Columbia students welcomed at Science Museum of Long Island

Columbia University's Beta Theta Pi fraternity volunteered for a day of service at the Science Museum of Long Island. (Photo courtesy of Corine Michelle, Ph.D)

It was a beautiful fall Saturday, perfect to work on the Science Museum of Long Island’s (SMLI) program to clear the invasive vine overgrowth that blights the 36-acre grounds surrounding the museum’s teaching facilities at Nassau County’s Leeds Pond Preserve. SMLI welcomed 20 plus members of Columbia University’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity for a day of community service, hard work, camaraderie, and the pleasure of giving back. The results were truly astounding!

According to George Theodosopoulous, who organized the event for his Beta Theta Pi fraternity, Columbia University expects students to earn community service points each semester.

Theodosopoulous, a computer engineering major, is an SMLI alum and credits the Science Museum with sparking his interest in science and his science career path. “I started at the Science Museum as a four-year-old in the Science Nursery program. Later, I participated in countless after-school science workshops, volunteered as a science camp assistant counselor, and did my Eagle Scout project here at the Museum.” He went on to say, “The Science Museum has given me so much. This was a perfect opportunity for me to give back.”

The Science Museum of Long Island is a children’s science education center. For more than 50 years, SMLI has been making science fun and exciting for children by creating an interactive, innovative, hand-on learning environment for children of all ages to get turned on to science and technology. SMLI programs make extensive use of Leeds Pond Preserve, many of which focus on ecology, environment, geological history, and native wild life and plants species of Long Island’s north shore. SMLI program offerings have grown significantly since 1972 when the Museum found a permanent home at Leeds Pond Preserve. The programs take advantage of the the Preserve’s unique 36-acre grounds with its Manhasset Bay beachfront, former farmland meadow, and native woodland, all of which are thoroughly integrated in the SMLI’s education programs. SMLI offers Summer Science Camp and much more during the school year, including school field trips, after school workshops, and scouting programs.

Restoration of the preserve’s grounds has already impacted SMLI science education programs. We thank trustee Peggy Maslow, also of Nassau County Audubon Society, for designing and planting SMLI’s Audubon Garden that is featured in bird watching programs. A milkweed garden, organized by trustee J. Thomas Lang with seedlings provided by Monarch Watch, was planted as part of SMLI’s Spring Into Science event last May. The milkweed garden offered an excellent opportunity to teach about the amazing life cycle of the monarch butterfly. SMLI plans for a Children’s Learning Garden to be located in sections of the grounds that were recovered this season are under consideration. A major restoration of the Nature Trail is being discussed as well. Both will be integrated with a variety of SMLI education programs.

Trustees J. Thomas Lang, Matthew Ricciardi and Larry Napalitano, a recent recruit to the project, began the ambitious invasive vine project in spring 2019. Their goal – to rid the Science Museum’s grounds of its invasive vines that are smothering the specimen landscape plantings, encroaching on the buildings and causing structural damage, and generally limiting the Museum’s ability to make use of the grounds for its science programs. Their plan, which has the enthusiastic support of the Nassau County’s Parks & Preserve’s Commissioner Eileen Krieb, is to uproot and clear out the massive invasive vine overgrowth from the meadow area of Leeds Pond Preserve up to and including the tree-line section of the woodland area. The cleared sections are reclaimed by covering them with cardboard and a thick layer of wood chips to retard regrowth. The Science Museum has been assisted in this program by Frank Hefferin Tree Service.

Phase I of the project is completed. Beta Theta Pi fraternity made an amazing contribution to Phase II. For the first time in memory the driveway up to the Main Building can be viewed from the front portico. A major boulder along the driveway whose presence had not been known previously was fully exposed and will now take front and center in one of the Museum’s geological learning courses. SMLI hopes that the project will be completed in 2020.

For more information on the education programs offered by the Science Museum of Long Island, visit our website at Information on donating to the Science Museum of Long Island, a 501(c)(3), is available on the website.

Submitted by Corinne Michels, Ph.D

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