Ask a Mattituck eighth-grader what a bob-tailed grackle is and they can tell you. Curious about the golden-crowned kinglet? They know all about that bird, too.
Curious about any other animals on the North Fork? The eighth-graders can answer your questions.
That’s because, as a class, they researched over 100 animal species that reside here, compiling all their information into a recently published book. The students also created illustrations of each animal, as well as nine habitats on the North Fork, to accompany the information.
The book, “An Illustrated Guide to Wildlife of the North Fork,” was published in partnership with Art in a Box, a nonprofit that partners with communities to assist in “recovery and empowerment through art,” its website reads.
“Art in a Box has a program where we do environmental art with students from around the world,” executive director Valentina DuBasky said. “The first one was in Cambodia two years ago. We noticed a lot of birds out here and were curious about the wildlife on the North Fork, so we thought it was perfect to do this project.”
To complete it, students researched the animals during their English class, taught by Lori Rosato. The illustrations were done during the student’s art periods, taught by Dina Rose.
“We had the two quarters to work on it,” student Cassie Stevens said. “Some of us painted and wrote at the same time, and some of us painted the pictures first or wrote first. We picked an animal out and then looked it up on databases and painted it.”
The project came together after representatives from Art in a Box contacted high school principal Shawn Petretti, who put them in contact with Ms. Rose.
She said eighth-graders were chosen to work on the project because all students of that age take an art class with her and an English class with Ms. Rosato, so it would allow everyone to be involved.
The students all agreed they learned about a lot of new animals that inhabit the North Fork.
“The animals can be really different,” student Angel Perez said. “You noticed the details of the animals when you were making [the book].”
“We learned new and interesting things,” classmate Zachary Olsen echoed.
But students weren’t the only ones who learned from “An Illustrated Guide to Wildlife of the North Fork,” which can be purchased on the Art in a Box website.
“Everyone can’t believe there are so many animals and so many birds that actually exist out here,” Art in a Box publications director Andrea Piccolo said. “Even people who lived out here their whole lives are learning something.”
T-shirts printed with the book’s cover illustration are available for purchase by visiting the Mattituck-based East End Sporting Goods website. Proceeds from the sale of the shirts will go toward Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Suffolk Project in Aquaculture Training program.
The students got to vote on a few charities, ultimately choosing SPAT, student Dan Rosato said.
Copies of “An Illustrated Guide to Wildlife of the North Fork” are available Mattituck-Laurel Library, where a celebratory opening event will take place Friday, May 4. During that event, copies of the book will also be available for purchase, Ms. Rose said.
“The Cutchogue library is putting its copy in the permanent collection bookcase, so in 50 years you can come back with your grandkids and they can see your book,” Ms. Rose told the students.
A copy of the book was also sent to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., Ms. DuBasky said.
The students said they enjoyed the creative process and were excited to see the book for the first time.
“It’s pretty cool,” eighth-grader Olivia Mannino said. “It feels really good.”
Photo caption: The class researched more 100 species for the recently published book. (Nicole Smith photo)