|N. DOVER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WINS RAIN BARREL CHALLENGE
NORTH DOVER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TAKES THE RAIN BARREL CHALLENGE BY STORM
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is pleased to announce that the North Dover Elementary School in Toms River is the winner of this year's Barnegat Bay Blitz Rain Barrel Challenge.
The fifth grade class that designed the winning rain barrel, along with faculty, parents and North Dover Elementary School Principal Colleen McGrath, attended the April 25 Barnegat Bay Blitz event at Cattus Island County Park in Toms River to display their barrel and help kick off the Blitz. They received accolades and a certificate of recognition from DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, and earned enthusiastic applause from dozens of cleanup volunteers, Barnegat Bay Blitz sponsors and partners, media, government officials, employees and other rain barrel contestants.
Thirty-five schools and organizations located in the Barnegat Bay watershed designed rain barrels to compete in the Rain Barrel Challenge. The rain barrel entered by North Dover Elementary School garnered the most online votes and won the top prize, which is a school-wide Barnegat Bay Water Festival, to be coordinated by the DEP and several partners and held at the school later this spring. In addition, all of the schools and groups that participated in the Barnegat Bay Rain Barrel Challenge will be honored at the New Jersey Clean Communities Kids Day event that will be held in late May.
Fifth grade teacher Rosa Fisher and art teacher Shelby Hand worked together with Ms. Fisher's nineteen fifth-graders to design the North Dover Elementary School's rain barrel. The group began by discussing and researching the theme for this year's challenge - Barnegat Bay's harvestable food sources and recreational resources. According to Ms. Fisher, "The students used reference books, texts and online sources to make their drawings as realistic as possible. They chose to focus on shoreline and woodland wildlife that live in Toms River and at Island Beach State Park, which is located near Toms River."
Hands-on lessons and written essays about the water cycle, marine ecology, water conservation and the online voting process helped to enhance the students' curriculum this spring in science, language arts, mathematics and social studies. After their ecological designs were painted on the barrel, the class added raindrops with individual student's initials in each drop to signify how humans are part of the water cycle.
The students also created a bulletin board in the hallway that provided directions for voting in the Rain Barrel Challenge. According to Ms. Fisher and Ms. Hand, the overall rain barrel experience compelled the class to work together, use their artistic talents and research abilities, practice patience and determination, and solicit support from other faculty, students, families and friends.
Many of the rain barrels that competed in this year's Barnegat Bay Blitz Rain Barrel Challenge will be showcased at public venues throughout the Barnegat Bay watershed this summer, to be seen by residents, summer tourists and daily visitors. When North Dover Elementary School's winning barrel is finally retired from touring it will be put to work at one of North Dover's gardens.
Rain barrels are generally 55-gallon barrels that are placed under the downspouts of gutters to collect rainwater that can carry pollution. In addition to reducing the amount of runoff that is carried into waterways, the collected water can effectively be reused to irrigate gardens and clean garden tools. The use of rain barrels is just one method of reducing pollutants that can be carried into Barnegat Bay from waterways throughout the Barnegat Bay watershed.
To view this year's rain barrels and learn more about the Barnegat Bay Blitz Rain Barrel Challenge, please visit: www.nj.gov/dep/barnegatbay/rbc.htm.
Public education is a key component of Governor Chris Christie's Comprehensive Barnegat Bay Plan for restoring the ecological health of Barnegat Bay from decades of decline. The Barnegat Bay Blitz, a popular watershed-wide trash and debris cleanup effort that raises awareness of the ecological stresses of the bay, is one of the hallmarks of the plan. To learn more about the Barnegat Bay Blitz go to: www.nj.gov/dep/barnegatbay/bbblitz.htm.
|EPA Honors Work of Exceptional New Jersey Environmental Leaders
Contact: Mary Mears (212) 637-3673, email@example.com
(New York, N.Y. – April 23, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today honored four individuals and organizations from across New Jersey with Environmental Quality Awards for their achievements in protecting public health and the environment. EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck presented the awards at a ceremony at EPA’s offices in Manhattan. Michelle DePass, former Assistant Administrator of the EPA Office of International and Tribal Affairs and currently Dean of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at the New School for Public Engagement in New York City, delivered the keynote address.
“Today we celebrate the exemplary work of people who work tirelessly to protect the environment and give their time and energy to create a cleaner and healthier future for us all,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Their extraordinary contributions serve as an inspiration to all who strive for a more sustainable environmental future.”
