Fort Tilden Pond Inspires Award Winning Project
A pond in Fort Tilden seems an odd choice of subject for two Brooklyn high school students, but it was a choice that, along with their intelligence and creativity, brought them a first place victory in a prestigious city-wide science fair.
The fair, which took place at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing on May 29, had more than 1,200 contestants from school classrooms all over the city.
The project goal was to find out why the fish and plants in the Fort Tilden pond were not flourishing. The students, aided by their teacher, analyzed the content of the water and came up with a few answers. One was the amount of nitrate and phosphate, both of which were over three times normal levels. There was also a surprising lack of animals, except for an introduced species, the red-eared turtle. This apparently had to do with an overabundance of decomposers in the pond, who are using up all the oxygen, causing other species to have trouble surviving.
The students, Habte Issac and Orin Abel, each won a $150 savings bond and a new microscope. Their school, Prospect Heights High, ironically one of several "under-performing" institutions that are scheduled to be phases out over the next year, also received $500 to be spent on their science lab. Habte also received a scholarship to Polytechnic University, which he will start attending next year.
Their earth science teacher, Anna Horowitz, a local of Rockaway, had quite a bit to do with it, in more than one way. Ms. Horowitz, with help from her husband, Joseph Smartschan, also a teacher at Brooklyn Heights, brought the students to the pond, thinking that it would open their experiences more than doing it at the Botanical Garden. They ordered the kit and managed to win a school contest after only three days of collection and analysis.
Horowitz and Smartshan, while they are leaving Brooklyn Heights, are continuing the project on their own. In what they call a "legacy", they are taking samples from the pond once a month in an effort to track growth patterns. "One of the things I wanted the kids to learn about is that it’s a great example of the phrase ‘think globally, act locally" in action." Horowitz commented "You can take all this and apply it in other places, in other national parks, in Hawaii, in Yellowstone, all over."