Floating Classroom Teaches New York City Students About Sea Life – Wall Street Journal

Water sloshes aboard the CUNY 1 as students handle horseshoe crabs on a June 7 voyage.

Khadiza Rahman grew up a few miles from New York City’s Jamaica Bay but hadn’t heard of it until a recent class trip brought her out on the water—and a boat brought the bay right to her.

She and her classmates at P.S. 122 in Astoria, Queens, were aboard the R/V CUNY 1, a custom-made hybrid boat that has been turned into a classroom-on-the-sea for students.

Khadiza, 14 years old, learned about horseshoe crabs from an instructor. Some of the other students screamed as the crabs moved around a table that pumped bay water up on to the boat.

“They look like huge cockroaches,” said Mohammed Nassar, 14.

Students walk toward the CUNY 1, a custom-made hybrid boat that has been used for research trips and by CUNY classes.

The boat took off from Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn and traveled to Jamaica Bay, a body of water located on the southern side of Brooklyn and Queens. The eighth-grade students from P.S. 122’s living-environment class were the second to take a trip on the boat through a program funded by New York City Councilman Costa Constantinides, the chairman of the council’s environmental protection committee.

Mr. Constantinides, a Democrat who represents Astoria, was first told about the boat by Dan Mundy Sr. and Dan Mundy Jr., a father-son team from Broad Channel, Queens, who are longtime advocates for Jamaica Bay. The boat had been purchased for the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay in 2018, and has been used for research trips and by City University of New York classes. The Mundys envisioned a classroom on the water to better connect students to New York City’s expansive coast.

Students from P.S. 122 observe a sample of the water taken from Jamaica Bay, which will later be used to check pH levels.

Mr. Constantinides said he wanted students to feel connected to the water around them. He funded two trips and hopes to get around 10 more classes out on the boat.

“You talk about resilience and stability and what climate change is going to do to this bay,” he said. “These kids are going to be the ones living through that.”

The morning of the P.S. 122 trip, Mr. Mundy Jr. took a small motorboat from his waterfront home in Broad Channel to Kingsborough, a faster route than driving, he said. On his way, he stopped at an island to pick up horseshoe crabs for the students to examine.

On the CUNY 1, he met with a group of six students to talk about water clarity in Jamaica Bay that is measured by its dissolved oxygen content and salinity. He guided students as they dropped a tester into the water, which was cleaner than it has been in years, he said.

“We live in a city that’s surrounded by water,” he said. “It’s important for these kids to see that.”

Students used digital microscopes aboard the CUNY 1 to inspect algae samples taken from Jamaica Bay.

Write to Katie Honan at Katie.Honan@wsj.com