Without water, we have no future. We simply cannot survive. Water is something we all take for granted as long as it tastes and looks good and there is enough of it. But it is a limited resource. It is imperative that we involve our students in their education concerning this precious resource and teach them methods of scientific inquiry and problem solving. We must teach this as if our lives depend upon it. They do!
Students in New Haven have the benefit of living on Long Island Sound. Long Island Sound is a viable and valuable habitat; it is home to hundreds of species of fin fish, shellfish, birds, and mammals—it should be used as a classroom for New Haven’s students. Their own place to learn about one of New England’s largest and most important natural resources.
I have written this unit to help teachers find appropriate classroom activities and information to share with students in grades 3-8. The unit was written because I believe New Haven’s students should have a great understanding and respect for water. I have included lessons which are easy to implement with few materials. I have tried to include basic information in the text to help teachers who may not feel comfortable teaching science. The text of this unit which is intended to give general information is just a beginning, I have included a bibliography which includes resources and information appropriate for both teacher and student use. I have only begun to discuss the basics—you and your students can choose any topics and pursue further studies.
I don’t think students should have to be bogged down with all the details, but should have a basic understanding of the principles discussed. I have chosen areas which will hopefully pique young curiosity and encourage further study and consideration. There is a wealth of material available about water and Long Island Sound. My goal is to help students take maximum advantage of their resources and be comfortable and knowledgeable enough to make good decisions as they enter their adult lives. Long Island Sound is an estuary, a place where salt water from the ocean mixes with fresh water from rivers and the land. Like other estuaries, Long Island Sound (the Sound) abounds in fish, shellfish, and waterfowl. It provides feeding, breeding, nesting, and nursery areas for diverse animal and plant life. But the Sound is unique in the degree to which it provides recreational and commercial value to the region. Since it was formed more than 8,000 years ago with the retreat of glacial ice and a rise in sea level, the Sound has been an important resource for people living along its shores. Native Americans were sustained by its abundant resources. Its embeyments were natural harbors for European Colonists seeking refuge after their long journeys across the Atlantic Ocean. Today, it lies in the midst of the most densely populated region of the United States. More than 8 million people live in the Long Island Sound watershed and millions more flock yearly to the Sound for recreation. About $5 billion is generated annually in the regional economy from boating commercial and sport fishing, swimming, and beach going. The ability of the Sound to support these uses is dependent on the quality of its waters, living resources and habitats. The regional economy also benefits from many other valuable uses of the Sound, such as cargo shipping, ferry transportation, and power generation. With the uses it serves and the recreational opportunities it provides, Long Island Sound is among the most important estuaries in the nation.
The current value and quality of the Sound are partly the result of the investments in water pollution control programs made in the two decades since the passage of the Clean Water Act. These programs have led to measurable improvements in pollution control and water quality, in spite of ever-increasing numbers of people and activities on the Sound and within its watershed. Obvious sources of pollution are now regulated and controlled through permit programs, tidal wetlands are protected, and major efforts in the states of Connecticut and New York to build sewage treatment plants and control industrial discharges have helped restore degraded waters. More recently, with programs focusing on the ecosystem as a whole, the approach has become more comprehensive to include increased efforts in storm water and non point source pollution control.
In spite of these efforts, problems remain. The quality of Long Island Sound is still far from what it should or can be. Many of the uses or values of the Sound are still impaired from old abuses. Other uses or values face new threats. Residential, commercial, and recreational development have increased pollution, altered land surfaces, reduced open spaces, and restricted access to the Sound. Development has dramatically increased the use of the Sound as a place to dispose of human and other wastes. The paving over of the land has increased runoff and has reduced the filtration and processing functions of natural landscapes. Habitat destruction and alteration throughout the watershed have harmed native wildlife populations and reduced the breeding grounds and nursery areas for a variety of species.