SANDY HOOK – Over 400 students made their way to the Jersey Shore to learn marine environmental science at Clean Ocean Action’s Annual Spring Student Summit.
The Summit gives hands-on experience with students participating in six activities and 11 interactive field activities.
Students were on location at of the Gateway National Recreation Area – Sandy Hook Unit making the beach their outdoor classroom alongside the many trails and marshes. The event took place on May 25 and was the first in-person Student Summit in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“From looking a horseshoe crab in the eyes to gently touching a hermit crab, students get an up-close look at their coastal world,” said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action (COA). “There is something extraordinary about the experience of holding a living creature from the ocean; it gives students a sense of awe about their natural world. The goal is to inspire them to protect it.”
Zipf as well as Unit Manager for Gateway National Recreation Area Pete McCarthy started the Summit off with a welcoming speech. Afterwards there was an informative and fun presentation by Jennifer Lengares of Jenkinson’s Aquarium before students started their activities.
The six hands-on roundtable activities included: learning about horseshoe crabs, studying invertebrates, observing a model of nonpoint source pollution, learning the lethal effects of litter on the marine environment, studying dune systems, and learning about climate change and its impacts.
Students from the Marine Academy of Science and Technology attended the Summit as peer teachers at the roundtable activities.
Naturalists and other education professional, including from American Littoral Society, Gateway National Recreation Area Sandy Hook Unit New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and Shark Research Institute, guided students through 11 field activities throughout the park. Some students used seine nets to collect and identify common marine species of Sandy Hook Bay. Others learned about key bird species and the important role of Sandy Hook in bird migration.
In addition, students participated in a beach cleanup, learned beach profiling techniques, traversed trails with park naturalists, participated in seaside and salt march scavenger hunts and learned about barrier island geology.
“We are so thrilled to have middle school students back at the beach learning about local marine life with their feet in the sand and waves in the background. There’s nothing quite like it!” said Kristen Grazioso, COA Education Coordinator, and organizer of the program.
Clean Ocean Action thanks The John Ben Snow Memorial Trust and to Eloise and John Pound for their support in memory of Anne Inman Webster.
Schools that attended were: Amerigo A. Anastasia School (Long Branch), Trinity Christian School (Montville), Rising Star Academy (Union City), Lafayette Township School (Lafayette), Long Branch Middle School (Long Branch), Unity Charter School (Morristown), Walter T. Bergen (Bloomingdale), Nicolaus Copernicus School (Hudson), Colin Powell Elementary School (Union City), Saint Rose Grammar School (Belmar), Leonia Middle School (Leonia), Mastro Montessori (Shrewsbury), Cresthaven Academy Charter School (Plainfield), West Essex Middle School (North Caldwell), Speedway Avenue School (Newark), Belvidere School (Belvidere).