Teaching Guide

Suggestions For Field Trip Activities

Gateway National Recreation Area is an ideal location for day field trips in the New York region for many reasons. The park preserves and protects a variety of coastal depositional environments which support many biological habitats. In addition, the park has a rich history, especially in relation to coastal military fortifications, marine safety research, smuggling and piracy, and has its share of shipping and storm-related tragedies. Sandy Hook has two small museums that has a variety of exhibits and book sales displays. Each section of the park has a variety of recreational and information service sites that could be visited.

Like all national parks, animals and plants are protected in Gateway NRA. Natural material should not be disturbed or removed from the park. However, because Gateway is a "national recreation area" different parts of the park are given various levels of protection status. Exceptions are made for the collection of small quantities of common shell and beach debris for educational purposes from public beach recreation sections in each park unit. Sensitive habitat areas, such as bird nesting areas and historic structures, are closed. It is highly recommended that all trips to should be coordinated with park personnel responsible for each of the park units (i.e., Fort Tilden, Sandy Hook, Floyd Bennett Field, Jamaica Bay, etc.).

Suggested Activities

I. COMPARISON OF SHORE AND BAY HABITATS. The abundance and diversity of seashore creatures and shells are quite different on either side of a barrier island. Short beach-combing walks can be conducted on the ocean-side and the bay-side of Sandy Hook, NJ. The same type of study can be conducted using the NY beaches at Rees Park and Fort Tilden in conjunction with bay stops at Plum Beach or Floyd Bennett Field in NY. (Field guides listed on the INFORMATION GUIDE are highly recommended!) Students should note the following:
II. SEDIMENTOLOGY OF BEACH ENVIRONMENTS. Check tide tables before planning a trip to the beach. The best time to go, obviously, is during low tide during a full or new moon. Things to do:

III. CHANGING SEASONS AT THE BEACH. Visit to the park at different seasons and make note of the differences. The changes in the abundance of birds, plants and wildflowers, and weather characteristics are obvious. Changes in the character of the beach are more subtle, but quite notable in photographs taken at different times. For instance, the beach profile constantly changes from storm to storm, tide to tide, and season to season. Is there a wrackline or multiple wracklines? Why is there a wrackline? What is the appearance of the back beach, berm, lower beach, runnels, cusps, offshore bars, etc? Is there a change in the abundance of gravel and shells, heavy mineral sands, flotsom, etc?