LIC summer camp puts girls up close to nature, science

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For many children, summer camp means playing ball or hiking through the woods on a sunny day, but for Green Girls, participants in a summer program for middle school girls through the City Parks Foundation’s Coastal Classroom, summer camp means seining the East River in Long Island City on a cloudy, drizzly day — and loving every minute of it.

“This is something that another summer camp won’t do,” said Kayla Andersen, 13.

On Friday, 30 Brooklyn girls took a trip to Hallet’s Cove in Long Island City as part of the Green Girls program. Under the eye of Dennis Bader, Coastal Classroom’s marine educator, the girls seined the water for organisms and performed chemical tests on the water.

“We’re learning about how our lives are connected to the organisms that we’re fishing here,” said Danielle Rolli, director of Green Girls.

She said this was one of many projects the Green Girls were doing as part of a three-week program focused on science, math and technology. Some of the other activities Green Girls have done this year are visiting Time Warner and learning how satellites work, seeing where New York City’s water comes from at the Ashokan Reservoir in upstate Ulster County and making jewelry out of recycled bike parts.

“It’s very hands-on,” Rolli said of the program. “It’s very active.”

To seine the water, the girls dressed in chest-high rubber waders. It took four girls — two holding each end of the large fishing net — to collect samples from the river. Some of the organisms they caught included snapper fish, comb jellies and rockweed seaweed. After they caught each organism, Bader would tell the girls a bit about it.

“It was fun,” said 12-year-old Genesis Martinez, “going in the water, catching fishes.”

The girls also tested the water in the East River. Rollins said they tested the pH of the water to make sure it was not too acidic, the dissolved oxygen to ensure the levels were high enough for fish and other animals to be able to breathe in the water, the nitrates and phosphates of the water to see how pollution had affected the water and the turbidity, or clarity, of the water.

Bader said the results were overall good, albeit positively affected by the high tide. The dissolved oxygen measured at 8 parts per million, slightly lower than the open ocean, which measures nine to 12 ppm. Nitrogen levels were zero and phosphate levels were 2 ppm. The pH measured at 7 — neither too acidic nor basic.

Rollins said the program teaches the girls responsibility and makes them excited about learning.

“They’re at the age where enthusiasm is hard to come by when it comes to anything educational,” Rollins said.

For 11-year-old Susan Nunez, it is working.

“It’s pretty fun,” Nunez said of the Green Girls program. “You can express yourself by doing a lot of adventure stuff.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4565.

Updated 6:28 pm, October 10, 2011
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