The EPA presents Environmental Quality Awards annually during Earth Week to individuals, businesses, government agencies, environmental and community-based organizations and members of the media in EPA Region 2, which covers New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and eight federally-recognized Indian Nations. The awards recognize significant contributions to improving the environment and public health in the previous calendar year. For information about the Environmental Quality Awards in EPA Region 2, visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/eqa/.
The Environmental Quality Award winners from New Jersey (in alphabetical order) are:
New Jersey Tree Foundation
Jessica Franzini is Program Director for the New Jersey Tree Foundation's Urban Airshed Reforestation Program. She directs the foundation’s tree planting program and facilitates the Camden Tree Keepers Workshop series. Since 2002, the program has planted over 4,000 trees and removed 65,000 sq. ft. of impervious cover, helping to ease the strain on stormwater management. She is also a member of the Camden Stormwater Management and Resource Training Team, a group that has installed 20 rain gardens in Camden, capturing approximately two million gallons of rainwater annually.
Hackensack Riverkeeper runs Eco-Programs all year that have proven highly successful in attracting thousands of people to the Hackensack River. During 2013, the Hackensack Riverkeeper’s Eco-Programs provided nearly 7,000 people with a mixture of environmental education and recreational opportunities on the river and empowered them to become active participants in preservation through widely attended volunteer river cleanup events. The Eco-Cruise program, which invites visitors to tour the Passaic and Hackensack Rivers and Newark Bay, alone attracted 3,470 people this past year.
Ironbound Community Corporation
Since 1969, the Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) has worked to create a healthy and sustainable environment in one of Newark’s culturally rich neighborhoods. The ICC offers environmental justice tours, monitors air quality in New Jersey’s largest city and organizes an active community to speak out for environmental protection. An integral member of the Passaic River Superfund site Community Advisory Group, the ICC is committed to improving public health and monitoring environmental quality in the Ironbound community.
Captain Alek Modjeski
American Littoral Society
When Hurricane Sandy hit Bradley Beach in New Jersey, the storm surge deposited tons of beach sand on a gravel lot and nearby Fletcher Lake. It was clear to coastal ecologist Captain Al Modjeski that restoring the lot to its natural state and planting native trees and vegetation would act as a buffer between the next storm surge and the lake. Al helped round up multiple agencies, NGOs and volunteers to return the gravel lot to its natural state and last September more than 100 people chipped in time and energy to install the Bradley Beach Maritime Forest.
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|Museums Step Up as Resource for New Science Standards
As a small but growing number of states adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, science museums and centers are positioning themselves as a key resource for helping teachers adapt to the vision for instruction reflected in the new guidelines.
Some educators say that professional-development sessions held at museums-unlike those at conference centers, universities, or districts-give teachers immediate access to the kinds of hands-on activities that the common science standards call for. In addition, such institutions often bring a wealth of expertise on both content and pedagogy, employing a mix of scientists and professional educators.
A new study bolsters the claim that teachers should look to science centers for effective training, finding that a museum-based professional-development program at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago led to gains in both teacher content knowledge and student achievement.
However, some educators caution that museums need to be purposeful in creating professional-development curricula and exhibits that align with the common science standards-adopted by 11 states and the District of Columbia so far-rather than assuming what they're already doing fits the bill.
Anthony "Bud" Rock, the CEO of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, a nonprofit group representing about 600 science centers internationally, said the U.S. institutions are putting "a special emphasis now on how to provide techniques for the Next Generation Science Standards and the common core, and more broadly on interdisciplinary approaches to science education. We're very attuned to the evolving landscape for teachers right now when it comes to science education in the classroom."
Just last week, the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford was scheduled to gather more than a dozen leaders from science centers across the country for a workshop on how to better align their work with schools' needs, with particular attention to the new science standards.
Hank Gruner, a vice president at the Connecticut Science Center, said that although museum-based professional development is not a novel idea, schools are newly interested in preparing teachers for inquiry-based learning, prevalent in both the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards, which cover literacy and math.
"I do think you're going to see more centers starting to look at professional development now that there will be more of a need for it," he said. "Our feeling is there are opportunities here."
The Next Generation Science Standards, completed in April 2013, were developed by 26 "lead state partners" in collaboration with national organizations. In some states, science centers and other informal STEM learning institutions were among the most vocal proponents of the science standards, which focus not just on mastering scientific facts, but also engaging young people in scientific practices, such as doing investigations, building models, and analyzing data.
