JFK Students Explore Ecology at Caumsett

Sixth-grade students and teachers at JFK Middle School in the Bethpage Union Free School District took a trip to the BOCES Outdoor Environmental Center at Caumsett State Park to learn about pond and forest ecology. Caumsett's pond was the perfect site for studying a freshwater ecosystem. Led by a BOCES naturalist and a Bethpage teacher, each group of students explored the different zones of the pond as well as the producers, herbivores, omnivores, carnivores, scavengers, and decomposers pertaining to it. From there, they discussed some of the organisms' niches and the roles they play in their environment. The students gathered samples from the pond and used hand lenses to identify insect larvae, fish, and other organisms by using a dichotomous key. They discussed the overlapping ecosystems of land and water and the organisms found in both.

In Caumsett’s forest, the students learned about the microhabitats beneath their feet and discussed the natural ecological succession that took place in the forest over time. The students also compared and contrasted coniferous trees with deciduous trees. Adaptations were pointed out to show how some organisms acclimatize to survive in their habitats, and the students recognized symbiotic relationships, such as mutualism and parasitism, between organisms.

The Caumsett ecology lesson concluded with a discussion of food webs and food chains and the energy flow through these chains. The hands-on study also focused on the importance of the roles played by decomposers such as bacteria, fungi, and earthworms, and limiting factors in the natural environment such as drought, disease, and lack of food.

This hands-on experience provided a unique opportunity for students to explore their environment as part of their sixth-grade science curriculum.