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Sandy becomes teachable moment at Alley Pond

High school students from northeast Queens study field biology at Alley Pond Environmental Center in Douglaston. Photo courtesy Alley Pond
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Hurricane Sandy has remained a sensitive subject for New Yorkers across the city, including in Queens, but at Douglaston’s Alley Pond Environmental Center, the historic storm has become a topic of education and looking forward for the borough’s youth.

The environmental center has taken its student visits and incorporated lessons on climate change into present-day examples, where Hurricane Sandy brings the effects of climate change to the forefront, APEC Educator Kimesha Reid-Grant said.

Reid-Grant said groups of high school students from all around northeast Queens have visited the environmental center since Sandy made her way through the borough at the end of October. With each visit, the educator said she could not avoid discussing the importance of wetlands.

“Our wetlands [surrounding the APEC property] helped to save us because without them, we would have had more flooding in our area,” Reid-Grant said. “We did have the water rise, but a lot of it was absorbed by the wetlands, so we did not see any flooding.”

In the aftermath of the storm, Alley Pond Park fared well with very minimal damage, according to Dr. Aline Euler, education director at APEC.

“We held up well,” Euler said. “Though we did see some damage to the park, we were lucky.”

After a summer of record-breaking warmth, Euler said educators throughout the environmental center were already in the habit of conveying the concepts of climate change to students during their visits.

Reid-Grant said though the APEC building off Northern Boulevard survived Sandy’s wrath, the severe storm brought about serious discussions about sustainability-in-the-class visits. In referring to other historic storms in recent years, like 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, Reid-Grant said she could prove her point to the students by showing how New Orleans suffered serious flooding because of dilapidated wetlands.

Beyond environmental lessons, students at APEC could see the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy by simply surveying the landscape at the Douglaston center, Reid-Grant said.

“When we walk into the park and they see the trees on the ground, it brings it home that this was a really strong storm,” Reid-Grant said. “It shows the relationship between human and actions and what is happening to us. We end up talking about more severe storms in places like this and it helps reiterate the point that there is climate change and there is something happening.”

But that does not scare her students away, the educator said.

“I still have not gotten the impression that they are afraid,” Reid-Grant said. “They believe it is good to know what this is and want to figure out what we can do. That is what we teach them — ‘Here’s what’s happening and here’s what we can do to mitigate it.’”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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