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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

September is Library Card Sign-up Month

Back to school means back to the Garden City Public Library. September is not only back to school month, it is also Library Card Sign-up Month. A library card is the most important school supply of all for both students and their parents. This September be sure your library card is in your wallet. If you don’t have one, sign up for a new one for you and for your children.

The Garden City Public Library offers programs for adults and for children of all ages. In addition, the library provides access to an extensive collection of books, periodicals, music CDs, audiobooks, and DVDS. The library also provides online access through its website www.gardencitypl.org to authoritative electronic databases as well as to downloadable eBooks, audiobooks, and music. With a valid library card, you can register for programs, borrow materials and museum passes, and access electronic resources.

The Garden City Historical Society is gearing up for a really big celebration. In 2015, the Society will mark the 40th anniversary of its founding, and the 10th anniversary of the opening of The Garden City Historical Society Museum.

To observe these two significant milestones and to further the Society’s capital campaign to restore the exterior of the museum building, the Society is planning a special event on May 14, 2015 at the Garden City Hotel. Early next year, an invitation to attend will be extended to residents and businesses in the village. The gala will include an open bar and full buffet, with music, mystery guests, a live auction and raffles.


Sports

The league started on Saturday, Sept. 13 at Garden City’s Tullamore Park. It runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. A uniform shirt and soccer balls are provided. Cleats and soccer shorts are recommended and players must wear shin guards. Age groups range from pre-k through 12th grade. Garden City residents and non-Garden City residents are welcome. Middle school and high school age volunteers are needed. No soccer experience is necessary. If you have any other questions, please contact Andy Garger at ajgarger@verizon.net or 516-775-8058.

— Submitted by the Challenger Soccer League

2014-15 Garden City Recreation Department Dance Conservatory

The Garden City Recreation Department’s Dance Conservatory Program is pleased to announce the start of registration for its upcoming 2014-15 season. Director Felicia Lovaglio, along with Mary Searson and the rest of her staff, are excited to start off another fantastic year. The dance conservatory offers classes to Garden City residents ages 3 through adult which are non-performance based. Age is determined by the start date of the desired class. The schedule and fees for this year’s youth classes are as follows (all classes are 55 minutes long unless otherwise noted):

Note: Registration is by mail only until Sept. 23. Participants MUST be the required age by the start of the program in order to register. Each session costs $220 for 22 weeks of class.


Calendar

Village Board of Trustees Meeting

Thursday, October 2

Benefit Yard Sale Goes To The Birds

Saturday, October 4

Marvelous Movie Matinée

Monday, October 6



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