They’re exploring the mystique of Coney Island Creek.
Neighborhood middle school students gathered at Kaiser Park overlooking the inlet on July 18 to learn about marine ecology up close and personal with the Coastal Classrooms program.
Program instructors collect live samples from the creek and teach students all about mud snails, hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, shrimp, blue fish, striped bass, and Atlantic silversides, as well as their habitat.
“We teach middle school students how to connect with the waterfront in New York City,” said Luis Gonzalez, the program manager for Coastal Classrooms, which is run by the City Parks Foundation. “They are learning marine science in a very hands-on way.”
The sea-life seminar coincided with Coney Island’s celebration of City of Water Day, a project of the Waterfront Alliance to promote and protect the city’s coastal areas. A group of local volunteers known as the Coney Island Beautification Project organized the local event at Kaiser Park aimed at informing neighborhood residents about the area’s waterfront.
“We wanted to educate the kids and the homeowners in the neighborhood about protecting the peninsula,” said the group’s president, Pamela Pettyjohn.
Brooklyn Botanical Garden personnel helped plant a new garden in the waterfront park, historian Charles Denson of the Coney Island History Project gave tours of the area, and the National Parks Conservation Association provided fishing gear for people to use.
Coastal Classrooms also joined in the larger oceanic occasion, encouraging the nearly 200 aquatic admirers who turned out for the City of Water Day event to interact with the local marine life on display in the group’s touch tanks. Pettyjohn said the hands-on experience was just what she was hoping for.
“We are surrounded by water in this city but sometimes, with all the promenades, we can’t touch it,” Pettyjohn said. “We just want people to experience it.”