BHS Maritime Festival 2019



This past month, third graders from the elementary schools in Bethpage came to the high school to attend the maritime festival. Lead by Mr. Portuese and his five Forensic classes, the little ones  “played with the touch tank, rope making machine, dissected fish [and] did fish printing and scuba diving,” said Eleni LeClair, a senior at Bethpage High School.

Eleni elaborated: “The third graders had so much fun and were very interested in the activities.”

Mr. Portuese said, for the past 18 years, third graders have attended this festival, learning “an appreciation for [Long] Island, surrounded by a myriad of fascinating creatures. That we have a long and rich history of living off the sea.”

The preparation begins by “calling several contacts (fish markets, bait stores fishing boats, etc.) to assist me in collecting marine creatures. Then I coordinate the dates that the classes will be visiting.” The next few days are spent preparing the forensic classes for the days. High school kids have to memorize scripts for the stations and even have a dress rehearsal to practice before the day comes.

The day begins at 5:30 am, when Mr. Portuese meets with one of the custodians and drives to Oyster Bay and back to pick up “70 gallons of salt water for the touch tank.” After this, he goes to a “certain dock that has a large aquatic specimen holding pen, designed to keep the animals alive. In the holding pen are all the creatures that were collected over the past week.”

All of the animals are put into coolers and prepare for a ride back to Bethpage to begin the festival. “At the end of the first day I place all the animals back into a cooler and race them to the holding pen.” And on the final day of the festival, Mr. Portuese sets everything free.

At the end of it all, Mr. Portuese always receives letters from the third graders as a thank you. The Eagle’s Cry hears that he keeps them until he has those classes and will give them out. This year’s class loved hearing their third grade voices.

Senior Brandon Bestany said, “It’s a nice memory to have. When I heard Mr. Portuese reading my letter, the words sounded familiar. I got the feeling it was me. And it was.”

This is an incredible event that gets children interested in multiple aspects of marine biology. Thanks to Mr. Portuese for this great tradition, and for the interview.