August 19, 2008

Teachers Get Hands-on With the Meadowlands ; Studying the Marsh to Stimulate Learning


LYNDHURST The Institute for Ecosystems Education made its debut in Bergen County on Monday, turning the marshes of the Hackensack watershed into a live lecture hall.

The program, held at the Meadowlands Environment Center, brings together 26 teachers 14 from Bergen County and 12 from Hudson County for a week of hands-on lessons about the environment and its ecosystems.

The teachers are trekking, boating and seining through the watershed to learn new approaches to stimulating students' curiosity about natural systems and environmental issues.

"We want to expand on our unit [in eco-studies]," said Kathy Toy, a middle school teacher in Hasbrouck Heights who takes students annually on a field trip to the preserve. "We want to learn more about watersheds."

Moments before, Toy and her Hasbrouck Heights colleague, Jane Gay, netted several silversides and killifish.

The seining exercise was part of an experiment to demonstrate that various species have returned to the marshland after years of absence, said Susan Lewicki, senior environmental educator at the center.

Later this week, teachers will follow the water system's flow path, take a geology field trip and visit the Bergen County Utilities Authority waste treatment facility in Little Ferry.

Last year, a similar ecosystems program was held at the Passaic watershed. In July, a program was held at Barnegat Bay in Ocean County.

The program was funded by Honeywell Aerospace. Members of the New Jersey Audubon Society served as consultants to the teachers, who called the program a good experience.

"I have a lot of ideas for hands-on activities for my students," said Wayne Berliner, a Ridgewood seventh-grade science teacher. "They will have to get their hands wet. It's more authentic learning."


Air traffic

More than 260 bird species have been reported in the Meadowlands, making this a major stop along the Atlantic Flyway. Most are migrants that spend a few weeks or months here, with each season hosting a predominate group.

Source: New Jersey Meadowlands Commission


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