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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Program Description

Urban Watershed Picture


  • Introduces students to their local waterways
  • Shows how they are linked to their aquatic resources
  • Establishes a sense of ownership of their local waterways
  • Instills a sense of stewardship towards the water

The program consists of four days:

Day 1- The Classroom

This will be the only day we spend inside with the children. Students class participation photoare introduced to the Newark Bay Complex estuary or the closest estuary. A variety of topics are covered including map reading, identifying local waterways, estuaries, bioaccumulation, watersheds and identifying species under NJDEP Fish Consumption advisories. Most of the information/exercises this day are adapted from the lesson plans, Fishing for Answers in an Urban Estuary. One lesson, Where in the World introduces students to their community through a series of mapping exercises using local and regional maps. Concepts such as watershed and estuarine waters are introduced.

The children are also exposed to the issue of global climate change / greenhouse gases. They learn how sea level rise can effect the estuary. A game is played with “money” to teach the children how they can help reduce energy consumption, save money and help with global climate change.

Another lesson introduces students to the aquatic critters of the Newark Bay Complex or of the local waterbody. “Fish Cards” introduces species of fish, some of which are under advisory consumption in their local waterway. Students also learn about food chain, bioaccumulation and health effects from consumption of contaminated fish and crabs. The class also views a video describing the region and explaining the fish consumption advisories.

Day 2 - Non Point Source Pollution


group photoOn Day 2 children learn the concept of non-point source pollution and engage in hands-on activities that demonstrate how citizens can reduce and prevent pollution. The day begins with the Enviroscape, which is a model that helps show,through class participation how pollution occurs and is effected by a watershed. The other activities include storm drain marking and a community clean-up.

Day 3 - Water Quality Monitoring & Eco Cruise
fishing cruise photo
Students are introduced to their local waters through an eco-tour of the Newark Bay Estuary conducted by the Hackensack RiverKeeper. Here they see how man and nature meet in an urban waterway and learn about ways to coexist in harmony. For many of the students, this is the first time on a boat. The students conduct several tests of the waterbody. The monitoring teaches students basic chemistry as it relates to water. Students learn what is needed in water to sustain life. Tests include dissolved oxygen, nitrates, phosphates, temperature, turbidity and salinity. Groups compare results and discuss why results may vary from location to location.

Day 4 - Fishing and Angler Ethics

fishing demonstration photoOn the last day of the program, the students learn what it means to be a responsible and ethical angler. They also are given information on aquatic biology including the types of fish found in various waterways and what fish need to live. Instruction on proper casting techniques is conducted, in addition to a discussion on catch and release fishing. We then all go fishing on the local waterbody. This is a great day, amazingly, even though many children live less than a mile from the waterway, they never spend time there & almost never have gone fishing. After fishing, a fish (usually a trout from the State hatchery at Pequest) is dissected to explain anatomy.


To determine to what extent students are learning and retaining the concepts presented in the Urban Fishing program, pre- and post-surveys are given to participating students. The survey’s 20 questions range from environmental hazards, local waterways, species found in local waters, and such concepts as watershed and estuarine water. Questions include both open-ended (What is the name of the closest river to where you live?) and multiple choice (Which fish are listed in the NJ Fish Consumption Advisories).

These surveys are important because:

  • They help to determine whether the learning objectives have been met
  • Results help coordinators to improve the program.

Examples of questions:
What is the name of the closest river to where you live ?
How does the water become polluted ?
Who owns the river ?
Where does water go when it enters the storm
drains ?
What can I do to reduce greenhouse gases ?

Survey Results

According to the surveys, the students showed significant knowledge gain in the following areas:

  • State fish consumption advisories & human health
  • Watershed understanding & identification
  • Public trust and responsibility
  • Non-point source pollution
Office of Science
Dr. Gary A. Buchanan, Manager
428 East State Street
P.O. Box 409
Trenton, NJ 08625

Phone: (609) 984-6070
Fax: (609) 777-2852

For Information regarding this site, please contact Terri Tucker.

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Copyright State of New Jersey, 1996-2009
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: December 4, 2009