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Blades Of Grass

Siemens Science Semifinalist

Suburbanites love their lush green lawns. Whether to pass the football over, run through in bare feet, or simply laid as a welcoming carpet before colorful flower beds ringing home and property, lawn grass is king in the ‘burbs.

Problem is, the use of fertilizers that feed those verdant lawns adds pollutants to the environment. To address the problem, one high school research student imagined a more natural way to dress a property using native grasses that perform double-duty as filters for fertilizer and road salt residues.

Garden City High School senior Michael Cassano began his work with grasses native to his own Long Island backyard, seeking to define a solution to the chemical imbalances wrought by hundreds of well-intended homeowners and road crews. In 2010, Cassano joined the Friends of Hempstead Plains (www.friendsofhp.org), an organization formed in 2001 “dedicated to the perpetual preservation, restoration and management of the site through scientific research and education.” The Friends acquired a two-acre parcel of preserved land that is a tiny remnant of a once vast inland prairie called the Hempstead Plains. It contains native plants, small mammals, birds, and insects, and served as the center of the nascent environmentalist’s field work.

The young naturalist developed a research project with Dr. Steven Gordon, the high school’s science research teacher, based on his quest to seek an alternative to lawn grasses. Ultimately, these findings led him to be selected as a finalist in the 2012 Museum of Natural History Young Naturalist Awards. “Winning an award based on work done in my high school lab was very rewarding, but I wanted to go to the next level and do research in a professional lab.”

He subsequently took that next step by studying a flowering plant: Agalinis acuta, the only federally-endangered plant species in New York. He set out to learn everything he could about the endangered plant, right down to its DNA sequencing. The Garden City resident took a plant genomics course offered at Cold Spring Harbor DNA Learning Center, where he collaborated with plant geneticist Dr. Bruce Nash who supervised his use of lab equipment to further his research. To unravel the mystery of what the host plant species was, he took samples to Cold Spring Harbor Lab and, by isolating the plants’ DNA, identified the endangered plant as Sorghustrum nutans (Indian Grass).For his efforts and discovery, Michael Cassano was named a 2013 Siemens Competition in Math Science and Technology National Semifinalist. “A record number of submissions were entered this year, 1,973 projects, comprising 2,440 of the top students in the United States,” commented Dr. Gordon. “Of this pool, only 238 projects, 12 percent were chosen as National Semifinalists. Michael’s project involved years of fieldwork with the Friends of the Hempstead Plains. It’s nice to see all of his hard work paying off!”

Moving forward, the tiny remnant of the Hempstead Plains will not only be the New York State nursery for Agalinis and its Indian Grass host, but will also include a new Education and Research Center, which, thanks to Cassano, will sport a “green roof” of grasses the young researcher grew for his Eagle Scout project.

- Submitted by Garden City Public Schools

News

Michael Stano named to Master Teacher program

Michael Stano of Garden City High School has been named a New York State Master Teacher by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“The Master Teacher Program creates a community of teacher experts dedicated to providing a first-rate learning experience for students across New York, and contributes to our efforts to attract and retain the best and the brightest in our STEM classrooms,” Cuomo said.

Stewart Manor Fire Department to host open house

You hear the horn sound multiple times a day, around the clock, but did you ever wonder what happens during the critical moments after a distress call is made to the firehouse? Who are the volunteers who are stopped in their tracks at the sound of that horn and dash off to help a neighbor in need? You’d be surprised to learn that it could be the gentleman you see walking his dog after work in the evenings, the woman you see standing at the bus stop with her children every morning, or even the young man you used to see playing with his friends in front of your house.


Sports

Registration For The Community Garden Begins

If you are interested in obtaining a plot in Garden City Recreation and Parks’ Community Garden, it is now time to register. Applications will be accepted until May 1. Plots will then be assigned for planting around May 10. If more applications are received than the number of plots available, all applications will be put in a lottery and winners will be notified.

Spring/Summer Adult Tennis Registration Forms Available

The Garden City Recreation Department will conduct evening tennis lessons for adults who are residents of the Inc. Village of Garden City at the Community Park tennis facility. The lessons will run for one hour each week in three sessions during the spring/summer months. The registrant has a choice of a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday class and a choice of time. There will be a maximum of four players per court. The dates and fees will be as follows:

Easter Egg Hunt For Pre-K To Grade 5

The Garden City Recreation Department is once again sponsoring the annual Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, April 19 at Community Park’s fields. This Year Three hunt will be held at 10 a.m. sharp with three age divisions: preschool to kindergarten, grades 1 and 2; and grades 3 to 5.

Special eggs will be stuffed and hidden for all divisions. Each hunt will also feature a grand prize (an Easter basket filled with goodies) which will go to the youngster who finds the egg marked “#1 Lucky Egg.” For further information about the hunt, please call the recreation department at 516-465-4075.


Calendar

Going To The Birds (Sanctuary)

Saturday, April 26

Nassau Coaches Meet

Saturday, April 26

Making A Beautiful Noise

Friday, May 2



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com