OSSINING, N.Y. Pedro Montes De Oca and Alonzo McLemore traipsed along the nature trail behind Brookside School on Monday, pointing out invasive plants such as Japanese stilt grass and multiflora rose plants, as well as holes in the ground where salamanders live.
"I never knew about invasive plants. I thought they were all native," said Montes De Oca, 10, who is one of about 20 students in teacher Cynthia Bardwell's Summer Science Academy program.
The students, who live in Ossining and Briarcliff, are in the process of restoring three habitats by removing invasive plants and putting in native plants.
"Me too, McLemore, 10, said. This is the first time that I learned about invasive plants.
Montes De Oca, McLemore and their classmates tied red ribbons to "vote" for areas in the woods behind Brookside School Monday where they thought the class should restore native plants species.
After that, they returned to their classroom to work on two-minute "infomercials" on a particular invasive plant as part of a video training program supported by an in-kind grant from the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville.
"Kids don't have enough 'on ramps' into education," said Bardwell. "Whether it is nature or video or something else, kids need more ways to become engaged in learning."
Sixth and seventh graders tossed out environmental terms such as "vernal pools," and "invasive species" with ease, showing they had learned a lot from Bardwell's summer science camp. A vernal pool is a temporary pool of water where fish don't live that is a safe place for amphibians such as salamanders and frogs to develop.
"Phragmites is a tall grass that came from Europe in the 1800s," explained Ross Cober as he worked on a laptop computer preparing scripts for his infomercial.
Meanwhile, Montes De Oca and McLemore were out in the woods digging up a thorny multiflora rose plant to determine how hard it would be to remove the invasive plant from habitats the class wished to restore.
"It took me three minutes to remove this plant and even with gloves, a thorn went straight through and pricked me," McLemore said.
Based on that report, Bardwell told the students they may need better tools or machinery to remove invasive species.
"I'm gently guiding them but certainly not making all the decisions," Bardwell said. "These kids don't need answers anymore. They need problem solving skills."
Bardwell's summer camp program is funded by a grant from Ossining Matters, a non-profit education foundation.
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