Each year, students in the ninth grade works with the rangers from the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to study ecological systems. At the end of the semester, the top projects are presented at the refuge for school officials and parents.
But due to the federal government shutdown, dozens of students lost the opportunity to present their findings at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center this year.
Last week, several MELS classes traveled to Jamaica Bay to protest the government shutdown and highlight the impact it has had on their education.
“We studied ecology and the impact humans can have on it, and in global history we studied a specific human impact that we’re passionate about,” said Kristen Puran. “In English we wrote an essay putting all of our findings and ideas together, and went to Jamaica Bay to choose a topic. It took a lot of time and work.”
Puran and her partner were two of 30 students who were originally chosen to present their project at the Visitors Center.
Teacher Pareses Hankerson said the students planned the event for two weeks before they realized it wasn’t going to take place due to the shutdown.
“We’ve been working on our projects since November, and we have dedicated our hard work into making these projects the best we can,” said Puran. “We were getting the opportunity to come back here to present and show off our work to others.”
Several students presented their work during last week's protest. Their presentations included ways to eliminate plastic from the ocean and the importance of recycling.
“This shutdown didn’t only shut down national parks, but also shut down our chance to spread light on the ignorance towards environmental issues to a larger community outside of MELS,” said student Hannah Clarke.
“During this process, we learned about our environment thanks to our work and studies at Jamaica Bay and getting the opportunity to talk about the issues with the larger community would not have only impacted our school community, but others who may not have been aware of the issues,” Puran added.
Students also recognized the rangers, who lost wages since the shutdown, but more importantly, weren't there to watch over the wildlife refuge.
“The rangers have done so much for the bay,” one student said.