Islip High School  
Living Environment Classes Host Pine Barrens Expert

During the week of October 29th 2007, Islip High School’s ninth grade Living Environment classes played host to Ms. Melissa Griffiths of the Central Pine Barrens Commission.   Ms. Griffiths’ visit was made possible through a collaboration of Islip High School and Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Open Space Stewardship Program (OSSP).  It is a goal of both OSSP and the Central Pine Barrens Commission to involve students in the care of the open spaces around them.  To increase awareness, and to gather quantitative as well as qualitative data regarding theses spaces, students are trained in data collection and reporting methods.  Islip High School teachers Staci Diminich and Kelly Mackey went through a training course this summer at BNL, and were pleased to welcome Ms. Griffiths into their classrooms.

Ms. Griffiths began the week with a lecture about the incredible Biodiversity found in Islip, focusing on the threats made to it by development, invasive species, and pollution.  This topic dovetails one of the major components of the New York State Living Environment Curriculum: “Man’s Impact on the Environment”. Ms. Griffiths’ expertise and attention to the specific areas of Pardees Pond and Orowac Lake on the school campus provided students with relevant and observable references.

Later in the week, Ms. Griffiths led the students on a walking survey of Pardees Pond.  Native and invasive species were identified: Pardess Pond has a healthy stand of Cat Tails, a native plant that has become threatened by the invasive Phragmites reed; a wide array of native trees; some invasive vines; and a diverse population of water fowl (an American Coot as well as a Grieb were spotted). Students gathered leaf packs they had sunk weeks ago, and brought them back to the classroom for further observation.  The overall water quality of Pardees Pond was determined to be “good”, judging from the species of macro invertebrates the students identified.

Some potential problems were identified.  There are two black top gutters that drain from the campus parking lot directly into the pond, as well as some highly invasive plant species.  In the future, Mrs. Mackey and Mrs. Diminich would like to have students address these concerns through more elaborate projects.  A new science elective proposed for next year will focus on the concepts and applications of Open Space Stewardship.