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BOCES Bear Project: Operation Waterfall

Summer Camp Students

From l to r: Lydia Rodgers, Laney Johnston, Merena Grenier, Abigail McCarthy, Maddison Cupernall

For the five students who were part of the recent Summer Career Exploration Day Camp held at Jefferson-Lewis BOCES, they had no idea what would be in store as they entered the classroom on the first day. When the eight day camp concluded, all were looking forward to continuing with their project and coming back next year.

This was the first year that Jefferson-Lewis BOCES held the camp. It was paid for through a $7,000 Youth Grant Development Program award administered through the Jefferson County Youth Bureau with funds from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. The course was taught by BOCES instructors Matt Greene and Michael Fortunato.

A community project was required that would combine project based learning, career exploration, and volunteerism. The goal was to provide opportunities for youth in grades 7-9 to explore fields of animal science and construction. Camp organizers worked with the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park in Watertown to develop the project. It was ultimately determined that the project would involve restarting the dormant waterfall located in the zoo’s black bear exhibit. 

The five students were not given any specifics on the project. They spent the first day researching black bears to learn more about them. As the camp progressed, they visited the bear exhibit at the zoo. Research in the classroom continued, as the students learned about waterfalls and ponds. The BOCES Bear Project: Operation Waterfall was born. 

Classroom work Bear exhibit visit

 The waterfall and plumbing materials in the exhibit were already in place. The students, dubbed “junior engineers” by Mr. Fortunato, were tasked with designing a pump system that would allow the waterfall to operate once again and enrich the exhibit. Concepts of math and science were used to design the pumping system and making sure it would work within the bear’s habitat. The students were also tasked with purchasing a pump. That required consumer research to make sure the new pump would be durable and cost effective. The pump chosen by the students will be purchased through a local plumbing supply house. The activities also included taking apart an existing pump and putting it back together to learn just how it works.

Plumbing lesson Reassembing a pump

After a week of work, the five students presented their findings and their project to a group that included faculty, family, and zoo representatives. . The group says Operation Waterfall can be completed this fall with estimated material costs of just under $300. Fundraising efforts can be utilized to raise most of the money. The installation of the new pump will be completed by students in the Plumbing/HVAC class at the Bohlen Technical Center. 

Project Presentation Project Presentation

While the camp has come to a close, the participants are excited to see their project come to fruition. Here’s what each had to say in regards to their experience.

Abigail McCarthy: “I didn’t realize how much work goes into operating a zoo. I want to volunteer and help out.”

Maddison Cupernall: “I’ve learned how much this can help with future school work and careers. I also learned more about what goes into an animal exhibit.”

Laney Johnston:  “I’ve learned it’s hard to take care of the bears in particular because of how much work goes into the exhibit and taking care of them.”

Lydia Rodgers: “Even though there is a lot of work involved, the learning experience has been really fun and the finished product will be great.”

Merena Grenier:  “Making the poster board was fun. The best part was the hands on experience we’ve gained.”

Plans are in place to hold the camp again next year and continue the partnership with the zoo. Operation Waterfall will continue to progress and we will keep you updated on the project. 

Bear Project Logo

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