Registered: December 2010
City/Town/Province: Port Washington
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I have been participating in classes at my local science museum, the Science Museum of Long Island, since age four. There, I have learned about the various ecosystems present here on Long Island and about basic science. It was there that I made my first paper mache volcano and lit it with baking soda and an Alka Seltzer tablet.
As I grew older, I began to frequent the Science Museum less often for its classes and more often to simply explore the property and traverse the nature trails. I am a Boy Scout, and nature is my second home. While I have hiked trails all across the United States, the Science Museum represents my first true experience with nature.
The main motivation for this project was my desire to allow others to share in this experience with me. It is now more important than ever that the current generation take the steps necessary to hasten global warming and learn how to use energy efficiently and economically. By seeing the serenity and calmness that one can experience by walking along a nature trail, I hope that community members and students at the museum will realize the valuable resource at our disposal that will deteriorate if we do not protect it.
I have a strong affinity for science and engineering. I wanted to combine these talents with my love for nature in a project that would give back to the Science Museum for all that I have learned there. Walking through all of the trails, I saw that the Leeds Pond Trail was in the most need of attention.
This trail borders a pond connected to the Long Island Sound. As this pond is tidal, the water level fluctuations cause large portions of the trail to be submerged under two feet of water during high tide. Other portions of the trail are barren. Refuse littered the entire trail – degrading the aesthetic appeal of the trail and bringing harm to the metabolic processes of native species on the trail.
For my project, I decided to add woodchips to cover the ground of the entire 1000 feet of trail, line the sides with tree boughs to prevent erosion, transplant native plant species to the area (mainly hostas) to encourage their growth and prevent the growth of invasive species (which are expanding throughout the property), build a seating area with a view of the pond to serve as an observation area and educational area, and finally build a series of wooden platforms to be placed in the 200 foot marshy area of the trail to serve as a boardwalk so the trail can be traversed even at high tide.
I was able to combine my science and engineering talents with my affinity for nature and desire to give back to the museum in performing this project. I do hope that it has fostered a love for nature and the environment in all who use the trail.
What exactly did you do, and how did you do it?
There were many steps involved in executing this project. I began planning in April, 2010 and completed the project in September, 2010. At the start, I drafted plans for my project and spent many hours surveying the trail itself. After taking measurements and making blueprints, I compiled a forty page project book and presented it to the museum administration. Continuing these meeting for several months, I made continuous revisions to the project book and finalized my plans for the seating area and boardwalk.
Next, I reached out to the community to gain volunteers for my project. I went to the local Boy Scout troop, the churches, high school, and placed signs around town. This was a successful endeavor and I was able to recruit forty volunteers for each of the four days of work with complete adult supervision for each day.
The hardest part of the project was ahead, securing donations of materials and foodstuffs. The project required three truckloads of woodchips, $500 worth of lumber, nails, and other construction equipment. Safety equipment was also necessary. I contacted 25 local organizations for these materials. I was able to obtain saw blades, paint, and other basic items from my local hardware stores. However, the lumber was difficult to obtain. While one lumber company did agree to allow me to buy the lumber at cost, this price was still far to high. After much negotiation, I was able to obtain the entire amount as a donation from the Home Depot. I am truly thankful for this great donation.
I followed a similar path to obtain food donations to feed the volunteers. All food materials came from local companies. I can happily say that not a single volunteer worked on an empty stomach, there was always more than enough food to go around. I later thanked each of these organizations through the local newspaper.
The project itself spanned four days and lasted for six hours each day. With the high turnout of volunteers, I was able to finish each day ahead of schedule and repair more trails than originally planned. To keep enthusiasm, I send e-mail messages out to the entire volunteer team at the end of each workday to update everyone on progress and thank specific individuals for their help.
Who benefited, and how?
Trails teach conservation by calling attention to both problems and solutions in managing natural resources through good conservation practices. Trails provide real examples of the interdependence between life and the environment. Trails offer opportunities for research through systematic observation and experimentation. They make it possible to introduce the study of nature and the environment in a graduated manner, with lessons for all grade levels. They can foster favorable attitudes toward nature and encourage informed interactions with nature through helping students understand ecological principals illustrated by natural examples. Nature trails help develop an aesthetic appreciation of our natural environment and a desire to protect it from carelessness and harm. Trails help develop recreational and attitudinal values through the study of nature. Trails open students to creative expression.
In addition to their great educational benefits, trails promote natural resource management strategies that ensure environmental preservation, quality of life and economic development. They provide a “buffer” between the built and natural environments, allow passive recreational use and educational access to protected areas, and increase the value of open space to the public by providing access. Cleaning up the trail has also provided a direct benefit to the ecosystem and wildlife. By removing the litter along the length of the trail, we were able to improve the aesthetic appeal of the trail to walkers, and reduce the harm to the metabolic processes of the fish and other aquatic creatures.
Trails assist with preserving important natural landscapes, providing necessary links between fragmented habitats and providing tremendous opportunities for protecting plant and animal species. By restoring this trail at the Science Museum of Long Island, I have been able to provide a safe and traversable path for the educators to educate their students and a path through which all members of the community can access the pond at Leeds Preserve. This project benefitted the community by protecting an area of land that has an amazing history. The trail is located in a residential area and is easily accessible by the public.
With the completion of this project, the museum now has a cleaner, safer, and more beautiful trail with increased functionality. 200 feet of marsh can now be traversed over boardwalks, and the seating area doubles as an instructional area. The forty volunteers have already used the trail multiple times, and museum staff has complimented its new beauty. I hope that staff and volunteers will continue the upkeep of the trail and complete similar projects for other trails across the museum property. I have continued to visit the trail and am doing my best to preserve its beauty.
What did you learn from your experience?
This experience truly allowed me to exercise the leadership skills I have learned throughout my schooling. While I have given speeches and led others in completing a task before, I have not had to execute a project from start to finish. I learned that an effective leader is able to gain the trust and following of his people. The volunteers must trust you and be loyal in order for your work to be done. In addition, it is necessary to have as clear a plan as possible – without constant delegation of activities and tasks, many volunteers would not be using their time effectively.
I found that it was important to make sure people take breaks, as breaks led to increased efficiency. However, breaks needed to be regulated. Another thing I noticed was that it was necessary to rotate jobs. People who were shoveling wood chips would rotate with someone who was pushing the wheelbarrow. Keeping enthusiasm and morale high led to more effective volunteers. I sent out e-mails to all of the volunteers at the end of each day to report on the progress of the project and thank the volunteers. This helped keep up enthusiasm and informed volunteers how to be prepared for the next workday.
Overall, I noticed that I was better prepared and able to manage my volunteers by the third day. This is mainly because I had prepared lists of volunteers and called to confirm who would be attending the night before. This way, I was able to make specific schedules as to what work needed to be done and who would take care of it.
My biggest feat came on the fourth day. At this point, the boardwalk was complete and the only construction work left was that required by the bench. I delegated four workers to this task and showed them the plans and materials. To my surprise, I was able to go to the clearing where the bench was to be installed three hours later and see a fully constructed bench. The group had taken my instructions and carried them out with no problem. I was proud of being able to effectively dictate what needed to be done and have a group successfully achieve the task.
I would tell other young people to carry out a similar project if there is something they truly care about that they can work to improve. My success in my project was my ability to combine effective leadership with a passion for nature and engineering. I was able to sit down and dedicate hundreds of hours to completing the task at hand because I had a strong desire to give back to the Science Museum.