. What kid doesn’t like that?
I help the campers identify the tiny creatures they get. This week the students found a couple of crabs, lots of macro invertebrates like dragonfly larva and scuds, aquatic insects, tons of tiny fish, and 13 American eels! After we let these marine animals back into the river, we teach the campers about what they found, like how an American eel migrates from the Sargasso Sea all the way to Long Island. They also learn about the water cycle and the importance of wetlands as an ecosystem.
I love this day because the campers are always eager to explore the river, and I enjoy watching them get excited over catching an eel or even a small dragonfly larva. It’s great to see the students learn more about their local river and have fun doing it. This is where the inspiration of conservation starts, and I’m glad to be apart of it.