NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Dozens of New York City teens are wading in the water this summer as students in a “Coastal Classroom.”
As CBS2’s Elise Finch reported, they’re getting out of their neighborhoods and into the city’s waterways to explore aquatic ecosystems.
Boating and fishing might not be the first things that come to mind when people think of Kaiser Park in Brooklyn, but that’s what the students have been doing there all summer long.
“Every day they have three different stations, plus trips and every week. And I find that awesome, because I would never be able to afford to do something like that on my own time,” Staten Island eighth grader Cassandra Feliciano said.
The Coastal Classroom is a free, five-week summer intensive that introduces children to New York City’s marine environment and maritime industry.
The students submitted their applications to the nonprofit City Parks Foundation in the spring, and the 40 that were chosen are spending most of the summer learning things like seining.
“There’s floaters at the top and waders at the bottom and it collects all the fish,” Brooklyn Mill Basin seventh grader Aidan Williams said. “When you bring it in, it allows you to collect all the fish and see all the new things that are there.”
“I was thinking, ‘Oh marine scientists probably have to go on long journeys just to do all their studying,’ but then I come to this camp and I realize we could just study right here in New York,” Dyker Heights seventh grader Ming Pei Li added.
For these students, their classroom is located at Kaiser Park – a few blocks away from the Coney Island boardwalk and with the Verrazano Bridge in the background.
Organizers say they try to recruit kids from less affluent neighborhoods to expose them to something different.
“We hope that they grow up knowing that this is here, that the ecosystem is thriving, that there are all these species that depend on these waters, and they learn to care for these kind of green spaces,” Luis Gonzalez, with City Parks Foundation, said.
The experiences they have and the lessons they learn in the coastal classroom aren’t just interesting, they’re life changing, Finch reported.
“I fell in love with the program and how I was able to be involved with the water and the ocean and there was just another life instead of just in the streets and everything like that,” East New York ninth grader Elijah Hunte said. “It changed me completely.”
Now Hunte is headed to the Urban Assembly New York Harbor Schools. He and many of his classmates in the unique summer school are on their way to becoming New York’s next generation of environmental stewards.
Online applications for the program are posted in March. There are also opportunities for paid internships for high school and college students.
Most of the program is funded by private donations.