More than 400 middle school students and teachers from 16 northern and central New Jersey schools spent a cool and sunny May 25 at the Gateway National Recreation Area Sandy Hook at Clean Ocean Action’s Annual Spring Student Summit. These junior scientists took part in hands-on marine environmental education by participating in six activities and 11 interactive field activities. This seaside symposium marked the return of the event after being conducted virtually for two years due to the pandemic.
Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action (COA), and Unit Manager for Gateway National Recreation Area Pete McCarthy opened the day, followed by an informative and fun presentation by Jennifer Lengares of Jenkinson’s Aquarium. Students learned about horseshoe crabs, invertebrates, the lethal effects of litter, dune systems, climate change and a model of nonpoint source pollution. Students from the Marine Academy of Science and Technology, a public marine science high school located in Sandy Hook, served as peer teachers at the roundtable activities.
Additionally, naturalists from American Littoral Society, Gateway National Recreation Area – Sandy Hook Unit New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and Shark Research Institute led students in field activities including collecting and identifying common marine species. They also explored birds and Sandy Hook’s importance in bird migration. Other activities in this action-packed day included a beach clean-up and trail walk with park naturalists, and students participated in seaside and salt march scavenger hunts.
“Giving these students an up-close look at their coastal world inspires them to protect these resources,” Zipf said. “There is something extraordinary about holding a living creature from the ocean; it gives students a sense of awe about their natural world.”
Kristen Grazioso, COA education coordinator and organizer of the program, continued, “We are so thrilled to have middle school students back at the beach with their feet in the sand to learn about local marine life. There’s nothing quite like it!”
COA offers thanks The John Ben Snow Memorial Trust as well as Eloise and John Pound for their support in memory of Anne Inman Webster.
COA invites northern and central New Jersey public and private schools to the Spring Student Summit, which is held in mid-May at Sandy Hook and virtually on Prezi. The Fall Student Summit is held in early October at Island Beach State Park for southern public and private schools. Schools are emailed applications prior to the summits and are accepted based on availability.
For information on additional COA educational programs or events, visit CleanOceanAction.org or call 732-872-0111.