In 2007 and 2008, the Futures Fund awarded seven large grants of up to $35,000 and 20 small grants of up to $6,000 for public outreach programs in communities throughout the Sound. The projects ranged from a video to teach residents and construction contractors about reducing nutrient and pathogen stormwater pollution to conducting a hands-on education program about Long Island Sound to low income children in 10 classrooms in New Haven. The Futures Fund supports projects that combine public outreach with one of the topics of the LISS Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan: hypoxia (water quality), toxic substances, pathogens, floatable debris, living resources and habitat management, and land use and development.
One such example is Rocking the Boat’s project to educate Bronx students by involving them in monitoring the water quality of the Bronx River. In 2008, the Futures Fund renewed its support of Rocking the Boat with a $35,000 grant. Rocking the Boat recruited and trained 20 high school students to collect and record data in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, an area where, for the most part, residents are not aware of either the River’s wonderful resources or of its challenges. Under an EPA-approved Quality Assurance Project Plan, the students performed weekly water quality tests for nitrates, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, salinity, pH, and temperature at two sites. The information gathered was used in programs to educate youth and the public about the health of the River, and was also given to Rocking the Boat’s environmental science partner, the Bronx River Alliance, for analysis and posting. The data collection is helping to create a standardized baseline of water quality where none had previously existed.
This is the second grant Rocking the Boat has received from the Futures Fund. In 2006, it received $35,000 to support an array of six environmental projects, including initiatives to create and maintain artificial oyster habitats and to build and monitor ecologically engineered stormwater capture systems.
Rocking the Boat is a unique program. High school students build traditional wooden boats, which are used to implement environmental projects on the Bronx River. Rocking the Boat’s environmental educational program promotes stewardship, teaches restoration and monitoring skills, and enhances general public appreciation of the Bronx River. With real restoration and monitoring work as the educational medium, a secondary result of the program is environmental revitalization of a local natural resource.