Sparking an Interest in Science

By Jim Ferretti

Jim Kurtenbach from EPA demonstrates collection of stream water quality parameters.

Jim Kurtenbach from EPA demonstrates collection of stream water quality parameters.

In its 19th year, the Green Horizons Conference on Careers in Natural Resources and the Environment for Middle Schools is an annual event that introduces middle school students to careers in science. Green Horizons is part of the Environmental Education Advisory Council of New York City. The Green Horizons Conference is rotated among the five boroughs of New York City and includes environmentally diverse locations such as Central Park, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, New York Botanical Garden and Queens Botanical Garden. This year the event was held on October 16, 2014 at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Staten Island.

A total of 163 students from various middle schools throughout Staten Island had the opportunity to select two science disciplines from over 19 stations established throughout the Snug Harbor complex in areas ranging from land planning, composting, entomology, natural resource restoration, and plant propagation. There were over 50 professionals and educators involved in this year’s outdoor conference. Nancy Wolf from the Magnolia Tree Earth Center of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Inc. is the coordinator for this program and touts many benefits for the kids, but the overriding one is the opportunity to introduce young people to all of the different types of careers in science. All of the stations were geared towards hands-on demonstrations and applications of a diverse collection of science and natural resource topics.

EPA employees participated this year with a station on water quality and a stream insect community demonstration which included hands-on measurement of basic water quality parameters and the ability to identify aquatic insects (and an American eel) obtained from sampling a stream at Snug Harbor (eventually flows into the Kill Van Kull). The students were amazed at this complex ecosystem right below the rocks of a small wadeable stream.

About the Author: Jim Ferretti is a team leader for the Sanitary Chemistry and Biology Team for the Laboratory Branch in the EPA’s Division of Environmental Science and Assessment. He has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science from Rutgers University and a BS Degree in Water Analysis Technology from California University of PA. Jim has a diversified background in environmental studies and biological laboratory testing. He has been employed at the EPA since 1990, starting out in the water program in headquarters and moving to New Jersey in 1992.

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