Twice a year middle school students from around New Jersey experience hands-on marine environmental education at the Jersey Shore. Central and Northern County students visit Gateway National Recreation Area in Sandy Hook in May and Southern County students visit Island Beach State Park in October. The Student Summit is a great way to expand learning beyond the classroom.
Students get to learn about different marine animals and ecosystems at their location. In the Spring students learn about one of NJ’s unique and ancient marine animals, the horseshoe crab. Students learn about the life history of this species that pre-dates the dinosaurs, the myths about this animal, its role in the ecosystem, the biomedical and economic importance to humans, and how we have impacted the species. Students will be shown the proper way to handle the horseshoe crab so they can get a closer look at this valuable species.
In the fall, the students learn about terrapins, turtles that inhabit estuaries along the east and Gulf coasts of the United States. Students learn about the life history of this species, interesting variations in their marking attributed to genetic diversity, its role in the ecosystem, and how we have impacted the species. Students will be shown the proper way to hold and handle the terrapins so they can get a closer look at this interesting species.
Other activities at the Student Summit include an interactive series of work stations with a variety of hands-on activities for students to learn about the environment. Students will learn about the water quality approach to aquatic resource assessment by collecting and analyzing water samples. New Jersey is within the Atlantic Flyway, providing a diverse viewing of coastal birds throughout the year. Students will join local birding experts in a survey and identification of coastal birds. Waves, wind, and currents shape New Jersey's barrier beaches. By making a beach profile, students will understand sand distribution, beach zones, and tidal water levels. New Jersey’s estuaries offer a variety of habitats as important breeding, feeding, and nursery grounds for a diversity of fish and invertebrate species. Students will use seine nets and sieves to collect fish and invertebrates to observe and identify common marine animals found in the local bays. Students will learn about the types, quantities, and sources of marine debris plaguing our coastal region and will participate in a cleanup.
These hands on activities allow students to get out of the classroom and into nature. In this day and age it is important to get children back outside exploring their own backyard. During our Student Summits participating students not only get to learn about different species and issues, but get to hold the animals, collect samples, and see firsthand threats facing our coast. The Summit left a lasting impression on past participants and we encourage more schools to apply!
The deadline for the Spring Summit is April 24th. Apply today!
More information on the Student Summit can be found on our website under Education Programs www.cleanoceanaction.org