Outdoor Summer Classrooms

August 29th, 2018

Invigorated by the Watershed Science & Stewardship academies as they head back to school, about 50 high school students explored a hydrogen-powered house, designed a “green” structure, removed microplastics from Raritan Bay and experienced other hands-on learning.

Four weeklong summer courses allowed students from New Jersey and Pennsylvania to continue their education in an outdoor classroom. They delved deeply into subject areas such as climate change, field science, green architecture and clean water.

Students in the field science class explored Raritan Bay from a Rutgers University research vessel, examined fish tissue and scales, traveled to Sandy Hook to search for chicks and nests of the endangered Piping plover for a National Park Service survey, and sampled water for microplastics along beaches and in Raritan Bay.

In the climate change program, students learned from scientists and engineers from Climate Central, Princeton and Rutgers universities who explained about current efforts to combat this global threat.  They toured one of the only houses in the world that runs on hydrogen as well as Princeton University’s innovative energy plant.

Credit: National Audubon Society

In the clean water session, students sampled water from the Stony Brook and other waterways for biological and chemical attributes, learned about polluted stormwater runoff, and explored the impact of human activities on water quality

Students in the green architecture program toured the LEED-Platinum Watershed Center with its architect, Michael Farewell. They selected a site on the Watershed Reserve for their own structure and used SketchUp architectural software for their designs. These were critiqued by Farewell and co-teacher Jason Kliwinski, founder of the Green Building Center of New Jersey, and then presented formally to students and the Watershed staff.

Shamar Tilghman, a student who attended all four weeks, said he’s already recommended the program to several friends.

“I learned about ways to save water and energy, learned to build an energy efficient house, learned how to stop stormwater runoff, learned how we can save our climate from baking us or freezing is in the future, and I also got to be in the field of many different sciences,” he said. “I would come back a thousand times, and I loved the work we did.”

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