"Science centers excel by definition" in that type of learning, said Mr. Rock of the Association of Science-Technology Centers.
Each of the lead states convened a broad-based team of stakeholders to review drafts of the standards, and many of those included representatives from science centers.
In Illinois, where the common science standards were adopted earlier this year, the Museum of Science and Industry provides free professional-development courses, led by scientists, university professors, and K-12 educators, for about 200 teachers a year in physical, life, earth, and environmental sciences.
The standards dovetail nicely with what the museum has been doing, said Nicole Kowrach, the museum's director of teaching and learning. "Asking questions, designing and carrying out investigations, that's the kind of learning and way of thinking we've encouraged," she said.
The new study of Chicago's science museum found that its course about energy was successful in improving teacher knowledge and student learning. For the study, 85 teachers in grades 4-8 who applied to participate in the program were randomly assigned to either take the course or be part of the control group and receive no training. On a post-test about energy, the mean score was a statistically significant 8 percent higher for teachers who took the six-session course than for those who did not.
Also, the participants' students were assessed, and those whose teachers had the professional development performed better by a statistically significant amount on an assessment of student understanding and on a separate test of their application of that knowledge.
William H. Schmidt, a professor and the co-director of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University, who led the study, said the random assignment-a feature not present in most research on professional development-allows for causal inference, meaning the professional development explains the difference in test scores.
It's significant that museums "have the real world inside their buildings," Mr. Schmidt said. "And the results came to show that, in this particular case, that worked."
Ms. Kowrach agreed that having hands-on activities and exhibits on-site is a boon for teacher training. "If you're doing professional development in a school or university," she said, "you can't walk outside the classroom and have a giant inclined plane and start experimenting with potential and kinetic energy."
Teachers who receive professional development at the museum walk away with a bin full of tools and activities for their classrooms.
Ronald Hale, a 5th grade teacher at Chicago's Hayt Elementary School who has both taken and led professional development at the Chicago museum, said the take-home resources are key to teacher buy-in and classroom implementation. When instructing other teachers, "the number-one question you get is, 'Can we have this?' They want it in their bin," Mr. Hale said. "It's like when Oprah gives out keys to cars. They get so excited."
'A Safe Place for Teachers'
Another reason science museums can be an attractive professional-development option is that they exist outside the K-12 bureaucracy.
"We're a safe place for teachers," said Ms. Kowrach. "Schools have the pressures of testing and teacher assessment, and we're not part of a school district, the state, or a university where [teachers are] trying to complete a degree."
"We are neutral, we don't have any baggage associated with us," said Mr. Gruner of the Connecticut Science Center, which offers everything from one-day workshops to three-year professional-development programs for schools.
That outsider status also makes science museums potentially more nimble than many formal learning environments. The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is "years ahead of the district," said Mr. Hale, in staying up to date with teaching practices. For instance, although Illinois only formally adopted the Next Generation Science Standards in February, the museum has been incorporating the ideas behind the standards into professional development for several years, he said.
Some other science centers ramping up their teacher offerings pegged to the new science standards are in states that have not adopted them, such as Connecticut, where the regional conference for science centers took place.
The American Museum of Natural History, in New York City, is developing tools to help teachers create lessons and assessments on the standards, said James B. Short, the director of the museum's Gottesman Center for Science Teaching and Learning.
New York was a partner state in developing the standards, but has not yet adopted them. "Even if New York doesn't adopt, we're finding these tools help teachers think better and think more deeply about instruction," Mr. Short said.
The Exploratorium in San Francisco, which has been offering teacher programs for 30 years, is making a concerted effort to ensure that all of its professional development and related activities are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. (California adopted the standards last September.)
"Even though our bread and butter has always been hands-on activities and inquiry-based [learning], I hesitate to just do what I see happening a lot--to put the Next Generation Science Standards sticker on what we're already doing," said Julie Yu, the director of the museum's teacher institute. "We're trying to be thoughtful on what this means and what teachers need."
Ms. Yu said the Exploratorium is sifting through its more than 1,000 STEM activities to create a portfolio of only those that are a good fit. She urged other science centers to do the same. "We felt the [new science standards embody] what we do, but we all need to take a step back and make sure that we're honestly doing it," she said.